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Preparing the student, or paving the road?
Upon landing in Oz, imagine that Dorothy was actually told all the experiences and personalities that she would encounter and imagine that she is given the option to take a direct route to the Wizard's home, rather than to follow an unknown path during which she would have to make many decisions along the way.
Imagine that Luke Skywalker as a pre-adolescent was told that Darth Vader was his father and how the rest of his life was going to play out.
On a non-fiction level, I often played video games as a young boy. As a very intense competitor, I always wanted to win, whether that was knocking out Mike Tyson, finding the key to the castle, beating the A's in RBI-Baseball, or destroying the alien heart on the final stage of Contra. Yet when I was offered a cheat code of some kind from a friend, as tempting as it was - it wasn't nearly as fun or rewarding as doing it on my own... grinding it out, playing it 1000 times, learning the algorithm to beat Soda Popinski, getting a hit off Eckersley, and the like.
As parents, particularly in this era of instant gratification, exposure and access to
various types of content at way too early an age, and all the stresses and anxieties that come with growing up now - we worry. Sometimes we worry too much, and our natural response is to rescue, protect, shield, and deflect to protect our children. For sure that is what parents should do - but if excessive, could we be robbing our children of learning and growth opportunities? What I am advocating for is to not use the cheat code on parenting, and instead, allow students to grow and learn from failure, be it social, emotional, academic, artistic, or athletic. Additionally, I would advocate that we leverage the experience of our faculty and their deep experience with children at the given age to titrate the chances of failing. Like a video game, higher levels should be more challenging and engaging... but should also not have career altering outcomes.
"When we don't equip our children to take on independence as they grow older, life gets unhealthy. We must begin to offer our kids a greater sense of ownership by believing in them and their ability to achieve on their own."
Tim Elmore, a noted author and educator on leadership, recently wrote this piece that underscores this point. In it, among other points, he writes, "When we don't equip our children to take on independence as they grow older, life gets unhealthy. We must begin to offer our kids a greater sense of ownership by believing in them and their ability to achieve on their own."
His ultimate question, however, and one worth constant consideration is, about whether we are preparing students for the road ahead, or are we preparing the road for students?
Raising children is hard work, and it is arguably harder to do well as time moves
forward. Nevertheless, there are old-school values and concepts that we must remember. Follow the yellow brick road... search your inner self... and learn by doing.
Exploring Something New
I love competition. I always have. When I was young, I hated losing. Truthfully, I still do. However, my reaction to it is much different than it used to be.
The kinds of competitions I've really loved are the ones where failure is far more prevalent than success. Video games, baseball, bowling, marathons, even writing poetry. I couldn't play or do any of those for any length of time if they were too easy; that was boring and even unfun. However, the demands of those activities at the highest level are intoxicatingly addicting.
As I have done with those other challenges, last November, I made a commitment to a new, year-long pursuit. This time it was an event that was neither digital, nor did it have a clock. While it did involve a ball, it didn't involve an umpire or other teammates. And while it was a solo endeavor, it involved a different type of team. And in the end, like the others, golf taught me a great deal about life, mental fortitude, and myself.
It began with someone suggesting, "Hey, Matt. You are a competitive guy. You should join the Golf Channel Amateur Tour." I responded that while I am indeed competitive, I was a) not that good, and b) I don't have time.
Wisely, he encouraged me to sign up because it would commit me to get better and it would be a lot of fun. Luckily, I listened.
As I look back and reflect on the last 11 months, my learning journey of this game taught me many things.
It may only be October, but as we settle in to the school year routine, I challenge you to find a new thing. I know students who have done this since August with a leadership position, off campus swimming, strength training, academic achievement, and the like. Many are already seeing early fruits of their labor - and they are experiencing the addiction of success. I encourage you to challenge yourself, make a daily commitment, and track your results and learning! I'd also love for you to share with me; I'm happy to be your accountability partner just as I had with others who helped me.
Some of our Upper School students recently had the opportunity to attend the ISAS Fine Arts Festival held in Austin, TX. This was an incredible experience that allowed them to not only share their own performances and pieces, but to attend workshops and master classes and learn from talented faculty and peers from other ISAS schools. As an annual event, our faculty and students are already looking forward to next year's ISAS Fine Arts Festival!
Thank you so much to all of the grandparents, friends, and family members who joined us for Grandparents Day. Our PS and LS students have been hard at work for the last few months, and we love having the opportunity to welcome you to campus, share the results of their hard work, and celebrate the lasting impact each of you have on our students!
Congratulations to these five seniors elected to membership in the inaugural class of the Allen Academy Chapter of the Cum Laude Society: Leo T., Lara Z., Michaela R., Kendall K., and Sam D.
This is an incredibly prestigious honor. Established in 1906 as the secondary school equivalent of Phi Beta Kappa, the country's oldest collegiate honor society, The Cum Laude Society honors academic excellence and superior scholarship among its nearly 400 member schools. Membership in this academic organization is limited to 20 percent of the Senior Class. Allen Academy is proud to induct five members of the Class of 2019 into this prestigious society.
Allen Academy students must meet each of the following criteria to be considered for election: maintain at least an A average, carry a full college preparatory course load that includes the most rigorous courses offered, have excellent SAT/ACT scores, and receive enough votes from electing members of the Allen Academy Chapter of The Cum Laude Society. However, fulfillment of these requirements does not guarantee membership. The Society emphasizes more than academic grades and standardized test scores. Instead, it recognizes individuals who—in all areas of their lives—love to learn, share their knowledge with others, and demonstrate scholarship, honor, integrity, leadership, involvement, and outstanding character. The Society also hopes that all of its members will continue their cooperative and selfless pursuit of knowledge while serving as lifelong examples of the Cum Laude Society motto: Aréte (Excellence), Diké (Justice), Timé (Honor).
Congratulations and well done, Rams!