Taking the Long View

Along with Halloween and Thanksgiving, October and November usher in the season of parent-teacher conferences. This week, in fact, I will babysit my sister’s youngest child so that she and her husband can attend together their very first conference as parents of a newly minted pre-kindergartener.

Parent-teacher conferences can be a wonderful exchange and a shared celebration of a young person. They can also be tense or even toxic adversarial encounters fueled by a pervasive cultural anxiety about the future and a relentless “race to the top.”

Episcopal schools are in a powerful position to lower the volume of these conversations and reclaim the interests of children by taking a long view.

Now, some parents will inevitably misunderstand  “long view” to mean that they should be even more assertive in micro-managing their child’s future—engineering just the right “résumé” that will insure acceptance to a highly selective college and, therefore, unalloyed future happiness. And they will hold the school’s feet to the fire to do the same.

Ironically, however, the “long view” I have in mind focuses not on a discrete set of accumulated accomplishments but on the messy and unpredictable process called “growing up,” a lifelong journey of becoming that is not seamless and predictable but an ebb and flow of ups and downs, stability and change, and joys and sorrows. Taking this kind of “long view” can remind parents and teachers alike that our job is to help our students, sons, and daughters to become authentic human beings who are authentically themselves. This takes time, patience, and loving care.

As we engage parents in conversations about their children this fall, we have an extraordinary opportunity to take a “long view” together, and in so doing help children to grow more fully into themselves, slowly, year by year.