It is the end of the second week of school and, for the most part, our students and faculty are settling into their respective routines. In the Lower School, classes have developed their rituals and norms that serve as the foundation for the rest of the year. In the Middle School, students have mastered locker combinations and are making the necessary adjustments to more demanding academics and more complex social lives. In the Upper School, everyone has jumped back into life at Brentwood—intellectual engagement, arts and athletics, learning the up’s and down’s of our iPads, and college applications for our seniors.
I love this time of year in schools, when everything is pregnant with possibility, when each of us has the opportunity for a fresh start. It is a time when we get to see who steps up in unpredicted ways? Who lets their curiosity really get the better of them? Who is determined to be more inclusive of classmates? Who has found a passion that motivates them to new aspirations? In these first couple of weeks, I am delighted to say that I have seen many determined faces on our students—determined to better themselves in some way because they have this new beginning.
The same opportunity is true for you. Starting next week, parents and guardians will be here for the traditional Back To School Nights, when you get to meet and hear from your child’s teachers. This is your best opportunity to get a sense of their classroom experience this year. Pay close attention while you are here. What you notice can, if you stay curious, serve as great conversation starters and reference points throughout the year. And the older your child is (read: sharing less with you about daily life in school) the more essential it is that you take advantage of this opportunity.
Back to School Nights are not the time to have a conversation about your child or to scrutinize the details of the curriculum. Rather, it’s the time to experience your child’s daily life at Brentwood—your time to get into their groove as it were. And yes, on the East Campus it includes the inherent disequilibrium of trying to find your way from room to room, something every single student has learned to navigate. After this night, you get to go home and compare notes with your child. “I really like how you begin every morning with circle time. How do you like it?” “I sat in your X class—your teacher is really funny! She had us all laughing. Is she like that in class, too?” “I heard about some of the topics you’ll be studying this year—impressive! I might be able to help in a couple of the subjects but in some of the others, well, I’m afraid you’re beyond me.”
These questions, even if your child does not have an enthusiastic response, let him/her know that you are in the game. This is important to them and their development as a student and person. That is, your genuine interest in their experience and learning creates a kind of psychological safety that we at school build on. It is from that secure base that their integrity is forged (and yes, this includes some mistakes along the way) and their intellectual fortitude is elevated.
Have a great weekend.