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A MESSAGE FROM THE DEAN OF SCHOOL
May 15, 2014

Dear KWS Community:

I know that some of you had the opportunity to see the Senior Project Presentations at the end of April. I think everyone there was impressed by the work of our twelfth graders. The projects are an opportunity for our students to engage in independent self-education, as the students take up an area of study to pursue over the course of the year. Click here to view a short video that I took at the reception and to view photos of the students and their projects.

Speaking of independence, I recently was reading from a little book of selected thoughts from the former head of the Renbrook School, in Connecticut. Her name is Jane Shipp, and here is some advice which I think is simple and wise that she gave to parents in her school about helping children develop independence:

“Helping children develop independence sounds like a truism, a platitude, but it’s not easy, especially with a first child or an only child. I’m not knocking the only child family, since I have one myself. I’ll ‘fess up and put my cards on the table. I was an overprotective mom, which gives me the right to advise you!

I have three suggestions to make...three ways that help to promote independence: first, try not to solve problems for your child. Instead, discuss options. “What are some things you could do about this?” It is really important to help children see more than one solution to a problem. Think about how often adults are stymied because they only see one way out. We need to train children not to think that way, but to think of options and their various effects or results.

Second: don’t buy into a child’s overreaction to events, especially in terms of what might have happened at school. Every child tells it his or her way; and there is always another version. Children have no perspective. It is important to help them develop perspective. Ask your child, “How would your teacher tell this story?” This doesn’t mean that your child is lying, it means there are many ways of experiencing an event.

A third suggestion: give your child as much responsibility at home as possible and then reinforce what he or she does right, and what they do independently. Don’t respond to failures with a big flap. When something fails, try to seize the teachable moment and ask, “How will you do this next time?”

...a typical child will have ups and downs. There will be something your child doesn’t learn as fast as you would like. There will be some other child that your child doesn’t get along with. There will be a time when you child is upset about something or misbehaves or develops a pattern of behavior that is quirky or worrisome. That’s what it means to be a child. Worrying about those things is what it means to be a parent.”

I think Ms. Shipp’s advice is relevant for today even though she penned these thoughts in 1996. I share them with you in the spirit of support for all of us who are engaged in guiding children in their growth and development.

I hope that many of you were able to attend the High School and Middle School Spring Concert. It was fantastic. Thanks to the students, our instrument teachers, Mike Ruhl, Elisabeth Tarsio, and Esther Walsh for an excellent evening of music.

We are now in the home stretch! There is less than a month of school left, but lots of exciting events on our calendar still to come!

Warmly,

Kevin Hughes
Dean of School