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High School Connections Blog by Head of High School Steve Soden

High School Goals for the Start of the Year

Well, we are off and running! There is nothing quite like the first day of a new school year. The building is much quieter during the summer, and while it is certainly nice to have that time to reflect and prepare for the students’ return, the excitement of the first day is tough to beat. It is a reminder that the students are, of course, why we do what we do.

As part of of the first day, I shared some thoughts and expectations with our high school students with the understanding that if we are able to take these five expectations to heart, it will inevitably lead to success. I feel strongly that these are true beyond our school walls, so I wanted to make sure I shared them with you as well.

Treat each other well

Perhaps more than anything, this is something I see as foundational to all that we hope to do in our high school. Grades, test scores, and college acceptances are, in large part, results. They are results of the curriculum and what the students and teachers do in the classroom, of course, but they are also results of the environment in which the learning happens. It is a simple formula: if the environment makes it so students are comfortable asking questions, making mistakes, and being themselves, they will thrive.

Expect to be treated well

We want students to take ownership of not just their learning, but their environment. The reality is that I can talk about the importance of the environment, but the sustainability of that environment will depend on the students themselves. I hope that all of our students take their learning seriously and trust that when they enter our building, they can feel comfortable to engage fully.

Put in effort

Our students chose MCDS, at least in part, because they were looking for an environment that would require them to put in effort. This is commendable! So, I challenged them to think about how they define effort. For me, effort is demonstrated in moments of reflection. Refusing to change and simply spinning their wheels will not get them anywhere. Rather, it is when students are willing to be honest with themselves about what needs to be done and, if necessary, change their approach. That is when effort counts.

Recognize that there is no such thing as perfect

Part of putting in effort means realizing that no test, essay, or presentation will ever be perfect. The hope, then, is that the learning, and hopefully the joy, takes place in the process. Our students will inevitably encounter moments of frustration. This is especially true because as a general rule, they have high expectations for themselves. As I often tell people, the bulk of our success as a school will be measured not by what our students do now, but what they do once they move beyond their high school years. We want our students to mature, and maturity comes when students are able, in the moments when they do not quite reach the level they were hoping, to learn and adjust.

Invest in the people around you

We hear it time and again: what our alumni value most about their time at MCDS are the relationships they formed with their teachers. All of us–students, teachers, and parents–chose to be a part of the MCDS community because we value relationships. We intentionally chose an environment where we would be known and we would know the people around us. That truth presents an amazing opportunity for our students, and one I sincerely hope they will take advantage of. If they invest in the people around them, what they receive in return will be invaluable.

I hope everyone had a great first day to what I trust will be a wonderful, challenging, uplifting, tiring, invigorating, fulfilling year. Here we go!

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