It is with excitement that I write this first blog of the 2016 / 2017 academic year, and anticipate the arrival of our Clementines from Grades 1-12 on Tuesday. I look forward to the din of enthusiastic voices of 470 girls and staff in the hallways of St. Clement’s School.
Regardless of whether our girls are starting their first year or their last year, they are beginning another phase of their educational journey. Our School’s tagline states, “The Best Path is Rarely a Straight Line.” I like the notion of considering our girls’ education as a journey. While our girls may intend to follow a particular path, they will inevitably find opportunities, distractions, and complexities along the way, so that the initial route changes, and they learn and grow. Having said that, I came across a wonderful quotation in a book entitled How to Raise An Adult: Break Free of the Over-Parenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims, that takes the path analogy one step further.
Antonio Machado (1875-1939), a Spanish poet wrote, “Traveler, there is no path. The path is made by walking.” Beyond the importance of our girls taking a divergent route, this quotation reminded me that as parents and staff we must ensure that we let them do the traveling, rather than being their carriers along the way.
I have, over time, become increasingly concerned about the tendency for our girls to be ‘chaperoned’ on their paths, when what we should be doing is gradually nudging them take their own steps down the road. Parents and educators must work together to guide our girls to learn to work through struggles on their own; to advocate, take responsibility for their mistakes, and ultimately to leave home as seasoned travelers. In order to do this, our girls must be allowed, and often, required to try (and try again), to risk, and to sometimes struggle without a quick solution. While it is not easy to live with the uncertainty or worry in a child’s eyes, sometimes their look is a reflection of ours. We must trust that our girls will be the better for the opportunities to try something new, to challenge themselves getting through a difficult situation, or to learn how to pick themselves up after a fall.
As we begin our 2016-2017 academic year, let us encourage our girls to start their walks, their stumbles and their growth and learning all the while knowing that it will result in their becoming outstanding women who are intellectually curious, courageous and compassionate.