Making the “Fit” Fit by John Gifford, Head of Middle School
Families interested in sending their children to Nobles have a lot of questions. They have great questions that run the gamut. They obsess over all of the social and academic implications of their decision, and I don’t fault them. If there ever were decisions to obsess about, ones involving the child’s education surely qualify. This is not to suggest, however, that a “right” answer is within their reach. School choice is nuanced and more complicated than right and wrong. While it might feel like a pat answer to parents, “fit” is the most important factor. But what is “fit”?
Fit is used as a term to highlight the basic relationship between school and student. A methodology that the school espouses may be great for some students but less ideal for others. Does your child need a school with strict rules or would they flourish with no more than a guiding touch? Are they ready for great classroom rigor or should they be eased into more challenging work? During the admission process, Nobles attempts to explain its program—understanding that you know your child best and should use what we say to gauge the school’s appropriateness. In spite of the fact that you know your child best, the school has to make its own evaluation of the applicant based on the application. (I admit that I shouldn’t be trusted as the sole source of information about my children.)
But why all this talk of “fit” in the Parents' Newsletter? Your children are already through the admission process! I believe there is a feeling that once the admission letters go out, thinking about where Nobles neatly suits your child and where it might pose a challenge is relegated to the back burner. This is understandable; you are relieved to have the decision behind you. You trust the school’s ability to make good decisions. You want your child to fully embrace his new school. I ask parents to reflect on the aspects of the Nobles program that you thought most deeply about during the admission process. An important life-lesson for Nobles students to learn is that there is no one institution—no one life situation—that fits all individuals perfectly. We have to learn how to make our situation appropriate for our needs.
There are certain aspects of the Nobles program that will not change. The school’s mission statement is a good place to find the basic characteristics of our program that will endure. But the mission allows each student great flexibility to find various strategies for success. Each year, as a broad range of personalities and talents graduate it is clear that there are numerous paths that accomplished students can take.
All this should serve as a reminder. When the decision is made to send your child to Nobles, you can and should feel confident that the culture, strategy and challenges of the institution are appropriate for your child. However, the job isn’t done and a critical component of education is young people learning the strategies that lead to the greatest success. It is why I so often speak about the value of failure because it puts, in stark relief, the areas that need attention.
Think back to what you were concerned with when your child applied. Was it the long day? The ability to speak up in class? The Afternoon Program? Chances are these concerns have already or will surface. Early adolescence is a time when young people can change drastically—what is a concern now that wasn’t just six months ago? These questions may have been part of a recent conversation with your child’s advisor, but if not they might be a good questions to ask. Working collaboratively on the incremental change that will make the “fit” fit, is what education is largely about.