How To Raise Kind Kids

An article published in SantaCruzParent.com on 1/31/19
by Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School, Gateway School

I have not yet met a single person who does not want to raise their children to be kind, both now, as we raise them, and also later in life as an adult.

I know many parents who want most of all for their children to experience happiness in life, and many others who wish for their children to have success in their work and activities, and still others who prioritize their children having good friends and loving relationships. All of them also want their children to be kind.

Kindness matters for so many reasons. Research has shown that being kind not only makes other people happy, it also directly benefits us too, in both mood and health. Plus, as we embody our potential most fully when we are kind, we create safer, more welcoming homes and schools.

So how do we nurture our children’s innate capacity to be kind and good in today’s complex world? We face vast challenges from a toxic political culture that vilifies and demonizes political opponents; a generational culture of entitlement that spoils children instead of setting expectations and holding them accountable; and a hyper-sexualized, consumer-driven media that places value on looks and materialism, rather than heart-centered connection.

Though television can introduce many problems, it also holds great possibility and promise for teaching children to be kind, perhaps best personified by the work of Fred Rogers. A new documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, chronicles his life’s work; for over thirty years, in his beloved television program, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred and his cast of puppets and friends spoke directly to young children in a simple, direct fashion, while modelling kindness, creativity, and compassion.  Mr. Rogers’ career presented a coherent, loving view about how we should best speak to children about important matters and how television could be used as a positive force in our society.

Although we can see kindness in action, it is much more than a behavior; it is an inner attitude and a concern for another’s happiness that motivates those actions.  Though there may not be a comparable show on television today for our children (though some shows like Wonder Pets and Octonauts contain elements), in his 2018 book How To Raise Kind Kids, Thomas Lickona gives six concrete suggestions for how families can raise kind kids:

  1. Make character a top priority in your family.
  2. Show your children you love them through affirmation and affection, together time, and meaningful communication.
  3. Exercise your authority wisely: be authoritative, not authoritarian or permissive.
  4. Give your kids a voice and responsibility in the family.
  5. Extend compassion beyond the family, and give your children the experience of helping non-family members.
  6. Foster a noble vision of life — a belief in something bigger than themselves, and the desire to use their gifts to make a positive difference in the world.

Lickona’s book covers many other essential topics in raising children to be kind, including virtues and respect, discipline, family meetings, getting control of screens, developing good habits. There’s also a chapter that speaks directly to Mr. Roger’s career, which is how to talk about things that matter.

As partners in parenting and child-rearing, teachers and schools also play a critical role in helping children learn to be kind, compassion and inclusive. Children have moral lives from the very beginning, with the innate capacity for kindness as well as cruelty; schools are experimental laboratories where children have the opportunity to make mistakes, recover and do the repair work essential to their healthy moral development. Schools that contribute to the development of kindness will regularly teach children to be courteous and caring; they will have a coordinated approach to teaching character, emotional intelligence, and social-emotional learning; they will integrate cooperative learning into their instructional practices, because interdependency is as important as autonomy; and they will find appropriate ways to listen to and include student voices. As Lickona writes,

“If your children can be in a kind, respectful, character-building school environment for the many hours they’re not with you, then what you’re doing at home will be honored and supported. That will be a blessing for your children and for you.”

Feeling happy because we’ve made someone else happy is the essence of kindness. And it would make me very happy to have you join us at a free screening and conversation of Won’t You be My Neighbor on Tuesday, February 5th at 6:00pm. Childcare is free, and will be provided by the After School Staff at Gateway School. Let’s raise the children of Santa Cruz to value kindness in thought and action.


Decolonizing Our Minds Will Change the World

Dear Gateway families,

As we begin today, let’s take a moment to give acknowledgement . . . I want to acknowledge the first people who lived upon this land, the very land where we are now. We acknowledge the many tribes that gathered here, the Rumsien, the Amah Mutsun, and those of the Awaswas language group, to name a few. The first people lived with respect upon this land for thousands of years, and many still live here today.

With these words, the annual Third Grade River Day performance, one of Gateway’s best-loved traditions, kicked off in the Lower School Commons. Besides being the very first student performance to ever occur in that space (and how perfect and lovely it is for this purpose!), this statement marked a new way of launching the River Day play, as Julie and Kaia, our Third Grade teachers, recited a land acknowledgement for the Indigenous People who traditionally inhabited this land.

3rd Grade River Day play

If you are wondering what a land acknowledgement is, you are likely not alone. I first learned about land acknowledgements in September, during our faculty training on Teaching Tolerance’s Social Justice Standards and Anti-Bias Framework. According to Northwestern.edu, “a Land Acknowledgement is a formal statement that recognizes and respects Indigenous Peoples as traditional stewards of this land and the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories . . . To recognize the land is an expression of gratitude and appreciation to those whose territory you reside on, and a way of honoring the Indigenous people who have been living and working on the land from time immemorial. It is important to understand the long standing history that has brought you to reside on the land, and to seek to understand your place within that history.

3rd Grade River Day play

As we actively work to make our curriculum and program reflect our school-wide value to courageously promote a just society, the small but important step of making a land acknowledgment during the wonderful place-based, interdisciplinary River Day project reflects a much larger shift in our consciousness as an institution. We must act upon the power we have to make positive change if we are to move towards a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive civil society, and that work begins within our classrooms. 

Last weekend, I attended a workshop in San Francisco titled “Dismantling White Supremacy Culture in Schools”, along with educators from many public, charter, religious, and independent schools. One of the aspects of white supremacy culture that has been most destructive to a pluralistic and inclusive society is that white culture both defines what is considered normal, and values certain ways of knowing and not others. From worshipping the written word to pushing a belief in absolute objectivity, white culture either subjugates or seeks to assimilate other cultures and perspectives while denying their legitimacy. Consider the flawed metaphor of the United States as a “melting pot” that so many of us learned as children. This concept promotes an image of America that erases the native inhabitants of this land and assimilates immigrants into a dominant culture rooted in an oppressive white patriarchy — not exactly a reflection of the modern country we live in, let alone the image of the future society we hope to see our children inhabit.

What a gift for our students to be able to use performance art and spoken word to connect their own lived experiences with the stories and myths the Indigenous Peoples of the area passed down orally through generations. And what a powerful message for our students, who spent joyous time on the river making art, learning about hydrology, and exploring the lives of the Indigenous People of the area, to have our teachers and families help them recognize that there are many ways of making meaning in the world. 

Warm regards,

Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School

Talking About Race with Children

Dear Gateway Families,

At last week’s First Friday assembly, I spoke with our community about an incident of racial exclusion, in which one child told another child that they were not allowed at Gateway because of the color of their skin. I pointed out that we don’t exclude people based on aspects of their identity such as race, gender, body, or speech. I asked our students and the collected adults to reflect on times they have been hurt by the words or actions of another, or witnessed one person teasing another, and the pain that spreads to those not directly involved. I challenged our community to become upstanders, which means saying something if we hear something inappropriate, and asking for help from adults if we need it (and that includes adults asking for help!). And I proposed that the Golden Rule — treat others the way we want to be treated — is actually selfish, and that our community can aspire to the Rainbow Rule: treat others the way they want to be treated.

Many adults have a hard time talking about race with children. Sometimes we think it’s best to ignore skin color, but the “colorblind” approach erases and avoids important differences in human experience. And promoting a “not racist” mindset is not enough to help children understand (and eventually confront) the systemic racism rooted in American society; we must teach them how to be “anti-racist”. Here are a few resources to support your family as you navigate these critical discussions at home.

Rebecca Ruiz: Becoming A Parent Forced Me to Confront White Supremacy
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovish: How to Talk to Kids About Race: Resources and Readings
Katrina Schwartz: Teaching Six Year Olds About Privilege and Power
Bree Ervin: 6 Things White Parents Can Do To Raise Racially Conscious Children

For a powerful adults-only reading, I highly recommend “How To Be An Anti-Racist” by Ibram X. Kendi.

Becoming a community that can hold courageous and challenging conversations about racism is not easy, but it is an ethical imperative if we are to better prepare our children for their futures. And as our eyes are opened to new perspectives and paradigms around racial identity and experience, and we learn facts such as the racial baggage of Dr Seuss or the slavery practices of Thomas Jefferson, we become better equipped to teach our children about the complexity of race in modern society — and prepare them for our school’s goal “to discover their individual and collective potential to make positive change in the world.”

Regards,

Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School

Student Activism and Social Justice 101

Dear Gateway Families,

Last Friday, many of our Middle School students participated in the local portion of the Climate Strike taking place across the globe. Unlike some other local schools, where alternate schedules were created and the organizing was done by adults, Gateway students were responsible for figuring out the best way to get involved. The Eighth Grade student leaders determined that interested students needed to attend several organizing meetings and write personal purpose statements (which they have shared with their parents) in order to qualify for excused absences while they participate. This ensured students were educated about and committed to the event, and not simply using this as an excuse to get out of school. From logistics (like walking from campus to downtown, ensuring safety in a rally setting, and organizing an off-site dismissal protocol) to planning a presentation to elementary students after the event, they demonstrated impressive intention and leadership.

But I have to tell you the truth, which is that while I am delighted by this, I am not at all surprised.

Gateway’s mission and vision statement ends with this explicit goal: for students to discover their individual and collective potential to make positive change in the world. After nine years in our classrooms, our oldest students are confident and capable in the academic realm and they are intensely eager to engage with the larger world and advocate for issues of social justice. Consider last year’s Walkathon, which raised more than $12,000 for building new wells in the African nation of Niger, or the 2018 Walkout to End Gun Violence, in which our students staged a 17 minute silent protest on West Cliff Drive during a cold rain. We have an impressive track record when it comes to student-driven activism.

This can be traced directly back to curriculum that runs through the grades at Gateway. From Kindergarten studies of the community, to the Third Grade business reports, to the Three Sisters salad in Life Lab, to the Museum of (In)tolerance project in our Middle School, our teachers regularly guide students to think about other people — locally, regionally, nationally, and around the world — which is one of many ways we help them cultivate empathy. And when we talk in our classrooms about citizenship, we do so at all of those levels, from the immediate community to the global.

Among our school’s nine stated core values are both education for environmental sustainability and the courage to promote a just society. As I recently shared with a parent, climate justice is part of social justice, and Gateway has always believed in and advocated for social justice, because at the core of social justice is the concept of human rights — that all humans have shared rights, and in modern American society, very specific racist, sexist, and other structural biases and ways of looking at the world prevent those universal rights from being respected.

Last Monday, our faculty and staff spent the in-service day learning about a framework for integrating social justice knowledge and skills into our program. Our trainer, Kim Burkhalter, works with Teaching Tolerance, the educational arm of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and walked us through a number of activities to help us learn a shared language and set of standards for social justice education in the four domains of Identity, Diversity, Justice, and Action. We had time to experiment with applying these to our existing curriculum, and to practice the skill of asking essential questions to reframe our thinking about these issues within the curriculum. Throughout the year, you can expect to see and hear from your children (and our teachers) about how we are learning to talk about difficult issues, from race to immigration to the housing crisis, with new language, understandings, and courage. I’ll be blogging about this throughout the year, and I look forward to joining with you in dialogue as we up-skill our entire community of children and adults alike.

Warmly,

Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School

Savoring This Moment, Preparing For The Next

Dear Gateway Families,

What an extraordinary day! My heart is overflowing. From watching families take pictures in front of the school at arrival, to hearing the children cheer for faculty and new students during our brief opening assembly, our school hummed with a spirit of joy and excitement far beyond the typical first day of school feeling. I am sure you will hear all about it from your children this evening.

Today was the culmination of ten years of work by Trustees, administrators, faculty, and families to find a new home for Gateway. As former Trustee told me this morning, “It’s better than anything we ever dreamed we could have.” I am truly and deeply grateful to everyone who has contributed their time, energy, talent, finances, and passion to help Gateway arrive at this moment; it is truly one to savor.

We are here today because of the work of all those who came before us, and the sacrifices they made. And that goes far beyond the people who have worked to help Gateway itself. 56 years ago today, almost 250,000 people gathered for The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Delivered that day, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech captured the hopes of a generation of visionaries who believed in a better, more just, and more equitable society.

As I mentioned in the August welcome-back letter, this year our faculty and staff will be doing essential work to understand how white supremacy and racism (and oppression more generally) have impacted our program, and the work we must do to confront and dismantle invisible biases and prejudices. Doing this will elevate the social and emotional curriculum to the same level of excellence as our transformational academic program. And it is what our children deserve — just like this wonderful campus.

Last year our community talked a lot about kindness; this year, inclusion and impact are the key ideals that set our direction. I look forward to sharing this journey with you in the months to come. Thank you for all you do for Gateway School.

Warmly,

Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School

Welcome to the 2019-20 school year!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Dear Gateway School Families,

Welcome to the 2019-20 school year! We’ve been preparing for our campus move for years, and now we get to experience the newness of life on the Natural Bridges campus in the coming year. What an extraordinary opportunity we have to focus on a future that challenges fear, confronts prejudice, and inspires and prepares our children to become engaged citizens and change agents. 

“What language will the young people in your community hear from you? Will you interrupt both the overt and subtle racism that happens around you, or are you gonna let it slide? Our young people are listening.” — Matt Thompson, educator

Living Our Values
In 2015, our Board adopted a revitalized Mission and Vision that has guided our efforts to strengthen the school’s academic and social-emotional program over the last five years. Included in that statement is a list of nine core school values, one of which is “The courage to promote a just society.” In the past few years, Gateway has taken important steps to develop our program in this area, from the implementation of the RULER approach to teaching emotional intelligence in 2015-16, to the work we did with Gender Spectrum to better understand gender identity in 2016-17. I am thrilled that through the efforts of our faculty’s Social Justice & Equity Committee, this coming year will grow our thinking and understanding about the issues of race and oppression in society.

Last year, our Middle School Humanities program piloted the Anti-Bias Framework from Teaching Tolerance; this fall, we will be hosting trainers from Teaching Tolerance for professional development with all faculty and staff. We know that elementary and middle school-age children are not too young to be talking about race. In fact, research has shown that silence about race (whether well-meaning or from discomfort) reinforces racism, as children are left to draw their own conclusions about their observations. As adults, teachers and guardians can help children have healthy and positive attitudes about race, as well as the skills to discuss the topic and promote a more just future. 

“Knowing what must be done does away with fear.” – Rosa Parks, civil rights activist

This summer, our all-staff read is White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo. I invite you to read along with us, and to engage with our community as we learn about and discuss concepts such as implicit bias, marginalization, equity, and critical consciousness. For practical suggestions, you may wish to read Bree Ervin’s advice on raising racially conscious children, or Laura Markham’s advice on talking to children about racism.

Examining how concepts of race are expressed in our program is the major focus of our curriculum work this year, but of course there is work to do in other domains as well. In the coming year, our faculty will consolidate and deepen their implementation of recent curriculum and instructional updates, including Writing Workshop and the Bridges math curriculum in the elementary grades, and the Developmental Designs-based advisory program in Middle School. We will continue to implement the same high-quality academic and intellectual curriculum that is the hallmark of our interdisciplinary program even as our teachers continue to innovate with an eye towards what children need for their future — a time that will be as different from the present as the current moment is from our own childhoods.

“Let’s stop believing that our differences make us superior or inferior to one another.”

— Don Miguel Ruiz, author

Our new campus at 255 Swift St
This year will be organizationally unusual in that most years are not the first on a new campus! With over 10,000 square feet of additional space, a gym, four more bathrooms, full ADA compliance, and a long list of upgrades implemented by both Gateway and Santa Cruz City Schools (roofing and lighting and flooring, oh my!), the Swift Street campus will be an incredible platform for supporting our program for many years to come. No doubt there will also be some growing pains as we figure out how to make arrival, dismissal, and daily school routines run smoothly. We appreciate your patience as we ensure the safety of students and adults while developing efficient procedures.

Accreditation
Last year we began the self-study required by our joint accreditation with the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). Accreditation is a reflective process designed to help the school know itself better, celebrate its strengths, and identify critical areas for future improvement. We have been gathering data from students, families, faculty, staff, Trustees, alumni, and alumni families, and preparing a report that answers 187 specific questions across sixteen distinct chapters. The Accreditation Visiting Committee will be on site in January 2020, and I invite you to speak with Hannah Wikse or Kaia Huseby, our Self-Study Coordinators, if you are interested in learning more. Gateway is very proud to be the only elementary and K-8 program accredited by CAIS in Santa Cruz!

“Great schools are constantly becoming.” — Ole Jorgenson, educator

Staffing Updates
Please say hello and welcome a few new faces to our staff this year when you have the opportunity. Jen Graham (Parent of Sophie, ‘23) has joined our staff as Director of Advancement, after a long career in advancement and fundraising at UC Santa Cruz and The Nature Conservancy. Gabrielle Carroll is our new First Grade Assistant Teacher. She previously taught at Spring Hill School and holds a Multiple Subjects teaching credential with CLAD certification. Kristin Morrelli has come on board as our Second Grade Assistant Teacher, and Learning Specialist. She holds a Special Education teaching credential and most recently taught at Happy Valley Elementary. And as previously announced this spring, Lynn Flickinger is our new Music Teacher. Lynn, who has a B.A. in Music from Greensboro College and is coming to us from Brandon Hall International School in Atlanta, GA, has been a professional jazz singer, musical theater performer, director, and music teacher for more than 20 years.

I am deeply grateful for your partnership in pursuit of changing the world for the better by giving our students and children a unique and transformative educational experience. I look forward to seeing you during our Open Campus on Tuesday, August 27th, and at the Welcome Back Coffee on the first day of school, and in the months to come.

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.” Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” — Fred Rogers, television personality

With warm regards,

Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School

20 Articles on Teaching & Learning

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Dear Gateway families,

Every day my inbox fills with dozens of emails, many of which include links to articles, research and perspectives on all aspects of education and schools, from the neuroscience of learning to the politics of school funding. From these I curate a reading list to share with faculty; here are twenty that I forwarded along last year.

Association for Psychological Science: Heavily decorated classrooms disrupt attention and learning in young children

Jill Barshay via Hechinger Report: Using test scores as measurements, most educational innovations aren’t effective

Julie Beck via The Atlantic: Raising boys with a broader definition of masculinity

Amber Chandler via NPBTS: Yes, creativity can be taught (but watch out for neuromyths like “left brain, right brain”)

Curtis Chandler via MiddleWeb: How to help students remember things

Anya Kamenetz via KQED: Reading aloud to children is good for their brains

Chris Lee via ArsTechnica: A study on systems vs empathy, math, and gender, with a link to autism

Trevor Mackenzie via KQED: Inquiry is at the heart of student-centered teaching

Nina Parrish via Edutopia: Teaching self-regulation to students

Jenny Pieratt via ACDS: Five myths about Project Based Learning

Kelly Puente via Long Beach Post: Researchers now studying teachers’ brains

Dian Schiffhauser via THE Journal: K-3 STEM experience leads to better STEM skills later

Katrina Schwartz via KQED: Teach students to ask better questions

Sarah Sparks via EdWeek: Research shows that teaching kids about the brain helps them develop growth mindset

Valerie Strauss via Washington Post: Don’t keep students sitting at their desks the entire class

Youki Terada via Edutopia: Drawing helps students remember

Stephanie Toro via NAIS: How to increase the effectiveness of study sessions

Dana Weeks via Edutopia: Silence can be an effective instructional strategy

Kandi Wiens and Darin Rowell via Harvard Business Review: Emotional intelligence can help you embrace change

Ashliegh Ziehmke via ESchoolNews: How to establish a growth mindset in math

I love how intellectually curious and engaged our faculty are, and the opportunity to grow our thinking as educators together. I hope you enjoy these articles, and welcome your comments or conversation on any of the ideas they discuss.

Warmly,
Dr. Zachary Roberts
Head of School

Campus Safety at Natural Bridges

Dear Gateway families,

We’ve had great fun taking our K-5 students to the new campus over the last several weeks. Their excitement while exploring the new classrooms, common areas and open spaces of the site has been nothing short of joyous! It’s gratifying to see the vision of the new campus slowly become a reality as we get closer to our move date.

The Natural Bridges campus is significantly larger than our current site, and as we’ve moved through the design and construction process, we’ve thought carefully about how we will ensure the safety of our students and faculty while on the campus. I’m pleased to let you know about several ways we are addressing this topic.

To begin changing the neighborhood’s relationship with the campus, we have installed and activated a multi-camera security system that feeds to a staffed, overnight command center. The cameras alert the control room when they sense movement, and are equipped with two-way communication that allows the security agent to alert trespassers that the campus is closed. This system has proven very effective at reducing overnight transience at Harbor High School over the past three months, and in just a few short weeks we are seeing a positive impact.

We are also addressing a variety of physical campus items to improve site safety. For example, we’ve removed and reset some concrete sidewalks that presented tripping hazards, and installed windows into certain doors and walls to improve visibility and sightlines. We will also be installing fencing in a variety of places, including the sloped lawn that borders Swift Street, to create a “front yard” for our elementary program, and ensuring the fencing around the entire campus is appropriate and secure.

Finally, we have signed a contract with Joffe Emergency Services, the state-wide leaders in independent school safety, to conduct a complete safety audit of the new campus. Joffe will identify security concerns; develop emergency plans, a comprehensive safety manual, and new safety drills; review and update our communication and notification systems; and provide onsite training for staff, additional crisis response training for the administration, and even a parent education event. We are looking forward to having their expertise guide us on the new campus.

We are still on time and on target with both our construction process and moving our materials to the new campus. I hope you can join us while we start the packing process here at the Eucalyptus campus on June 1st, and at the new campus for some hands-on construction efforts on June 8th. Please rsvp to Jeremy King or stop by the front desk to sign up.

Warmly,

Dr. Zachary Roberts

Head of School

Parenting as a Community Pt.3


Dear families,

I blogged about some parenting articles back in October and again in February, in response to the wonderful parent education event we held with Sheri Glucoft-Wong (which you can still watch on our Youtube page) and feedback from families eager to continue the conversation about how we come together as a community to raise children. With that in mind, here are a few more thought-provocative articles related to parenting that have come through my inbox in the last several months.

What impact does social media have on middle school girls? 60 percent of elementary-age girls said they were happy the way they were; 67 percent of boys said the same thing. By middle school, those numbers had dropped for both genders, but significantly for girls overall: to 37 percent, with 56 percent for boys.” Whatever your child’s gender, Lory Hough’s article Girlhood in the Harvard Ed Magazine is compelling reading.

How can boys experience greater emotional diversity? Recent work by psychologists reveals the once-hidden benefits of experiencing a diversity of emotions, both positive and negative…And yet the research suggests we are not fostering emotional diversity from a young age, especially when it comes to raising young boys.Jane Gruber and Jessica Borelli’s short piece in Scientific American speaks strongly to the developmental need to allow boys to experience, identify, and understand a wide range of emotions.

What’s the best way to ensure my child’s happiness?  Our results demonstrate that not all pursuits of happiness are equally successful and corroborate the great importance of social relationships for human well-being.” Jenny Anderson’s piece in Quartz weaves science and personal narrative to make a compelling argument that “The thing that makes us happiest in life is other people”, and that our greatest and most important work as parents is to teach our children how to be good friends and compassionate peers.

Should my child be doing more homework? Joe Pinsker’s article in The Atlantic summarizes the research (the short answer is no), explores the benefits and drawbacks of homework (it can create a home-school connection if one doesn’t exist, and there’s a correlation between in-class test performance and homework in secondary education), and defines good homework as meaningful, relevant, timely, and furthering student learning.

A few more quick,  interesting links:

I welcome your thoughts on these articles, or any other resources you’ve found helpful in your own journey as a parent. Our whole community benefits from this dialogue. And I hope to see many of you on Friday for the parent education event Ending the Silence: Supporting Mental Health immediately following the First Friday assembly.

Warmly,

Dr. Zachary Roberts

Head of School


Aligning Our Values, Words, and Actions

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Dear Gateway families,


In February, we posted a link on our Facebook page to an article in the Atlantic about how elite college admissions processes are broken. How extraordinary to have news of a national college admission bribery scandal break last week! If you aren’t already inundated with various takes on this distressing news, I recommend Alexandra Robbins excellent piece Kids are the Victims of the Elite-College Obsession (and you may want to check out her great 2006 book, The Overachievers).


Who do we want our children to become? If we want them to learn to act with integrity, and to hold that in high value, we adults must do the same; as one of my colleagues wrote to his community, “I find one of the saddest elements to be that much of this illegal activity was done by parents without their children’s knowledge.”


Likewise, if we want them to be reflective, we must consider other perspectives on our behaviors, and become aware of our own bias and assumptions. If we want them to be creative and playful, we should take the time to play with them. If we want them to be curious, we can ourselves be constantly asking new questions and seeking to learn new skills. If we want them to be collaborative, we must show them to work respectfully, respond to differing perspectives, compromise in order to achieve shared goals, and assume shared responsibility.


If we want them to stand up for justice and equity, then we need to realize that using all of our resources to give them every advantage may not give them every advantage. How terrible for those children not to be given the chance to achieve to the best of their own abilities. Sometimes acting in the best interests of our children means not acting!  As hard as it is to sit on our hands as adults, our children need to make mistakes and struggle — the path to developing deep resilience and persistence is filled with obstacles and failures. By being cold, wet, and hungry, they learn to truly appreciate being warm, dry, and fed.


In our community, though attending an “elite” school is not often viewed as the only way to achieve adult success, we all face difficult choices in parenting and supporting our children. When your child has challenges in academic or social relationships, how will you react? There will be choices to be made about which activities to pursue; will you support your child’s passions, and listen to their voices if they start to lose interest or burn out?  I encourage you to take this opportunity reflect on the ways in which your family might approach the path of your child’s education in future years. It is a great pleasure to be partners with you in this work.


Regards, 

Dr. Zachary Roberts

Head of School