Friday, October 25, 2013
Monday, December 17, 2012
Once you become a parent, your relationship to all children changes, and it becomes easy to feel deeply connected to other parents. Parenting is hard. Not only does it require a huge investment of time, energy, and resources, it also includes a cascading sequence of vulnerability. The typical bumps and bruises (physical and emotional) of growing up are first felt by your child and then by you. It is easy to inadvertently amplify this process, and it takes perspective gained through experience (often with a second, third or fourth child) to remain balanced and calm in the face of challenging circumstances.
I remember one fabulous parent joking that it was emotionally difficult parenting her first two, but became much easier with her third child as she realized it was "us against them." Then a tragedy happens and all parents shudder, feel a renewed sense of vulnerability, and simply want to hug and protect their kids. So what do we do?
We know that there is no single answer to this question, but it seems that a few themes emerge. First, limit exposure to media and do not let your fears add to whatever uncertainties your child may (or may not) be experiencing. Just as my friend and bestselling author Michael Thompson recommends to not "interview for pain," it is important to not "interview for fear." Ask open-ended questions, spend time together, be observant, and continue to reassure your children -- and yourself -- that schools are safe and supportive places.
I also believe that this is an opportunity to talk with your children about what you do when a question or event has no answer or explanation. Some violence is incomprehensible. Bad things do happen to good people. This is where faith, helping others, and the importance of community provide a path, if not an answer. Mental illness, the norming of violence in media and video games, and the powerful role of alcohol and drug abuse in bad decision making are topics that might also come up. Tragic events can be a cautionary tale, but more often they open a door to conversations that empower young people to come to their own conclusions.
We are thankful for the ongoing support of local authorities to help ensure our children’s safety. Like you, I will be comforted by their enhanced presence on our campus.
At Kent Denver, most students are focused on mid-year exams, drama rehearsals, athletic contests, and the like. Most students are looking forward to some time to rest and renew. All of us will welcome the opportunity to better appreciate all that we have to be thankful for and will keep in mind those who are less fortunate or suffering.
My very best to you and your family for the holidays,
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Saturday was 21 years in making (1991 was our last Football State Championship team). It started with a beautiful rendition of our National Anthem by Ellery Jones ‘14 and then the contest began. In front of a record crowd of almost 2,000, DeSo field came alive with the very best spirit that high school sports can generate. 100's of loyal and loud KDS alums returned to see our team prevail 28-17 against an accomplished, courageous, and highly motivated Platte Valley team. Coming from behind (14-17 at half) , our student athletes demonstrated great character - fulfilling the last four team themes of Brotherhood, Toughness, Grit, and this year, FINISH! Scott Yates, Bill Boatman, and the incredible coaching staff deserve recognition and credit for bringing out the best in the team and rising above the pressure to demonstrate the very best of poise, sportsmanship, and heart. The leadership of our ten seniors was a critical element in this undefeated season. Scott finally got a full night's sleep, and I imagine that a good night of sleep it was.
Thanks to everyone who worked and attended the game, it was a fabulous event!
Friday, November 2, 2012
Friday, October 12, 2012
Thursday, April 26, 2012
This is a story of a close-knit family of six living in a very cozy apartment who have made a heartfelt commitment to becoming contributing members of their community. The challenges are many —language, economic, cultural, separation from the familiar – but they understand that through education their family can create a new beginning that will bode well for them and for the organizations that they serve. One daughter was struggling in math and science when the family discovered our Breakthrough program. She applied, was accepted, and enrolled. Still struggling, the family asked if a tutor might be available.
A Kent Denver senior, looking to fulfill his community service hours, volunteered to spend two hours a day over spring break tutoring the daughter. The student was told that he had fulfilled his required hours but he had become so close to the family, and to his work helping them learn, that he joined the family each Wednesday afternoon to tutor. He also got to know a brother who needed help with English. In fact, the father of this family recently wrote of the Kent Denver student: “He has become part of our family. He is teaching my kids what they do not know in order for them to perform better in school. He is teaching Urusalem vocabulary, helping David with his writing, and has started tutoring Yohanas in math. He is truly a brilliant young man and we are so lucky to have him. Thank you Breakthrough!"
This student has done more than tutor. He has learned the joys of sharing meals like Tsebhi (stew), Injera (flatbread), and Hilbet (hummus?) with a family that has adopted him. As he teaches English vocabulary, he learns Tigrinya (one of the nine language groups in Eritrea) in return. The student admits that perhaps his tutoring is more effective than his learning, but it is in the exchange that this relationship has grown and strengthened, well beyond the required service hours.
Authentic, purposeful, and meaningful engagement is what makes for a great education and a strong community, and it builds capacity in an individual. There is no local or national award for this type of activity, and yet this is some of the very most important work that we do.
My best to you for a purposeful, meaningful, and fun spring!
Sunday, February 5, 2012
Last week I had the good fortune to spend a couple of days with four college presidents in conversations that were far ranging, deeply thoughtful, and a bit disconcerting. A central theme focused on the developmental continuum of adolescence to adulthood, and all of us shared a deep concern that as we consider offering greater freedom and independence to young people, brain research indicates that the centers of mature judgment might actually develop later than previously thought. This gap is most evident in the college years - a tricky, complicated, and both expansive and expensive time for quasi-adult children. While offering extraordinary academic curricula, college life seems less sure-footed when it comes to the development of character, judgment, and ethical consistency.
One president reflected on the fragmented and disjointed nature of form and function in college life. College students often attach discrete and different meaning and associated behaviors to what they do in the dorm, in the dining hall, in the gym, in the library, and in the fraternity or sorority house. The same student can take on very different attitudes, dispositions, and associations as he or she moves between the disconnected spheres of college life. This is exacerbated by the transient nature of electronic social networking - an increasingly influential part of college life - and the distinct lack of an adult presence from late afternoon through bedtime, often the most active and influential hours of the day. This also has become an even longer stretch of time as many students regularly stay up until 2 or 3 AM.
While some colleges have developed house systems with professors in residence to help provide guidance, few adults are well-matched to the diurnal rhythms of college students. Some Resident Advisor programs are successful, and some colleges are hiring mature students as agents to curb excessive behaviors -- not through enforcement, but rather through positive role modeling and counseling. That said, there was some agreement that colleges are generally not well-designed to strengthen and improve maturity of character.
This places an additional burden on college prep programs. Beyond making sure that students can think critically, communicate persuasively, write coherently, and compute accurately, we must encourage strong, formative, and engaging relationships with adults so students naturally and routinely seek out adults as guides and mentors. We must help students to internalize habits of consistent, principled behavior as a binding element of all activity. And, finally, we must develop in each student a refined capacity for pro-active self-assessment linked to an appreciation for what constitutes a life of meaning and purpose.
I am glad that we have extraordinary faculty and that our community reinforces habits of character as much as habits of mind at Kent Denver. And while I believe that we can do more, I am reassured that as our students prepare to lead Ethics Day seminars for the entire school, and as each student thoughtfully reflects on his or her yearly “This I Believe” essay, we are headed in the right direction.