Thursday, August 7, 2014

Heading Back to School

I hope you and your children are enjoying these final days of summer before school starts next Thursday, August 14, at 8:00 a.m.  Just the other day, another administrator and I were walking through the schoolhouse lobby when we both commented on the boxes of books just waiting to be opened and read by students. We’re looking forward to the students arriving, and hearing the exciting and energizing discussions that they will have around those books.

The week before school allows for teachers and administrators to reconnect and identify goals and plans for the year before students arrive.  All of the faculty and staff read the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business by Charles Duhigg, and we’re having conversations around what kinds of habits we wish to create or change in our work at Bosque School.

In addition, the members of the leadership team participated in a one-day retreat centered on lessons we can learn from The Power of Habit, along with Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right.  A line from Gawande’s book that may resonate comes when he differentiates among simple, complicated, and complex problems.  He writes, “Complex problems are ones like raising a child. Every child is unique.  Although raising one child may provide experience, it does not guarantee success with the next child. Expertise is valuable but most certainly not sufficient. Indeed, the next child may require an entirely different approach from the previous one. And this brings up another feature of complex problems: their outcomes remain highly uncertain. Yet we all know that it is possible to raise a child well. It’s complex; that’s all.”

Developing Tech Habits

One of the beneficial elements of The Power of Habit is the applicability of lessons about habits to our personal lives.  Duhigg looks at how habits, both good and bad, develop and how we can either create new habits or change old ones.  In addition, he makes one consider whether the routines people have developed are  addressing the motivation behind the habit.

I bring this up as all of us, faculty, staff, parents, guardians, and students, ready ourselves for another school year and consider what habits we wish to discard or develop.  I also mention it in reference to two articles about the cyber lives of teens.  One New York Times article by Laura Holson titled “Social Media’s Vampires: They Text by Night”, linked here, discusses the late night online habits of teenagers.  Because middle and high school students can be so busy during the day, they often spend the time that they should be sleeping on the computer.  As one student commented, “ ‘Sometimes I look up and it’s 3 a.m. and I’m watching a video of a giraffe eating a steak,’ he said. And I wonder, ‘How did I get here?’ ”

Another New York Times article titled “Tell Me What You See, Even If It Hurts Me” by Douglas Quenqua, linked here, addresses the trend of young women seeking affirmation about their physical appearance by posting videos or pictures of themselves online and asking people to give them feedback.  As you can imagine, some people take advantage of their online anonymity to post malicious comments about these girls. Although asking for the opinions of others is relatively normal, the use of the web is providing a venue for much more cruel feedback than young women may have received in the past.

As Quenqua states, “That nearly all the people in these videos seem to fall from 13 to 15 years old is not a coincidence, psychologists say. As young teenagers enter middle school, they start to leave behind the cocoon of family and childhood friends and reassess themselves by society’s standards. It’s what the psychologist Erik Erikson called the Identity Versus Confusion phase, when children struggle to understand how their emerging selves might fit into the larger picture. YouTube provides a modern resource for teenagers grappling with a timeless problem.”

We hope that as you prepare for the year, you and your family are able to create habits that will help your child/children have a happy, productive, and safe year.