Hopes and Dreams

In preparation for Back-to-School Night on Thursday, September 11, Lower School Head Noreen Lidston surveyed parents and students about their hopes and dreams for the school year. Following are her remarks.

Tonight, as promised, I would like to spend a few minutes sharing with you the results of our online survey about the hopes and dreams you have for your children for the school year just underway. More than one hundred households responded - an amazing percentage that speaks of the love and commitment you feel for your children and also of the power of your hopes and dreams.

But...children come first...always, so before we go any further, I will share some of the hopes and dreams that children in our kindergarten, prefirst and first grade have for this year...and beyond! By the way, their hopes and dreams are quite different from yours! Their thoughts are fanciful and practical, spontaneous and concrete!

Our youngest students are hoping and dreaming of getting better at every sport, game, or physical activity you can imagine. A few of them even mentioned reading, writing, and math! Among the more unique responses are these:

I hope...

  • to learn to play the harp
  • to find treasure
  • to do research to buy a car
  • to be a better Nerf gun fighter
  • to be a bird veterinarian
  • to be a good flower gardener
  • to get a cheetah
  • to always be happy
  • to sing beautifully
  • to be a caveman
  • to drive a truck
  • to always have love
  • to be the best sister ever
  • to be a clown
  • to get two leashes to bring cats outside
  • to build the best snowman ever
  • to be the queen of the whole world
  • to be a good son
  • to get new LEGO’s
  • to go to space
  • to be a teenager
  • to slide on a rainbow.

    None of you mentioned that you are hoping for your child to become a truck driver, a clown, a caveman or the owner of a pet cheetah, but you did express some widely-shared hopes and dreams. In fact, without manipulating data at all, I was able to identify 10 commonly-held hopes for the year ahead. I will share these in order of frequency, with the first being the most often expressed.

    Hope #1 - Increased Self-Confidence
    You shared your wish for your children to grow into confident, vocal, independent learners who are not fearful of tackling new endeavors. You want them to grow up “strong and sure,” to be able to give the world their strengths. A parent wrote, “I hope that she will have opportunities to glow as she develops skills and confidence.”

    Hope #2 - Strong Relationships
    You want your children to have good friends, possibly some life-long friends. You also want your children to have relationships with teachers that are warm, genuine and lasting. One parent wrote, “I hope teachers notice and nurture my child’s strengths, and help him understand how to overcome challenges along the way.” Another said, “I hope teachers continue to reach out to every student - including the quiet ones.”

    Hope #3 - A Safe, Nurturing Environment
    You hope for an atmosphere at school that is supportive and encouraging of every child, one that permits risk-taking and requires that everyone treat each other respectfully.

    Hope #4 - A Love of Learning
    You very much want your children to develop this trait or to sustain it. You treasure your children’s curiosity and wonder at the world, and you want those qualities to flourish throughout their schooling.

    Hope #5 - A Challenging Curriculum
    You want your children to be engaged and stimulated by a vibrant and varied curriculum that will help them reach their full academic potential. The curriculum should have high yet age-appropriate expectations, and should include many hands-on, experiential opportunities.

    Hope #6 - Opportunity for Failure
    Somewhat surprisingly, a number of you expressed the hope that your children will be allowed to experience failure...and learn that they can get up and try again. One parent wrote, “I want my child to be given the opportunity to fail, and to see failure as an opportunity to learn.”

    Hope #7 - Moral Character
    You hope the school will partner with you in developing kind, caring, and compassionate young people who respond to others with understanding and empathy. You want your children to give back to society, share their blessings, and reach out to those who need help. “Be humble,” one parent wrote, “With privilege comes responsibility.” You also hope that your children will come to understand the value of hard work.

    Hope #8 - Freedom to Be Themselves
    You want your children to be empowered and encouraged to be just who they are, to have a robust sense of self. You wrote, “I want her to appreciate how clever, imaginative, and witty she is” and “I hope that McDonogh gets to know the funny, smart, playful, interesting, independent little person she is.” Another parent wrote, “I hope he is encouraged to be opinionated and courageous.”

    Hope #9 - Happiness
    Several of you expressed the simple desire for your children to be happy - “to be happy beyond measure” as one parent put it. You hope that they have many reasons to smile and laugh each day, and that “they have so much fun that they don’t notice how much they are learning.” Another parent had a slightly different point of view, writing, “Some folks say, ‘I want my kids to be happy.’ I agree, but in many ways, ‘happy’ is when you’re on vacation! I want my kids to be engaged at school…excited about the challenges presented to them and working (and failing) to meet them.”

    Hope #10 - Appreciation of Diversity
    You want your children to engage and interact with others whose race, gender, language, culture, and thought are different from their own. One parent wrote, “I want her to engage difference with open eyes and an open heart.” Another said, “I hope that they will become globally aware of their place in this community, in this nation, on this planet, and in this universe.”

    So there you have it...your most fervent hopes and dearest dreams for your children during the year ahead. We hear you!

    Henry David Thoreau once wrote that friends “cherish each other’s hopes and are kind to each other’s dreams.” I know that I speak for the entire Lower School faculty when I say that we do cherish - and share - the hopes you have for your children this year, and that we will be kind to your dreams for them, even if we tell you that it will take time and support to make them happen. Sometimes we will succeed in our efforts to make your hopes and dreams come true, and sometimes we will fail. Please tell us either way. I promise you, though, that we will keep on trying. We have chosen teaching because we can’t imagine doing anything else but helping children awaken to their true selves and be all that they can be.

    Thank you for entrusting your children to us and for sharing with us your hopes and dreams for them. We know what we want for them; let’s make it happen together!

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