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

Rise above with Rudy

August 18, 2020

Keeping a positive mental mindset is key to facing the uncertainty of these bizarre times we are living. This mentality has the potential to help us get through negative days and will serve as a great tool for our future in life.

In my eyes, this year I was blessed with the opportunity to spend more time with my loved ones than ever before. Throughout this time I was also fortunate enough to take part in certain webinars and conferences. One workshop session in particular impacted me the most, “Rise above with Rudy”.

Have you ever watched the movie Rudy? If you haven’t, it’s a must. Rudy is a 1993 American biographical sports film and it is about the life of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, who harbored the dream of playing football at the University of Notre Dame despite significant obstacles.

Just to give you a little bit of context, Rudy comes from a family of nine siblings in which his dad worked three jobs to put food on the table. Rudy had dyslexia, lacked the academic eligibility, money, stature, and talent to play football in Notre Dame. His chances of making his dream true were completely unrealistic, yet significant people along his life engraved a positive mindset in him which convinced him to fight for it.

Rudy Ruettiger dictated the workshop himself, and listening to all the challenges he faced to get into his dream school was truly amazing and inspiring. Here are some of the key lessons I learnt from him that day:

  1. It’s all about love and respect. Rudy’s High School coach always saw the positive in him, his strengths, and not his weaknesses. The lesson here is that we need to show a lot of love because we all learn better when there is love. Just like Rudy’s coach and his best friend, which inspired him to push himself and never quit on his dream. Our children need to surround themselves with good friends, good thoughts, and develop positive relationships with adults in their family and school.

  2. Don’t steal people’s joy! Be around people that want you to win, that gives you hope. When our children/students cannot produce like other students, let’s empower them. Let’s help them be better, be more positive. If we steal our kid’s joy, they will not be positive and they won’t learn. When our children are excited about something, let’s help them embrace it.

  3. Preparation is the key to anything. Our children need to dream like they are an “All American”. They need good mentors and good people that will help them through the day, through their struggles, and through challenging and complicated times. Nothing is impossible with a positive attitude and the right push.

Towards the end of the session, I raised my hand to ask Rudy for advice on how we should be facing Covid-19, with the canceling of all sports seasons and the huge impact that this will cause on our student-athletes’ lives.

Rudy claimed that our Mental Attitude is the key. We need to develop a mental attitude that will keep us going. Regardless if there is a season or not, as an athlete you do not quit working out, nor doing the little things everyday to become better. You need to keep going because there will come a moment in which you will come back, and you must be ready for that day. Sitting around dreaming about things happening won’t make them real until you get up and get to work.

This is the moment to develop a Positive Mental Attitude in our school so that when the day comes, we will be ready to thrive.

Are you ready for that day?

Claudia Araya
Director of Athletics and Activities

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