Dear Spectrum Community,
By the time you read this, we will have witnessed what I think is a winter miracle- the coming together of children, teachers, staff, and parents in music, song, and good cheer. I have seen and heard the sweetness and the chaos of the preparations, and felt the anxiety and fatigue of adults. The energy, excitement, and anticipation of the children is palpable. Today, as I watched the morning preschoolers leave for the day, each one felt like a blessing to me. No matter how messy the moment, the love and joy are real.
A prospective parent told me she was not as concerned about intense academics, but wanted a place she knew her child was understood and loved for who she is. The same day an alum parent showed up to connect with Marci, and shared stories of “getting off the education conveyor belt” with her children and being amazed at how much more they accomplished. What struck me was her willingness to step away from conventional ideas of academic success and trust the process of learning, and trust her children to stay engaged and invested in learning. They love learning, credit to Spectrum and a courageous parent.
One of the staff members shared an article with me about how to raise a college drop out – it highlights that many parents and schools put children through a rote education focused on compliance, grades, and numbers. Rather than teaching children how to think for themselves, plan-do-review, ask questions, take ownership of learning, manage projects, take risks, and be a responsible member of a learning community, success is narrowly defined by how well students jump through external academic hoops. This is often accompanied by underlying fear, competition, and comparisons…either the parents’, children’s, or teachers’. Students arrive at college learning cultures that demand a certain level autonomy and sound decision-making, and many students can’t handle it. They haven’t learned to manage and think for themselves, either academically or socially.
At Spectrum, our narrative for success includes the development of reflective, creative thinkers. We want students to experience and manage risk and failure. We want them to engage, to play, and to solve all kinds of problems. We want them to be strategic learners, who know how to solve academic challenges even if they may not immediately have all the knowledge required to do so. They know how to ask and find out. Success also includes self-care and care for others. It includes taking personal responsibility, not out of fear of getting in trouble – but doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do.
Rest assured, academics do not take a back seat at Spectrum. Every day, our dedicated teachers push themselves towards best practices, innovations, and making school better and better for students; but we are about so much more than worksheets and test scores. We are about the children, each who is a work in progress. Heck, every one of us is work in progress. This is Spectrum.
I hope as you consider your blessings of 2018 and any resolutions for 2019, you are able to reflect on your own narrative of success. Please give yourselves tons of credit for wanting more than a grind for your children. For wanting joy in learning.
May you all have the happiest of holidays and a lovely time off school until January 8!
Dr. Mary Beth Cunat