Big Little Things

September 15, 2020

I recently heard a story about a young man who was taking an internship in the commercial area of a company. He really liked working there and learning about the business. The deals were very technical and would take weeks (sometimes months) to be closed. But every time someone in the team closed a deal, he/she would go to an old bell placed in the office to proudly ring it, under the “Bravo” words from the rest of the team.

Sadly, he was not able to manage both internship and academic responsibilities, and after a while he had to leave to focus on his studies. When he was saying goodbye to the team, he asked if he could ring the bell one last time, which he did, leaving the office in tears right after.

This story made me think about small motivations, little gestures, life expressions that help us build our character, that push us forward or at least help us go through difficult situations. Not rocket science, just popular sayings, traditions, either things that pass through generations, are part of a team celebration or just lines we randomly hear in a movie that stick to our heads throughout our journey, sending gentle reminders about values or even about goals we want to reach.

And how can we as parents influence these sayings or traditions in our kids, no matter if they are a “give me five”, lines of a poem or a bell ringing? 

I still remember when I was 11 and my grandfather asked me to read him the poem “If”, by Rudyard Kipling, explaining to me every line as I read; it has certainly guided me in many moments of my life and made me proud of myself everytime I followed Kipling’s/my grandfather’s advice. But what about Cinderella’s mom saying “Have courage and be kind”, or Thumper’s line on Bambi ” if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”?

What about the memories of our parents or our teachers recognizing our accomplishments, making us feel so proud inside we could explode of happiness? What was the weight that these simple words and celebrations had on the person I became, and values that pushed me to follow my dreams in life?

So, here’s a thing: in case you have never done this exercise, I invite you to sit together with your kids to write down post-its with things you cherish or just things you like to share in your own family, stick them all on the fridge and end with a special celebration of your own… Promise it will feel great!

Last, but not least… We have a bell of our own at EARJ that used to toll for our Panthers at the Leblon campus, and we now ring it every time there’s a new family joining us!

Cristina Conforto
Director of Advancement

Raising risk-taking children

September 9, 2020

In both the United States and Canada, the first Monday in September is Labor Day and represents the unofficial end of Summer. Ordinarily, the weekend would offer one last opportunity to enjoy time in the great outdoors in the company of family and friends and to reminisce about the Summer that was.

Circumstances this year did not allow me to return to my home country of Canada, but that didn’t stop me from reflecting on previous summers this past weekend. In doing so, one particular story came to mind…

Since the time my daughter, Haylee was very young, I’ve shared my love of sailing with her. She would often accompany me pleasure sailing in our Sunfish or in races on her grandfather’s Mirage 25.  She had always enjoyed the experiences and for many years she had essentially been along for the ride, but watching and learning all along.

That all changed when she was ten years old. One day, I returned to shore after an hour of windsurfing and was greeted by Haylee. She announced it was time. She wanted to windsurf.

Without giving it much thought, I immediately came up with a number of reasons why I felt she wasn’t ready, including the fact that she’d never sailed before on her own, couldn’t read the wind, and wasn’t physically strong enough to hold the sail. I did so as an overprotective father that didn’t want to see her fail.

To her credit, Haylee wouldn’t take no for an answer. So, after demonstrating a few elementary techniques, I put her on the water, not fully sure of what to expect. Initially, she struggled with her balance and had trouble lifting the sail. I encouraged her. She fell in the water. I encouraged her again. Through it all, she remained determined and before you know it, she had lifted the sail from the water and was windsurfing!  Haylee couldn’t have been prouder, nor could I.

I learned an important lesson that day. I realized that Haylee didn’t want what I thought she did. She actually wanted the struggle and she wanted the fight because she wanted the best feeling of all. She wanted the feeling you get when you overcome a challenge that does everything it can to beat you and you beat it!

There may be a lesson for all of us here. As much as we want to protect our children, we should also encourage them to challenge themselves so that they may realize their full potential.

Rather than always being comfortable, they need to be provided with opportunities, academic, athletic or otherwise, in which they are comfortably uncomfortable and that allow them to push themselves to even greater heights.

In doing so, we are encouraging them to be risk-takers who are resourceful and resilient, who at times may fail, so that ultimately, they will succeed. It is through this process that self-discovery occurs and the magic happens.

Scott Little
Barra Upper School Principal

Supporting students’ social needs during Distance Learning and beyond

August 11, 2020

Starting the year in Distance Learning has been a challenge our entire community is rising to meet together. It has been a joy to see how our students have connected with teachers and friends again. Their smiles are contagious and their energy is high!

Many parents wrote to us about this social connection in the first week of school, sharing their enthusiasm (and relief!) at how happy their children are to see their friends again.

Naturally, parents worry about how they can keep kids connected during isolation, and build their social and emotional skills while dealing with the fears of too much screen time and months of not interacting with peers in person.  While distance learning is not equal to in-person socialization, it does bring social opportunities, especially for kids who have felt lonely or disconnected over the school break.

But many parents are asking us, “What more can we do to support our kids socially and emotionally at home?”. Here are a few recommended tips to support your children at home:

Tip #1: Try (Virtual) Teamwork or Play

Supervised online playdates, game nights, and social events using technology platforms can get kids collaborating together and playing online.

Tip #2: Daily Check-Ins

Checking in with daily conversations,  journaling, or writing to name feelings and talk about what kids like about the specific people they miss is one way to connect offline.

Tip #3: Validate Your Child’s Feelings

Acknowledging children’s’ feelings with statements such as, ‘I know this must be hard for you,’ helps children feel seen, heard and understood.

Tip #4: Add an Activity

Helping your child research or explore a new hobby, passion, or idea to learn online outside of schoolwork can generate excitement for new interests.

Tip #5: Get Kids to Talk!

Guiding children to talk about how they are feeling and helping to name and identify emotions gives a sense of control and teaches children they are capable of managing their emotions.

Tip #6: Foster Independence

Help your child gain confidence in their growing independence, encouraging them to come up with strategies for combating social isolation together. Praise your child’s newly developed abilities in distance learning and connecting with peers.

While social isolation is a challenge for everyone, children are remarkably adaptable and resilient. Together, parents and school community members need to be vigilant in observing the expected behavioral changes and difficulties children might be having during this time.

Finding intentional ways to support children to build their core social and emotional skills at home is possible at home with parents, siblings, pets, or new ways of connecting with peers online.  Making time for these experiences is a fantastic way of supporting students’ social and emotional development, in partnership with what we are doing at EARJ in terms of community, connection, and confidence this year.

Interested in reading more?

Common Sense Media: Online Playdates and More

Coronavirus Isolation: How to Help Children Feel a Little Less Lonely

Expert Advice: Keeping kids social at home during lockdown

Kirstin White
Barra Lower School Principal