Hoping for Some Bumps and Bruises by Ben Snyder, Head of Upper School
An occupational hazard for me is encountering countless articles and books on teaching, learning, adolescent behavior, the brain, education and parenting. It is rare when something strikes me as so simple, so clear and so relevant that, if I could, I would make it mandatory reading for Nobles parents. Yet this summer I came across two pieces that I would recommend without hesitation to every family connected to Nobles.
Wendy Mogel’s The Blessing of a B Minus (Click here to check it out on Amazon.com) and the July/August cover story of The Atlantic: "How the Cult of Self-Esteem is Ruining our Kids – How to Land your Kid in Therapy" (Click here for the article) are simply the two best pieces on parenting I’ve encountered in years. The central themes presented in both revolve around how important it is for our children to develop—on their own—the skills and capacities of resilience and perseverance they will need to develop their identities and ultimately lead fulfilling lives.
Unfortunately, resilience and perseverance are often best developed when things don’t go well and one has to find ways to respond positively to disappointment or setback (for me, this was the primary value of initially being cut from and ultimately playing for teams in high school and college). As I read these two works I couldn’t help but think back to when our own children were in elementary school and at Nobles; Did Sarah and I rush to their defense too quickly if something went wrong or rationalize their misdeeds or mistakes in some way? Did we give them enough independence to make their own mistakes and learn from them? It is in those bumps and bruises of adolescence (not getting the desired role in the play, not receiving the hoped-for grade in a tough class, not making that aspired-for team, and/or making mistakes or bad choices) during which resilience and perseverance are developed.
During the course of this excruciatingly difficult summer for our nation politically and economically, I kept thinking about what we need to teach Nobles students to be effective leaders in that kind of environment, and I kept coming back to two things. First, we need to teach our students to be people of utmost integrity and character. Second (and more salient to this newsletter article), our children need to learn to weather tough storms on their own, finding (for themselves) ways to move forward from disappointment and to be realistic about the problems they face.
Go buy the book, download the article and find some time to sit, read, and reflect. I look forward to the ongoing conversation and a good 2011-'12 school year.