Dr. Grauer's Column - Joy, Creativity, and Courage
Joy, Creativity, and Courage
Head of School Remarks to Grauer Parents, September 8, 2022
Welcome to our 32nd year at The Grauer School. It is rare in schools to have standing room only left at events like this, so kudos to all of us.
Our theme this year is joy, creativity, and courage. It is wonderful to be back looking out over our fireplace again, beneath our 45 flags representing just some of the countries we have visited on our expeditions or have international students from and including some of our UNESCO sister schools. It is even more wonderful looking out over the balcony of this beautiful organization: now that our leadership is so deep, my main role these days has become mainly to appreciate it, just as you do. Our faculty is a work of art. Now we are embarking on a whole new round of amazing adventures. I’m going to the Blue Ridge Mountains, where my banjo was made.
We appreciate your trust that we work lovingly with adolescents every day, and mainly that our teens are learning self-advocacy, one of our core values, as they are challenged more than ever to solve their own problems while they are coming of age. This is a fantastic time to encourage our students in developing courage and creativity, and a joyful approach to living and learning: to live in that world rather than in that world of chaos and anxiety we are hearing too much about. Self-advocacy, natural spaces, Socratic method, lots of choices, open space and high trust, those are the antidotes and the ways forward we need. You can see all these values embodied in our seniors.
I love this group of seniors: they are us. One came up to me excitedly today: she is going to New York, and the Dean of the Theater School at NYU wrote her a personal letter wanting to show her around. There is nothing like a Grauer kid. They know it.
The pandemic enabled us to ramp up outdoor learning and accelerated our “Great outdoors” theme–ask our teachers about learning outdoors if you like. This campus has become unbelievably beautiful, largely because of the Great Outdoors outpouring of support in 2019.
Plus, the homebound days advanced our communications technology. We are working hard on using all this technology well, and that’s a double-edged sword. We are checking in more deliberately with our students on this, assessing the risks.
Recommendation: Please find a time to ask your child:
- What are some negative effects social media has on you?
- What are some positive effects of social media?
- How do you know when to get off it? Do you?
We recommend asking in a non-judgmental way. Not advice, just listen for understanding. You can let us know what you find.
Later on, of course, you can set rules or boundaries. But first, for helping your child clarify their own thinking, try the no-advice way and see what you think.
For next week: let’s get unplugged on expedition. We characteristically do not have students calling home. We can’t urge you strenuously enough to let your child know not to call you, to spend the week autonomously and, even more important, to convey that they are perfectly up to this. Think: what if they weren’t! The purpose of expeditionary learning has always, for 32 years, been independence, not tourism, and we thank you for your support in the work we do. They are up to this.
I want to make a special welcome to our new families. This is another selective, diverse crop of Grauer students met by a selective, diverse faculty talent pool. Our access to Grauer Endowment is helping that diversity grow, and providing access—Grauer Endowment is the future for helping all great kids be here!
Tonight you’ll meet the teachers. These professionals have an enormous amount of learning to provide. You might be asking: What can I as a parent do, in support, to help those teachers?
Research has found a positive relationship between good parent-teacher communication and student achievement. Teachers who perceive parents as supportive also report greater levels of job satisfaction and professional accomplishment. That means, teachers who love and look forward to working with your child. Believe in these teachers. Believe in their commitment.
This summer, all of our teachers studied ways to increase engagement in the classroom, increase student retention of information and curiosity, and to increase motivation. We’re feeling inspired.
Of course, for this back to school night event, you are wondering about plenty. As you visit your student’s classes, here are some great things parents tend to wonder about, so feel free to ask about them tonight or any time. These are always great questions teachers welcome:
- In what ways will my child’s learning be connected to the real world?
- How will my child be assessed or graded?
- To what extent will my child be setting their own goals and aspirations, developing their own voice?
- How important is student connectedness?
- What values should my child be developing in this class? Do they match my values?
- What is the parent role in helping the school with adolescent development?
Parents: Here’s something we love about our school: our on-campus class interactions and connections are of enormous value—the education we provide outside the class is just as valuable as inside. We are looking to be mentors who model passion for learning in life, not just in class. They’ll be seeing your kids by our new outdoor art gallery, new pickleball courts we’re adding, a fast-developing STEAM innovation lab, sprawling gardens and orchards, in all sorts of collaborative events and expeditions. This is an amazing, brilliant, dedicated, and did I mention amazing group of teachers. I can’t even express how much I love working with them and supporting them.
And your kids are on fire: they have water balloon games, clubs starting up, concerts, and all sorts of student proposals, showing student engagement levels that assure lifetime, safe, positive learning. I want to be a kid here.
Thank you for coming.
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