An exciting year lies before us. In the Monaco household, this is especially so as we face transitions of significance for two of our boys. T.C. ’16, of course, is off to college; we leave him in College Station at Texas A & M later this month. Meanwhile Robert ’20, begins his journey through the Upper School in just a few weeks.
As a parent, we face junctures like this in the lives of our children with a range of emotions: pride, disbelief, sadness, wonder and a dash of anxiety. For me, I would cite wonder as my prevailing state of mind. What life-shaping experiences will these two men have in the next four years? Which people will enter their lives and leave an indelible impact on the men they will become? Our life narratives are unique: how transformational will this next four year chapter be on T.C. and Robert’s life stories?
If a quarter century in the school business has taught me anything, though, accurately answering questions like these is nearly impossible. That’s the magic of it all: watching our kids forge their unique paths.
Still, whether your experience is – like Mollie and mine – crossing the threshold of a significant academic transition with your child or, as is our case with Sam ’23, readying to begin another year, we arrive at the first day of school with a sense of hope and wonder. We want our children to have every opportunity their God-given intelligence and hard-earned effort can afford them. We aspire for them to experience life unbounded, flush with limitless options and opportunities.
Such aspirations, while well-intended, can present problems. Our hopeful aspirations, if we are not careful, can become – in the minds of our children – a set of unending and seemingly unattainable expectations.
Ron Fournier’s Love That Boy: What Two Presidents, Eight Road Trips, and My Son Taught Me About A Parent’s Expectations, a touching memoir about his experience parenting a son with Asperger’s syndrome, captures this parental dilemma perfectly.
The source of our dilemma, most often, is that our expectations emerge not from a fair and true assessment of our child’s unique skills, interests and gifts, but rather from the backdrop of what society (read: the media; our friends; other “experts”) paints as “successful,” “exceptional” or “above average.”
One of the most compelling books I have read in a long time, Todd Rose’s The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness, seeks to disabuse us of our tendency to fixate on how we or our children compare to the group. In it, Rose details the emergence of the exciting and relatively new interdisciplinary “science of the individual,” which centers on one big idea: “individuality matters.” Ability, talent and intelligence, Rose argues, are “jagged” (not one-dimensional), manifest differently depending on the situation, and emerge on a pathway and timeline unique to the individual.
We are wise to consider the implications of Rose’s premise as we ponder our children’s futures. What we know about the “complex global society” referred to in our mission statement is that the pace of change is fast, its rate constant, and its orientation directed to personalization and customization. The world of work is just one example. According to Cathy Davidson with MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competitions, 65 percent of today’s students will end up in jobs that have yet to be created: Big Data Doctor, Meme Agent and Microbial Balancer, to name just a few. Indeed, the possibilities in the emerging “gig economy” of today – where one fits his or her unique skills to needs in the marketplace for a short period of time – seem limitless.
Increasingly, we are coming to understand that the path to a life of meaning, fulfillment and success in this complex world is rapidly becoming less linear or formulaic. In recognition of this reality – and our belief that each of the approximately 1100 students soon to start the new school year are gifted by God distinctly and uniquely – we are deep in the process of our Reimagine School vision for Parish. The core principles guiding our Reimagine effort, which is on track for full implementation by fall 2019 but being beta-tested and planned for even today, reflect our awareness of individuality.
- Honor student voice and choice in learning;
- Meet students where they are and help them reach new levels of mastery as they are ready;
- Help students develop enduring habits of mind which are transferable to a lifetime of learning and excelling;
- Create learning conditions which engage students in authentic meaningful work.
As the new school year starts at Parish, my hope and expectation is that each of our students has a rich and full experience, one which propels them to a future of unbounded possibility.