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This blog explores, from multiple perspectives, gifted education in general and The Avery Coonley School experience in particular. Welcome to the conversation!

 

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Notes from the Head of School: In the Wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting

Posted By Administration, Thursday, February 15, 2018

After sitting through the pain of hearing about the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida yesterday, I thought about whether or not to send a message to our community. How many messages can one send about these kinds of tragedies, and what can I or anyone add that hasn’t already been said? But upon reflection I realized that not saying something, not acknowledging that it happened, would be the absolute worst decision. Only time will tell whether school shootings have already or will become “the new normal.” What should never be normal, however, is parents and teachers closing doors of communication with our children. These events are tragic and terrifying and anxiety-causing—for adults and children. Even if your own child says nothing, or an adult says nothing, with the possible exception of really young children, you can be sure they are thinking about it, talking among themselves, and/or are worried about themselves, their friends, their school, their communities.

We cannot allow the “new normal” to be one of numbness or passive acceptance. It is critical that we open the conversations amongst each other, and talk directly and openly about what happened. We cannot remain silent. We need to do more, as parents and as a school, to acknowledge that kids today feel pressures from home, school, social media, and their lives that is taking a toll on our pre- adolescent and adolescent population. High schools and colleges are dealing with unprecedented numbers of students who show up on their campuses with anxiety and depression before they are even 18 years old. Yesterday’s event only magnifies the pressures our children face, not to mention the horrendous loss those families and the Florida community experienced. Hearts are breaking across the country for them, as individual fears rise.

Below you will see a link to a speaker next week who I encourage you to consider hearing. I have not heard him speak directly, but the topic is critical and we need to become a part of the conversation and a part of the solutions. Typical advice after a tragedy is to say, “Never pass up a chance to hug your children or tell them how much you love them.” Right now, I would say it is more important to never pass up, and in fact, actively find ways to converse with your children. By converse, I mean listening to your children now is probably the 90% that matters even more than what you say.

There are lots of reassuring things to say to children and each other, while acknowledging the fear and sadness and uncertainty of life. The statistics are scary—but the odds of it actually happening to any one individual or school remain infinitely small. We are continuing to address the physical safety of our community and will continue our safety drills and improve, where possible, our security measures. But the emotional safety of our children and community is equally important. By acknowledging and addressing the underlying stress we and our children feel, we can provide a measure of mutual care and support that is essential for us all.

Sincerely,

Paul Druzinsky
Head of School

Event: Dr. Michael Bradley presents Crazy Stressed: Saving Today's Overwhelmed Children
Date: Wednesday, February 21, 2018, 7-8:30pm
Location: The Community House, 415 W. Eighth Street, Hinsdale, IL, 60521
Description: 
Peel back the cheerful facade that many parents present, and you'll find that many are worried about their children. New research tells us our kids are not all right. Too many are struggling with excessive academic loads, extracurricular demands, sleep deprivation, and 24/7 connectivity, causing epidemic rates of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and suicide.

While teen brains are hardwired for risk-taking and overactive emotions, their coping abilities are at all-time lows. Dr. Michael Bradley first explains what's driving today's adolescent anxiety, depression, and negative behaviors and what the latest brain development research is telling us. Then, with proven strategies from his three decades of practice and his own years as a father, Dr. Bradley provides practical advice on how to connect with your children to build their life-saving resiliency and what to do when you're facing a major mental health issue.

Tags:  safety  shooting  stress  support 

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Notes from the Head of School: On Supporting vs Micromanaging

Posted By Administration, Friday, September 1, 2017

As we begin the year I want to share some thoughts and offer further insights into my vision for ACS, and my hopes and dreams for our community. My goals for all aspects of our program is simple and clear: ACS stands as a premier school for gifted students, and my aim is to not only to ensure we deliver on our missionto provide a learning environment that is appropriate both for academically bright and gifted children,” but that we lead the way towards an even stronger and better understanding of what our students need as well. We want and have excellence—in our curriculum, our teachers, our facilities. We strive to be at the forefront of educational innovation, ensuring that everything from our language arts to our math programs represent the most current and creative thinking in education. We should be a beacon and magnet for gifted education, gifted students, and gifted educators who want to be at our institution. Our strategic planning process will help shape the next few years and give us a road map for building on what we do well, and making greater improvements to the ACS experience. We are an excellent school—but we can and must do more to ensure the needs of our students are met!

I have another vision that I want to share that is focused more on the social-emotional needs of all students, but in this case, particularly relevant to our gifted students; it is one I share both as a fellow parent and as a head of school. I know you have heard some of this before, but one of the greatest gifts we can teach our children is resiliency and independence, which is part of ACS’s greater philosophy: not only do we “assist our students in realizing their intellectual, emotional, social, creative, and physical potential,” we must also “recognize and [be] sensitive to the unique needs of gifted children.” In the pressurized world of schools and academics, it can be difficult to know how to help our children when not everything is perfect. Children will have teachers they don’t like, disappointing grades, friends who fight, lost athletic contests, not placing as highly as hoped in math or science competitions, and times when life truly does treat them unfairly. The best possible approach parents can take is to “tone down the temperature” rather than try to fix the problem immediately, and instead talk to them about how to handle life when something is not perfect. Particularly as many of our students have perfectionist tendencies, feeding into those tendencies, even unintentionally, can create even more anxiety and inner turmoil. We tend to measure life these days on a minute-by-minute basis. Life in general—specifically life at ACS—is the sum total of a child’s elementary school experience. Children need ups and downs, good things and struggles.

With rare exception, checking the parent portal every day for grades and assignments is simply unhealthy. I am sure you have read about the struggles current college students are having now in part because of parental micromanaging. These 18-year-olds are struggling when they leave home, in great part due to growing up without having to learn anything about disappointment or resiliency.

My dream for our community is that we allow our children the space and room to grow up, and not try to protect them from every possible struggle. My promise to you is that we will continue to improve, and address and respond to legitimate concerns. My hope is that we can partner together so that a disappointment does not become a problem, and a bad grade doesn’t become a crisis. This article in The New York Times about parent portals, especially the last couple of paragraphs, gives some excellent advice, and while no article is perfect, I hope you will all take the time to read it. Let’s all look through the portal of life, which is large and vast, and not the nano-second portal snapshot!

Here’s to another great year on Maple Avenue!

Warm regards,

Paul Druzinksy
Head of School

Tags:  gifted students  Head of School  micromanaging  support 

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