One of my favourite expressions is that “children are more than the sum of their parts”. People who know me well will have heard me say this before. Parents of children understand its meaning implicitly and those of us who teach kids should also understand it, if we are to be effective. Students, like all human beings, are works in process. Every day, we should be striving to remember this at home and at school.
This week began with our annual Founder’s Day reception during which each member of our Grade 8 class was recognized for the first time as a member of the centennial “Class of 2018”. Besides being an opportunity to gather with parents, families and teachers to support the journey of our oldest students, it was a chance for all of us to celebrate the best each of them has to offer.
As our next graduates prepare for the final phase of elementary school, we took time to appreciate the gifts and talents at work in the ongoing formation of each student. The looks on their faces as they listened to what their teachers had to say about them at the midway point in the year were a combination of pleasure and surprise! It should be a reminder that a generous understanding of people acknowledges that a complete person is always more than the simple sum of his or her successes, failures, and “learning hurdles” all rolled into one.
In his book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, author Paul Tough advises: “If we really want children to succeed we need to let them fail so they can learn to manage it….Help them stare at failure with unblinking honesty…give them a chance to fall down and get back up on their own.” To be successful in the real world, our students and children must develop resilience, confidence, and curiosity, along with critical and creative thinking skills, integrity, and a healthy sense of self-worth. This is especially true for our young teenagers.
How can we achieve this in a society filled with competing perspectives and priorities? How can we motivate our teens? Very few of them completely lack motivation. What many teenagers lack is the motivation to do stuff that doesn’t matter to them, doesn’t seem important, or is about satisfying an agenda that doesn’t relate to them.
Our task is to connect the dots with clarity, passion and purpose. Teenagers long to feel significant. They want to demonstrate to themselves and to the world that they matter and are capable of making a difference. Many of the problems teens encounter today are because their desire to be significant is ignored or diminished. Is it any wonder that young people who are only ever asked to conform to a parent or teacher’s agenda can become unmotivated?
By stepping back and taking a closer look at each member of our graduating class on Founder’s Day, we have an annual opportunity to see how their individual parts are framed within the context of the whole person each is becoming.
Works in process. Every single one.
Ric Anderson, Head of School