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Middle School Blog

Supporting Your Derryfield Student

No time left on the clock. Score tied. Seventh grade goalkeeper Connor readies himself to face either a game-saving or game-losing penalty kick. Aware of what’s at stake, he’s clearly nervous. All of a sudden Connor’s father sprints out of the stands to the goal. He gives his son a hug then promptly removes his son’s goalie gloves, puts them on, and takes Connor’s place in goal. Connor turns and begins to walk off the field...

What look do you imagine on Connor’s face? What lessons do you think he has learned? What might be going through the coach’s mind?!

I often use scenarios like this to talk about the challenging role we play as parents in supporting our children’s academic growth. Though all children are different (as is our relationship with them), they all share the experience of a challenging curriculum and a need to develop critical study skills. They also share the fact that they all will make mistakes as they learn these skills. Hopefully, they will all learn from them.

This is where I think the coach model is a good one to follow as a parent. As an educator and parent, I have learned a lot from my coaching experience. In the classroom, it has taught me how to systematically build skills. It has also taught me that little progress comes without adversity. It has taught me how to cultivate traits like self-confidence, risk, and grit. It has taught me how to support in ways that promote growth and self-advocacy, even when it might involve disappointment or discomfort. I think this model of coaching provides a useful lens for parents to look at how they support their child’s academic growth at Derryfield.

Last month at the first MS Communication Meeting, I presented the following general guidelines for parents regarding academic support:
  • Ask questions (clarifying and open-ended)
  • Don’t give answers—it sends negative messages  
  • We are not looking for perfect homework papers
  • Help students follow guidelines/models
  • Help students use their resources  
  • If/when you do help your child, let us know with a note
  • Plan periodic organizational sessions
  • Provide an organized, study-conducive space
  • Encourage your child to speak directly with us—model!
In a similar vein, this past weekend the faculty wrote midterm comments. Considering most faculty had between 60-70 comments to write, this represents between 10-15 hours of straight writing. That does not even include the time spent on grading. With this in mind, I will ask students to consider thanking their teachers for providing them with these comments that should help them understand what they are doing well and in which areas they can improve. I extend the same invitation to parents—a quick email "thanks" would be great! But perhaps the best way to thank the faculty would be to read the comments carefully and help your child set goals. Also, if you have any questions about the comments and/or insights about your child that might help his/her teachers after reading them, please do not hesitate to send them along. Although they are clearly written as a progress report, we hope that they do help create a dialogue. Speaking of creating a dialogue, I want to thank the parents who have been participating in the Discussions section of our online parenting course https://canvas.instructure.com/enroll/8ET77N. I have enjoyed reading and responding to each parent submission. The October MS Communications meeting on Friday, October 13, 6:30–7:30 p.m. included a presentation on our grading philosophy and grading practices in the Middle School.


Mark Blaisdell
Head of Middle School
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The Derryfield School

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