The poet T.S. Eliot wrote that “April is the cruelest month.” For us in the school world, it may not be the cruelest, but it sure is the busiest. Student-athletes peak with end-of-season tournaments, artists take the stage for plays and concerts after weeks and months of rehearsals, and students prepare for Advanced Placement exams and other end-of-year assessments. The pace can be overwhelming to say the least, and it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture when teachers and parents are just trying to manage the zany schedules that we’ve constructed for our students and your children.
In the midst of the jam-packed calendar that is now upon us, I wanted to take a moment to encourage parent participation in two very special upcoming events at Randolph, both part of our PARENTS+ offerings that keep us connected in partnership for the children under our care.
This Thursday we’re hosting Ben Shumaker on campus. He is the founder and director of “The Memory Project,” an endeavor that he launched in 2004 which provides students at schools like Randolph with the opportunity to connect with a disadvantaged boy or girl somewhere in the world.
We’ve participated in this project over the last several years, and it is truly extraordinary. Ben developed the idea when he was a graduate student working in Guatemala back in 2003. He came to know a man who grew up in an orphanage, and learned that orphans rarely have any personal belongings that mark their childhood. They certainly suffer from neglect and in many cases have very little regard for self.
Ben’s idea to connect students like ours at Randolph to these orphans has been an electric success. The art students who participate create a portrait for one orphan somewhere in the world, and the connections that are formed through this work can be life-changing. It’s a project that is certainly consonant with community learning and with the idea that we are directly connected to the world beyond us. Ben will be with us at school during the day, and then that evening he is speaking to an open audience at the Thurber Arts Center on the Garth Campus. Please come, and please bring a friend or two! This endeavor is a great example of what it means to nurture all and to learn for the greater good.
It’s pointedly ironic in the hurly-burly of April that we’re hosting Dan Kindlon on campus next week to discuss the over-scheduling of children. It would be a shame if we can’t make time in our schedules to think broadly about the schedules we construct for our students and for ourselves! Dr. Kindlon is a Harvard-based adolescent psychologist of national renown who with Michael Thompson co-authored Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys, as well as Alpha Girls and Too Much of a Good Thing: Raising Children of Character in an Indulgent Age.
Most recently Dr. Kindlon has turned his attention to what it takes for parents and school leaders to achieve a healthy balance in the schedules we make for our students and your children. Coaches need to know that the world is bigger than their sport, and teachers need to realize that students take more than just their subject. Parents need to understand all that a child is feverishly working to manage, and still save some unstructured time for a child to be a child.
This is a hugely important topic for us at Randolph as we work to revise our daily schedule for the 2013-2014 school year, and I am delighted that Dr. Kindlon will speak to the full faculty during our afternoon in-service and to the wider parent community (again, feel free to bring a friend or two, regardless of whether or not their children attend our school) in the evening. You can expect to be provoked and engaged, and I’m very pleased that our PARENTS+ programming has organized these opportunities for the Randolph community.