Cultivating Optimism

  • Head's Note
Tobin Bechtel

On Wednesday, our entire school was involved in Field Day — the largest all-school event we have had since the pandemic took hold. Our teachers coordinated a fantastic and safe day outside creating teams of students in grades 3-12 who worked together all day through hoops challenges, tug of wars, and all the way through to a final collective cheer. Seeing our youngest shepherded by our eldest students all having fun together was a joy, and it is great to bring this school tradition back to life. In events like these, we all get to see a different side of ourselves — teachers out of class and students cooperating in new ways to meet challenges.

I know there is no other school in our wider region that could do an event like this which creates cohesion across ages and long lasting memories. These experiences are important. They help develop the resilience and courage children need in and beyond the classroom. They help develop the ability to work as a team in groups more akin to the real world — it is rare as adults that we ever work together in age-aligned groups. They help develop connections across our school as the young ones look up to the older ones, and all discover new talents within every member of their team.

Within challenges we can cultivate courage. We can help our children internalize a "can do" attitude that builds an optimistic outlook. Optimism is a critical disposition — if we do not believe we can tackle a challenge, create new ideas or make a difference, it becomes all too easy to simply give up. I believe we help our students believe in themselves and believe that they can create change. We can all work together as a community to inculcate optimism, to nurture its growth in our children.

As our final reading for the Parent Ed, I invite all in our community to read The Optimistic Child by Dr. Martin Seligman — parents, teachers, grandparents, alums, and friends. Dr. Seligman has insightful advice based on decades of research at UPenn on how we can help our future generations develop an optimistic outlook that creates the resilience needed for a foundation to pursue success. I hope you will read this seminal work and join us on May 11 (9-10 a.m. or 7-8 p.m.) to discuss his ideas and how we can all further foster the optimistic spirit that is woven in our culture and pillars.

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