From Oak Meadow parents: “hopes and dreams for our children”

By October 19, 2018

Parents were seated at tables in small groups, deeply engaged in animated conversations. They were focused on one specific question, “what are your deepest aspirations for your child.”  This was the format used in all of the parent coffees and dinners with the head of school over the last several weeks. Nearly half of all Oak Meadow parent families attended one of the five events that spanned all school programs, from Beginners through Middle School.

Parent brainstorming in small groups

First, parents brainstormed on their own, quickly writing on sticky-notes their initial thoughts when they contemplated this important and compelling question. Next, in this informal small group setting, each parent took a turn, sharing their own personal hopes and dreams for their child. Finally, each group worked as a team to develop a visual presentation that captured the shared viewpoints of the entire small group, and presented their ideas to the larger group of parents attending the event. All of the comments shared by parents have been collected and will be carefully analyzed in the school’s efforts this school year to develop a clearly focused and well-defined vision for the school’s future that will build excitement and engagement and ensure our precious school continues to thrive. Click here to see the actual presentation sheets created by each of the small groups of parents attending these events.

Creating a small-group presentation

What happened during these events that perhaps parents might not have expected? Parents who had a casual friendship with other parents had an opportunity to get to know each other in a much deeper way, sharing personal thoughts about their child and education in the world today. Parents were also surprised to find that every parent attending the event actually had very similar aspirations for their child. Several parents reported that this event helped them to better appreciate the fact that they were clearly in a school of like-minded parents. They were happy for the affirmation that they had “chosen the right school” for their child and felt that they were in the “right place” for themselves as well.

Below you will find some of the comments shared by parents during the listening events this fall. We’re still synthesizing all of this data, so this list is not the final list or grouping, but it will help you get a sense of what is most important to many Oak Meadow parents when it comes to the education of your children.

As you read through this list, please consider these three questions:

  1. Are these learning outcomes realistic for schools to achieve today?
  2. Are they typical in most schools?
  3. If you were to create a school focused primarily on achieving all of these objectives, what would it look like?

Here is the list:

Reflections on Oak Meadow parents’ deepest aspirations for their children (a brief snapshot of some of the comments you shared)

Expertise and knowledge

  • Quantitative and qualitative research skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Writing and public speaking skills
  • Confidence in math
  • Balance humanities and science
  • Deep thinking

Creative thinking, critical thinking & problem solving skills

  • Ability to try/test ideas within a safe & accepting environment
  • Opportunities to experiment, take risks, question, and test
  • A questioning and inquiring mind
  • Playfulness
  • Willing to take safe risks outside of one’s comfort zone
  • Strategic planning & organizational skills
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Collaborative problem solver
  • Learning to prioritize
  • Ability to formulate, organize & express an idea

Character & social emotional learning

  • Confidence to be one’s self and encourage others
  • Brave enough to discover who you are
  • Willingness to speak one’s truth
  • Growth mindset
  • Resilience and adaptability
  • Develop a moral compass
  • Patient and non-judgmental
  • Embracing life’s challenges
  • Compassionate, empathetic, and considerate human being
  • Able to resolve conflicts
  • Experience in decision making
  • Learn to win & lose
  • Learn to face failure and overcome it
  • Learn to work through disappointments
  • See the beauty of life, never lose a sense of wonder
  • Learn to navigate through life’s challenges
  • Experience joy, sadness, love, and peace and be able to share feelings with others
  • Set goals and achieve them
  • Positive outlook through balancing priorities
  • Balancing personal agency with listening and collaboration
  • Willingness to act with integrity
  • Contribute to society in a respectful way
  • Strong relationship building skills
  • Good habits for a sound mind and body
  • Embrace diversity of all people, faiths, and cultures
  • Kind human being
  • Appreciation for the value of hard work
  • Social justice & citizenship
  • Being responsible members of a community

Intrinsic motivation

  • Self-evolving learner, flexible and adaptable
  • Seeking meaning and purpose and joy in one’s work
  • Follow one’s passions, find one’s own path
  • Know one’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Understand one’s self as a unique learner
  • Self-esteem, self-discovery, self-reliance, self-determination
  • Accept & love one’s self, even with faults
  • Advocacy of self and others
  • Excited about learning
  • Self-aware
  • Contribute meaningfully to something bigger than one’s self
  • Feel the excitement & satisfaction in new discoveries
  • Experience shared joy of contributing meaningfully to something beyond one’s own personal sphere
  • Feel a balanced connection to one’s community and world

Going back to the questions posed above, is it realistic for a school to achieve all of these objectives? While some of the best schools are certainly excellent in terms of content expertise and knowledge acquisition, most traditional schools do not give the same attention to the other categories: creative thinking, critical thinking, problem solving, character development, social-emotional learning, and intrinsic motivation. In my years as an educator, what I have discovered is the focus on these other skills (often called “soft skills” and “21st century skills”) in addition to a strong academic program, actually empower children to have more mastery of the most important knowledge and expertise needed today.

What might a school look like if achieving all of the learning objectives above were the priority?  I believe such a school would look exactly like Oak Meadow. Every day, in classrooms around the school, I see students learning in all of the ways that are important to parents. Oak Meadow continues to evolve and improve to meet the needs of our students in today’s world. In this time of enormous change and upheaval, driven by global economic and technological forces, our children need and deserve a school that will help them develop as whole people, and become caring human beings who possess the critical skills that will enable them to successfully navigate their own future in an increasingly complex and interconnected world.