Open Letter to My Son’s School

Came around the corner after 2 months of Summer break, and we both seemed to elevate.  We looked at each other, reading the signs as we crossed over into campus, calling out the names of buildings, and which teacher’s car was parked where.  It felt as much like a home coming as any – warm and excited, anticipatory with belonging.

I was surprised. Not for him maybe, it is his school, and it has transformed him.  This was a kid who thought he was dumb, and his teachers hated him.  Now he is an honor roll, campus- leader-in-development, who believes he can succeed, who understands his own learning style.  I was struck more by my own visceral hope as I listened to every excited breadth of possibility he shared.  This boy – who has struggled to find his footing – flies here.

When we interviewed, I was asked what my goals were for my son’s education.  I said, “No jail time and to learn a trade.”  Sort of sarcastically, but more accurately the “lie with a hint of truth.” Then on March 28th, this same boy received both academic and leadership Honor Rolls.  How does this child who once cried every day because school was so hard become described as a leader-on-campus less than one year later?

Environment.  Environment.  Environment.  Consistency.  Consistency.  Consistency.

This school tells my boy exactly what to expect, and therefore how to succeed.  This pedagogy built-for-boys helps mine access his very best academic, relational, responsible, intellectual, grounded, organized, curious, kind, spiritual, behavioral, community-aware, happy self.  In case it’s helpful for your kid too, this is a path to educational empowerment:

  • School wide-lesson design integrates study skills and executive functioning support
  • Focused tutorial time is part of the everyday/everystudent schedule, so no ostracizing “pull outs” at a time in life when a child developmentally abhors being different
  • Multiple physical activity breaks more often, and spread throughout the day, refocus attention
  • Constant feedback using positive psychology help him to self-correct in the moment and to apply these learnings over time (v an approach which sometimes included comparisons to generic norms or other students, felt punitive to him, and in moments led to a negative cycle of non-learning and conflict with adults)
  • Singular lesson format, used across all grades, subjects, and specialists, is “calming” and organizing, helping him to comport himself for optimum connection and participation

At the end of the year, the Head of Admissions asked me again about my goals. I told him I had upgraded to the possibility of a community college.  He said: “Wait.  See what happened in a year? You’re going to believe in a four year college for him before you know it.”

And so, I feel the hope rise in my chest as I look around at this school on a Hillside where boys become themselves with pride, consciousness, confidence, and clarity.  My heart flutteringly light with gratitude: what a “save” for this boy of mine.

© Gabriella Strecker, 2016

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2 thoughts on “Open Letter to My Son’s School

  1. Love love and more love. Positive thinking by all who work at Hillside . I dont have any children who attend school but, i see how these boys are and they couldnt be more respectful and careing in any situation. Hillside is absolutely the best . Love it dearly!

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