End of the Year Thoughts

If a picture is worth 1000 words, perhaps I should stop right here.

 

What does this picture say to you? ‘I’m not afraid to toss convention aside; I’ve found a better way!’ Or more likely: ‘I’m exhausted. At the end of my rope. Something has to give!’

As a parent, eleven years ago (when my children were 1, 4, and 5), I recall feeling like this all the time. Today, this utter exhaustion is tied to certain times of the year. While the passing of time slows to a crawl from November to February, the end of the year has the same furious, frantic pace as the beginning. Our students have done their best to remain on task, but, as I am sure you have observed, it becomes progressively more challenging to stay focused as the thermometer rises and we all count down the final days. Since starting Kindergarten with Mrs. Beecher forty years ago, I have been living and measuring my life in nine-month chapters. Some of you have heard me say that nothing should last longer than nine months. That was the length of my engagement, and, having delivered our oldest child two weeks late, I know my wife would agree about the duration of a pregnancy.

Truth be told, the school year is closer to 9.5 months, but nonetheless, it will be over soon. Routines will relax. We’ll have yelling-free mornings, breakfast at the table instead of in the car, and homework-free afternoons. In short, we’ll feel the calm after the storm. The TP will go back on the dispenser.

And what should we do with all this calm? While the tendency in 2018 is to fill every waking moment with travel-team practices, camps, rehearsals, classes, and educational trips, I would advocate that you preserve some time for your children to “do nothing.” This downtime might entail simply hanging out with family and friends. It might involve walking barefoot through the grass, building a sandcastle, catching lightning bugs, sketching a flower from the front yard, watching the sunrise, skipping stones at a lake, stargazing, or creating a sidewalk mural. Summer is an opportune time for over-programmed, over-scheduled kids to develop their powers of imagination and creativity, and to learn how to amuse themselves.

To clarify, down time does not mean plopping oneself on the couch to play Fortnite. In his book, Last Child in the Woods (2005), Richard Louv coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” to describe the phenomenon of children spending more and more time inside. Now is our chance to combat this trend. You’ll note that all of the suggested activities above take place outdoors. Apply sunscreen if necessary, hand your children water bottles, and then boot them out of the house. Summer is also a time to be less plugged in, less connected to the various media that monopolize our daily lives. Take the family camping, preferably to a spot where there is no cell phone service, or, as my mother-in-law advised in a toast at our wedding, just “play in the dirt.”

My second recommendation is that you encourage your children to try something new. Several years ago, I worked at a school where all students, in between their junior and senior years, undertook a “personal challenge.” Some learned how to rollerblade, others taught themselves how to cook or take black-and-white photographs, and one non-athlete even spent the summer completing an exercise regimen designed to allow him to dunk a basketball. The common thread through all of these activities was that students, only nine months away from being on their own, were expanding their interests, skills, and passions. Much is written today about the opportunity that summer presents as an “extended learning session.” While I agree with this sentiment, I would rather see children learning how to set up a tent than studying quadratic equations.

With completing construction of the new building, moving the location of twelve classrooms, and working on numerous other projects, life at TDS will continue at high speed this summer. That said, we welcome visitors, particularly those willing to carry a box, so stop by if you’re in the neighborhood. May your summers be filled with new experiences and memorable family moments.

Sincerely,

Douglas E. Norry
Head of School
doug.norry@triangledayschool.org