As I reflect on this past month, I am again reminded of the panel of students who spoke of their experiences at CSS during our October 13th Open House for prospective families. Seniors Mia C. and Sasha M. along with juniors Landon M. and Zak T. perfectly depicted the outstanding qualities of our Upper School students, embodying the CSS portrait of a graduate as they told their stories with such vulnerability and clarity. Hearing them talk about acquiring a growth mindset, encountering real-world experiences, and developing relevant skills through the many opportunities offered to them by CSS only reinforces the reason I chose to move halfway around the world from Vietnam to work here.
During the panel, these students spoke about both the gifts and challenges of working together in a small community, acknowledging that it’s not always easy. Despite the inevitable conflicts sometimes faced, the nature of teaching and learning at CSS helps our students navigate these challenges and develop a mutual respect for their peers. When I think about the problems present in our world today and the potential issues that threaten our future, adaptability may just be the most important takeaway our graduates possess.
Though referred to as “soft skills,” I think of this as a misnomer. Collaborating with others to accomplish common goals and to navigate interpersonal challenges can be HARD work, requiring a lot of practice, growth, and patience. Hearing first-hand from students who have successfully navigated disruption while working alongside their peers – and seeing that they recognize the value in these experiences – makes me proud to be part of the CSS community. I’m honored to stand with our talented faculty to support our Upper School students as they develop these interpersonal skills.
Another highlight of the student panelists’ reflections was their account of the important lessons they’ve learned through our Experience-Centered Seminars (ECS). These real-world experiences have opened their hearts and minds to learning in ways that simply cannot be replicated in a traditional classroom setting. I love how intentional the ECS program is and the enthusiasm that it encompasses. When the email was sent out last week notifying students of their ECS placement, I knew instantly when they’d received and read it, as the energy and excitement in the halls were palpable. I am eager to see how our students will adapt upon stepping into these experiences later on this spring, and can’t wait to hear how they are shaped by what they learn and do. The skills they gain will serve them well as they continue to determine who it is they wish to become.
When I look at the portrait of a CSS graduate, all of the expectations we set for our students are interwoven within. The work that we do, every day, in the Upper School – helping our students thread the needle and develop characteristics of independent thinking, personal integrity, and ingenuity – paints this portrait for each student. It’s hard work that can, at times, be exhausting, but it’s worth it. And, I am grateful to partner with our parents, students, and Upper School faculty in this work. There is nothing like the joy that comes from a job well done when the end result is so meaningful.
As a community, we are all committed to helping our students prepare for life beyond CSS. We should feel proud in those unique moments when we hear our students describe what the learning experiences we offer mean to them, and how these opportunities have positively shaped their lives. After all, we are building a future filled with individuals who possess the qualities needed to lead and succeed in this dynamic world.