I hope that this note finds all of you well now that we are post-Halloween and post-election, with the Thanksgiving break coming up fast ahead of us.
I’ve had video meetings with many of you in the past weeks, and you may have noticed that I am taking part in this year’s Movember movement, which involves growing a rather terrible looking mustache. In chapel this past Monday, there was no hiding it from the kids. I decided to make it part of my message to them, and I wanted to share that with you.
As I told them, I sometimes work with students who don’t take school very seriously. They like the social aspect of it, and they may find some classes intrinsically interesting, but they struggle to be consistent or disciplined regarding the day’s less pleasurable obligations. On the other end of the spectrum, I also work with students who are incredibly intense about school – students who treat the experience like a joyless job in which only perfect outcomes and grades matter.
The secret, I suppose, is finding a balance. Yes, school is work, and yes, outcomes are important. But I would argue that in any grade (including high school and college), school is also about interpersonal relationships, warmth, and joy. To me, those elements are just as important as the reading, writing, and arithmetic portion. There are certainly times where students need to plug away, endure frustration and even boredom, and delay gratification. The “work” of school isn’t always fun, as much as we wish it were, and developing the ability to do work even when it isn’t pleasurable is incredibly important. But that doesn’t mean that there can’t be silliness, humor, and joy as well.
Which brings me back to my mustache. As I told the kids in chapel, I take my work seriously. Even so, I don’t always need to take myself too seriously. I imagine that most people who participate in Movember do so knowing that they look absurd. But it’s a good cause, and it’s important for kids to see that it’s okay to look ridiculous sometimes. I will note that I had one student tell me that I looked like the dad in Inside Out, which I was feeling pretty good about until later in the day when another child pulled up an image of the Simpson’s Ned Flanders and simply pointed to it. I won’t pretend that those moments were as important as doing well on a test or quiz, but I think that the silliness of our small social exchanges allowed us to know each other’s personalities just a little better. There’s value in that.
I’ll close by noting something that I have mentioned to you before – that I have a great job at Woods because I get to focus on your children’s emotional and behavioral health. As a reminder, there does not need to be a suspected psychological issue at play in order for us to speak. I am interested in your kids’ school experience, and if you ever wish to connect with me to let me know how things are going from your perspective, please know that I’m happy to talk. Email is truly the best way to reach me these days, but for those of you who do not know, my direct office line is (301) 222-0783.