Back to School Nights help our community in many ways
“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
–Humphrey Bogart from the movie “Casablanca”
Some of the comments from Back to School Nights still have me smiling:
“I wish they taught math like that when I was a kid!”
“Last night was the best Back to School Night ever!”
“It feels so good to be doing this in person again!”
For the first time since 2019, we held Back to School Night for different divisions in person. On Thursday evening, August 26, the Little School hosted its first-ever back to school event; last Thursday evening, September 1, parents of middle and upper school students made their way around the main campus to attend their children’s classes. And just last night, Thursday, September 8, lower school parents visited classrooms and heard from teachers.
From all accounts, these events proved to be both informative and entertaining. The mood felt borderline giddy as we celebrated yet another sign of our returning to a pre-pandemic almost normal. Parents listened to teachers describe their courses, and visited with one another during the breaks, while students volunteered to help parents navigate the campus. Perhaps this was yet another reminder to appreciate what we may have taken for granted before COVID changed our lives so significantly.
Since parents coming to school to learn about their children’s experience feels like an annual tradition, it seems fair to ask what exactly is the purpose of this once-a-year evening.
All too often as parents, when we ask our children how their day was or what they did, they respond with a single syllable or word. We hope these events help parents understand that school may be more than “fine” and that children actually do “something” rather than “nothing” all day in school. At the close of the night, parents can leave campus with the knowledge that at Keystone, outstanding teachers challenge and support children and young adults to be excellent students and good people.
More specifically, parents learn on this night the specific curriculum for each course. What will the students learn in history? What concepts will they discover in math? Are there certain labs they perform in science? What will they do in their arts courses or language class? Some teachers may describe how we will teach the five values-integrity, curiosity, empathy, creativity, and service-that comprise Keystone’s new Cobra Code.
Parents can also see where their children physically sit in their classes and what their classrooms look like. This gives adults a greater feel for where and how students spend their day and allows them to walk in their children’s shoes metaphorically. They can more effectively visualize the student experience and relate when a child describes something about their day.
One of the most important elements of these early events comes when adults visit with each other. They can connect, share stories, and join in community. For example, just last week at the Middle and Upper School event, I watched two parents discover that they live on the same street. That’s not likely to happen when we’re in Zoomland instead of together on campus.
Lastly, and just as importantly, an early, in-person gathering on campus allows parents and teachers to begin to form a relationship. In the course of a school year, there will be ups and downs. Students and teachers are human, and highs and lows are an inevitable part of being in school.
Educators often allude to the three-legged stool – parents, students and teachers – that can help students succeed. When all three communicate with each other, children benefit. I still remember attending a back to school event for our children in elementary school. That evening, their excellent third grade teacher underscored the need for open dialogue between parents and teachers with a quip:, “I will believe half of what your children say about you if you believe half of what they say about me.” Parents chuckled, and we all got the message to contact Ms. Julie if we had a question.
At Keystone, we ask you to help us support our children by being in dialogue so that if and when something goes awry, we have already formed a partnership based on mutual faith and trust. If there’s a disagreement, we can begin by practicing the rule of API-Assume Positive Intent.
Back to School Night opens the door to this relationship. We look forward to working with your children and partnering with you over the course of this school year so we can help our Cobras achieve their full potential.