A “C” in school is rarely seen as a good thing. A “C” has always stood for average. Who wants to be average? As educators we are now rethinking the importance of the letter C (and I am not talking about a grade). “C” words have come to shape the most important aspects of what we do in schools. There is nothing average about the meaning of the words below for the present and future of education. The New York Times recently published an article highlighting what college graduates need to be “employable.” Words like collaboration, creativity, comprehensive and critical/ constructive thinkers are featured throughout the article. I would argue character should be in there as well. While The Woods Academy only runs through the 8th grade, it is imperative that we develop these essential skills. Ponder these “C” words for a few minutes and how vital they are in our everyday lives.
I am excited for this coming year at The Woods as we will be mapping our curriculum with a special eye on these skills. Our teachers bring them alive through daily instruction, project based learning, numerous public speaking opportunities, daily foreign language instruction, the arts and many more ways to come. Not only will our kids be “employable” someday, they will thrive with a faith-based education and key skills embedded in their foundation. A foundation is what we build and a skyscrapper is what we will create with such a foundation.
To add two more “C” words to the equation, our new tag line is: The Woods Academy, Where Curiosity and Confidence Thrive. I could not agree more with this statement. It so accurately describes our kids and our school. Our kids have the curiosity to ask the question, “Can I create a robot?”, and the confidence to say, “Yes, I can.”
For those that know me, you may be shocked to learn that one of my favorite authors is Henry David Thoreau. I rarely quote Transcendentalists at parties. Thanks to Twitter (and @Mark_Shriver for tweeting and @matthewjdowd for writing) and the great sharing of information that takes place there, I came across the following article by Matthew Dowd. What Thoreau has always meant to me is a call to simplicity, getting in touch with nature and a focus on what really matters. Take a read. It is a great article. Take a watch, too, as the piece by Dowd was featured on Bloomberg TV.
Dowd examines five key points from Thoreau, who spent over two years living in a cabin on Walden Pond in the 1840s. “Reflection and solitude, simplicity, integrity, local matters and civil disobedience” matter as much today (if not more) than they did in the 1840s. Thoreau’s words have proven to be timeless. I am inspired and scared by this at the same time. Haven’t we learned anything since the 1840s? Do not answer that question.
Compared to the hustle and bustle of the school year, the summer months in schools are a great time for solitude and reflection. My copy ofWaldenis always in my carwith me. I may not read it every day, but it is a reminder of the points that Dowd references. While the summer is not a complete time of “solitude”, it is a great time for reflection and refocus. The summer is my “Walden Pond” and I am grateful for it. Enjoy August, “the Sunday of summer,” as Andy Deyell so eloquently spoke at our last administrative team meeting (I still think he borrowed the line from someone). I am guessing Thoreau might have agreed with this phrase. See everyone in September. Until then, back to “Walden Pond” with my fishing pole in hand.
A few months ago I wrote about the age-old question we ask our kids everyday after school: “What did you learn today?” I was at a seminar and the speaker gave us a new question to ask our kids each day. “Did you ask any good questions today?” I liked it so much I asked that question to my kids each day after school. First, they were annoyed with me, and then they finally gave in and participated in my antics (this is a regular pattern for me). It was a fun way to get them to think beyond just the basic level of what they learned. It forced them to see where they were actively engaged in growing. They took this question thing literally too. So much so that every morning this summer I have been peppered with questions about sports for 45 straight minutes as I drink my coffee. I created a monster. At least they know that A-Rod is a cheat and Hank Aaron (in my book) is still the home run record holder.
Carol Dweck, who I have written about often, is a professor, researcher and author of the book, Mindset. This morning I was reading this piece on the site Zite and Dweck nails it again. She so simply captures the importance of a growth mindset over a fixed mindset. Growth never stops for any of us. Fixed is forever. Fostering a growth mindset in ourselves and our kids is essential, rather than just praise. Dweck, in this article, asks us to bring a new question to the dinner table. “Who had a fabulous struggle today?” This question helps kids understand the value of working through issues and showing resilience.
There is a great deal we can learn from our struggle and the struggle of others. We just watched the movie, 42, as a family and it was a great way to teach the kids about the “struggle” Jackie Robinson faced (not to mention the movie was very well done). This question can also be a great window for us to share with our kids about how we as adults face challenges and work through them. I am looking forward to adding this question to the dinner table routine. But, for now, I must go, pour my coffee and answer a barrage of sports questions from the peanut gallery. I am predicting a “Why did A-Rod cheat?” question right off the bat. Money? Advantage? Narcissism? Fear? Everyone else is doing it? Easy answers but tough to choose just one reason. Ah yes, there is one answer, a lack of character.