Sue’s News – January 29, 2020

A blog from the Head of School
Vol. 2, No. 10 – January 29, 2020
Recent News

New Furniture – You know when you finish a home improvement project and the first thing you think about – just nanoseconds after the task is complete – is, what’s next? Well, that’s the thought that went through my mind last Wednesday once all of the new classroom furniture was in place. It looks fantastic, by the way, and I encourage you to take a peek, and next on the improvement list is the classroom walls, which will hopefully get painted during February break. So, it never ends . . . and thanks, as always, for your continued support of our efforts to beautify the school.

Field Trips – One of the things that warms my heart is when teachers return from chaperoning a field trip and report that the logistical challenges were all worthwhile. I was really pleased, therefore, to hear rave reviews from all of the teachers on Thursday, after the school had scattered to various destinations on Wednesday to explore, learn, bond, and have fun. One of the benefits of being a small school is that we can easily take advantage of the myriad opportunities that exist all around us in the Bay Area, and last week we did.

Coming Around the Corner

Parent Support Group – I am excited to report that the details of our newly forming Parent Support Group are coming into focus. Jocelyne Gardner, LCSW and mother of Ethan, ‘21, will host and facilitate, and Jocelyne will be present at next week’s OAPG meeting to discuss details. I hope you will consider taking part in this wonderful opportunity. The purpose of the group, as its name suggests, is to provide a place where OA parents can gather, share challenges, and provide fellowship for each other. The group will meet weekly throughout the spring. We plan to rent a space in the office building next door, up the hill at 21 Altarinda Road, and there will be a nominal fee to cover rental of the space. Please be on the lookout for info about dates and times, and please join Jocelyne and your fellow parents for what I’m sure will be a wonderful, supportive experience.

Accreditation – OA is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, otherwise known as WASC. The accreditation cycle is six years, and this year OA is scheduled for its mid-cycle “check-in.” The WASC accrediting process is thorough, to say the least, and in March we will welcome two members of a WASC visiting committee to campus for a full day visit to take a look under the school’s proverbial hood. In preparation, teachers, administrators, and Board members have been compiling and reviewing data on everything from campus improvements to our new Honors designation for UC approved classes to student achievement to the school’s long term plans. Laura Turnbull, our Director of Academics, has been charged with compiling and writing the mid-cycle report, which stands at 120+ pages to date. 

The accreditation process is vital, as it provides us with an opportunity to reflect on our mission, purpose, operations, and future with unbiased outsiders, whose role it is to help us better understand ourselves. I look forward to sharing the results of our self-reflection process, and the WASC committee’s response to their visit, later in the spring. If you have any questions or would like details about the accreditation process, please let me know.

Sue’s Muse

I was going to title this Sue’s Muse It’s Not Adolescence Until Everyone’s Angry, but then I thought better of it. Not because the sentiment isn’t true, but because I’m trying to channel my inner Buddha (which isn’t going too well, by the way).My mind has been fixated lately on teenage angst because almost every conversation I’ve had with parents recently has involved a detour into the terrain of how teenagers behave at home (not so well, by many accounts), and how dealing with the teenage emotional rollercoaster is exhausting, dispiriting, and lonely. Ugh.

Here are some takeaways from these conversations, and from working with teenagers all day, every day:Parents should never judge the effectiveness of their parenting based on how their teenager feels.I spoke with one mother recently who is at her wit’s end because her child is constantly surly with her. If she asks him a question, he is surly. If she leaves him alone, he is surly. When she drives him to school, cooks his meals, says hello, and even breathes, he is surly. Suffice to say, she doesn’t feel good about these interactions, and I could sense from our conversation that she is questioning everything about her parenting choices.

Imagine her surprise when I reported that, at school, her son is polite, pleasant, engaged, and touchingly self-reflective. In fact, this very same surly teen recently wrote a reflection piece in English (shared with me by his teacher) about how much he loves his parents, appreciates what they do for him, and wants to work hard because he owes them for all their sacrifices. Who knew? Well, obviously not his mom.

Parents should never judge the effectiveness of their parenting based on how their teen feels because negative emotions don’t necessarily mean something is wrong.Teenagers feel bad for all kinds of reasons, and most of them will pass in short order, and frankly, most of them have nothing to do with parents. Teens are hungry, or tired, or bored, or overstimulated, or confused, or overwhelmed, or in love, or in hate, or . . . or  . . . you name it.

The point is teenagers haven’t learned how to recognize many of their emotions, let alone manage them, and so they tend to be moody and self-absorbed as a result. And because they have to put up a good front for their peers during the day, at school, they tend to let everything hang out when they are at home with parents. Teens are keenly aware of how they are judged by other teens, and so they focus much of their energy on being their best selves at school. But this is exhausting, given that many of their feelings, especially in their intensity, are new to them. So, how do teens cope? They come home and dump on you. And you take it, which means . . . You are a much better parent than you think you are.Look on the bright side. Most days your teen goes to school. Most days they do most of their homework. Most days you don’t get a call from the school. Most days they eat some vegetables. Most days they put their shoes on the right feet.

And on some days, out of the blue, you hear that your child wrote an English essay saying how much they appreciate you, and that it’s all worthwhile. And if you haven’t heard that yet, take it from me: YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB! Your child is headed in the right direction. They are learning, from their teachers and from each other, and especially from you. They are figuring things out, even when it’s really, really hard, which sometimes it is. And it’s all because of you.Yep, your child is grumpy and surly and at times ungrateful, and despite all of their angst, you are doing a really great job!

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