Our students have a rare opportunity to live within and contribute to an extraordinary community of learners, artists, musicians, and athletes. In order to benefit fully from this opportunity, students need three things from the school: Place, Connection, and Expectation. The success of a school in creating and maintaining a Progress Culture is rooted in these areas as much as it is rooted in the execution of specific innovations in curriculum or program. If a school works well in establishing place, connection, and expectation, it is will be in position to prepare students to meet the demands of its core language, which at my school includes this statement: “At Westminster, we grow as lifelong learners who serve and lead in a changing world.”
- Place: Students need to feel that the school is theirs, and they should graduate placing a value on stewardship.
- Connection: Students need connections with peers and with adults that in turn attach them to the school and permit them to see their role in it.
- Expectation: Often what students need is not what they ask for in the moment. Generally, however, students want to be in a school environment where there are expectations for their character, for their behavior, and for their achievement. When we hold students to high expectations, we demonstrate our faith that they can meet and even exceed them. High expectations then are a way of demonstrating our commitment to them.
As I think about these three factors working together to make a great school, I am reminded of the importance of building partnerships with students, with faculty, and with parents, particularly in a moment in history that is charged with challenge and opportunity. As a result, I am starting to think about setting up a series of conversations with parents where we might face questions like:
- What is easier for kids today than it was for you at the same age?
- What is harder?
- What excites you most about the experience your child is having at this moment in their lives?
- What scares you most as a parent?
- How should we (faculty, administration, and parents) work together to help kids navigate the difficulty of being in high school in this time?
- What things do we need to prepare your children for that have not been covered in the traditional academic classes? How should we do it?
While these questions do not address place, connection, and expectation directly, they do allow for us to have a conversation relevant to what students most need from the adults in their lives. My hope is that they will help us both maintain and extend a healthy school-parent partnership going forward.