This past weekend I had one of those rare moments where my work in admissions at Breck School set the stage for a lively debate in the bioethics elective that I teach to seniors. On Friday, a current parent sent me an article that had been written in a local monthly magazine about another independent school and its supposed track record in graduating leaders. In the middle of the article, the author states, "There is no religion component and there are no uniforms. The goal isn't conformity, it's critical thinking." This statement was followed by a brief quote by the new Head of School, suggesting that she agreed with the author's statement. Earlier that day in bioethics, we had discussed common mistakes in reasoning and how to determine bias in writing. It seems we had our perfect test case.
As far back as my beginning in the field of education, more than 30 years ago, I can recall the discussions, articles and research addressing the question that looms in the minds of parents of preschoolers and toddlers everywhere: “Will my child be ready for Kindergarten?” It would be beautiful if there was a formula, a "one size fits all" diagnostic tool that could be given to every child as they cross that four year old threshold. But truly it is and should be a case by case, child by child, decision. Judy Keshner, author of Starting School writes, "Kindergarten is not a preview of what is to come-it is the foundation on which the following years grow. Each grade builds on the one before, and kindergarten sets the pattern and tone." The intellectual, emotional, social and physical development amongst children 4 years to 8 years is more variable than any other period in childhood. The reality is that young children cannot succeed on schedule. Each grows and develops at his or her own unique pace.
If your family is like mine, most of December is spent fretting over the holidays. We make daily to-do lists, spend hours shopping for the perfect gift, and do our best to help our children understand that every sentence should not begin with the phrase "I want." This holiday season got off to a similar start. Over the weekend, we asked our three-year-old son to circle some toys in a catalog that he might want to add to his list. He circled all but one and when he was informed that it was unlikely he would get all of the other 299 Lego sets in the catalogue he responded with "but maybe I will."As for the to-do lists, they quickly expanded and when my wife left on a business trip at the beginning of this week, it was hard to know if being the Director of Admissions at Breck or getting ready for the holidays was my full-time job. Thankfully my seven-year-old daughter Katie restored my perspective.
If your family is like mine, there has been a lot of excitement over the last few weeks in anticipation of the start of school. For my daughter it is the excitement to receive teacher assignments, class lists and meet new friends. For me and my wife, it is the excitement to see our daughter inspired by the talented teachers in the Breck community who always manage to cultivate a love of learning in each child. As an administrator who works over the summer, I’m just excited that I will actually encounter other human beings in the hallways when I leave my office.
Debi and I are often asked by parents what to expect from their admissions visit and how to best prepare their child for it. We recognize that for our youngest visitors, the trip to Breck School can be at once exciting and scary and for most children it is their first experience at such a large school. Parents too can feel a mix of emotions being both excited at the possibility of giving the Breck experience to their child while feeling anxious about how their child will perform. Many wonder what happens during the course of our interview with their child or worry that their child won't separate or won't talk.