Welcome to “The Hopper Effect,” the new GDS blog. As Head of School, I have the pleasure and privilege of darting in and out of classrooms whenever I have a moment to spare. I get to see our Hoppers wave their learning wands and make magic all the time. Our hope for the blog is to share some of those unique moments, stories, and insights that we as teachers and administrators get to experience each and every day, stories and moments that will collectively deepen your understanding of the rich and vibrant world of GDS. Throughout the school year, faculty, administrators, and others in our community will take turns blogging.
For educators, the start of a new school year has a familiar rhythm. We are energized by the initial rush of student excitement that accompanies new teachers, schedules, and classes, and friendships formed and rekindled. Around the third of fourth week of school, the new becomes the norm and routines take hold. One of these routines, not unique to GDS, is repeated daily in countless homes and cars around the country. After school, parents reconnect with their children and ask, “How was your day?”
Far too often, parents find the response to this question to be profoundly unsatisfying. “Fine” and “same as usual” are emblematic of the scintillating and vivid pictures painted, especially when it is your 14-year-old son holding the paintbrush. And yet parents, ever optimistic, try again, hoping that this day the answer will be different, rich in insight and vivid in detail.
While perhaps apocryphal, Einstein is widely credited with the expression, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” Which begs the question, are children’s answers to “how was your day?” unsatisfying because the question itself is flawed? At Friday morning’s PSA meeting (September 18), I shared a variety of alternative questions designed to spark new and and perhaps even revelatory conversations with your child. I share them below, and, as always, welcome your feedback.
- What was the funniest thing that happened today?
- Name one thing you did for someone else, and one thing someone did for you.
- If you were put in charge of your class tomorrow, what would you teach? Why?
- What challenged you most today? What did you do?
- Questions About Your Teacher(s): What is your teacher’s most important rule? Which of your teachers would be most likely to survive if stranded on a desert island? What fictional character (book or television) does your teacher most remind you of?
- Name one thing you learned about another student today.
- When did you laugh today?
- What were you most proud of today?
This list is of course not exhaustive, but rather should serve as a starting point. Questions similar to the “desert island” prompt (i.e. Which of your teachers would win “The Hunger Games”? If your teacher were a head of house at Hogwarts, which house would it be?) will often spark a fun conversation. “What were you most proud of?” is a tool for introspection. To be clear, these questions aren’t foolproof. If your 14-year-old walks into the house after a long day of school and your first question is, “Who in your class had the most interesting lunch today?”, your answer may well be a smirk, an eye roll, or outright incredulity. Not to worry—this is normal too.
Remember that your adolescent child will often need to connect to you on her schedule—not yours. This can mean that she flops down on your bed at 10:30 PM, when you’re ready to read or go to sleep, and she wants to debrief her day. There’s a reason for this, and it’s not that your daughter (or son) is intent on torturing you or inflicting sleep deprivation. Many adolescents need several hours in the afternoon to process their day alone—or with peers—before they’re ready to talk to a parent. There’s science behind this, which I’ll write about in a future blog. For the time being, it can be comforting as a parent to know that you’re not alone.
Staying connected to your child is both art and science—it requires intention, perseverance, and an investment of time and intellect. Staying connected to your child’s school is a goal that we share with you, so that we can partner together in support of your child. I wish each of you a year of vital, interesting connections with your children, and a year of strong, meaningful connection with GDS.