November 20, 2019
Dear Parents and Guardians,
Shortly after Thanksgiving break, our students will enter into the annual ritual of winter exams. As a parent myself, I know the worries of what appear to be high stakes moments in our children’s growth and development. Late in the summer, I came across an article by educational author Jessica Lahey that provides some helpful suggestions at this moment.
Ms. Lahey has a short to-do list that may come in handy. She notes:
- Focus on the process, not the product
- Encourage kids to self-advocate
- Keep long-term perspective
Much of what we do at Taft attempts to incorporate this list. The
Academic Habits Rubric
offers students a clear way to think about how they approach their work and provides you, the parent, with some specific ways to help students think about how to approach their own learning. As faculty, we find this rubric really helpful: we talk with students explicitly about the habits often. Of the six categories on the rubric, one in particular may be a helpful starting point.
“Response to Challenges” offers some core behaviors that align nicely with Ms. Lahey’s to-do’s — both for the student and the parent. To “exceed expectations” for this category, a student must, “continuously strive for improvement; embrace feedback as a learning opportunity.” While this is a mindset in part, it is also grounded in specific actions. Ms. Lahey suggests that:
Everyone (yes, that means parents, too) sets three short-term, achievable goals oriented around tasks and improvements under your control. For example, “I’m going to get all A's this semester” is too broad and too difficult to control. Instead, try “I’m going to ask for help in math more often,” “I will plan one extra help session a week,” or “I will practice my multiplication three extra times this month.”
Setting these measurable and manageable goals can help both the child and the parent see a reasonable path forward towards success. As faculty, we are continually talking with students about their goals: teachers identifying specific subject goals, advisors and class deans speaking of general personal and educational goals, coaches talking of athletic performance goals, instructors exploring musical goals, and on and on. We firmly believe that this process of identifying goals, creating strategies to meet them, and processing the experience of falling short of them are part of what makes for a Taft education.
My history class happens to be studying ancient China at the moment and specifically Confucius. He offers that, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Preparing for something significant in one’s life requires thoughtful preparation and then embarking on the journey. Taft is a journey and exams are but one step. Helping our students to prepare for these challenges is central to their success.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving break with your children. We will miss them and welcome them back on December 2nd.