As part of my initial discovery time at OES, I’ve invited groups of students to share their ideas and observations about the community they know so well. Their unique vantage point is certainly one from which I, as the new Head of the Upper School, can learn a lot. In one of these recent meetings, a kid wisely wondered how grades define his success. By traditional criteria, this student is very high-achieving and successful. But, he seemed to be asking, do his excellent grades represent or make fully visible that which he recognizes as potentially even more lasting and real? As an educator and as a parent, I work to acknowledge kids and colleagues for both that which we name as successful and that which goes into the long process of getting there: persistence, resilience, dedication, discipline, accountability, and commitment. As Billy Collins writes in the last stanza of his poem, “On Turning Ten”:
“It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.”
Collins’ young protagonist recognizes that growing up (and all the intensity that comes with it) is hard. Really hard. And sometimes painful. As with all great coming-of-age literature, the words (so reflective of the truth for our kids) are a little heartbreaking and a little uplifting, for we know that though often difficult and disappointing, the growing will happen and it will be ok.