Keeping the Dialogue Open at Home…and Building Community at School

As we close September and open October at Tuxedo Park School, I look at back at all of the things we have already accomplished in this very young school year. We began our year on September 6 with record enrollment, and while the road to Frost Valley washed out and the 7th and 8th grades did not make their annual pilgrimage there, the 9th grade did trek in the Adirondacks, scaling mountains, diving into lakes and learning to rely on each other in varied and unexpected ways. We have launched athletic teams, hosted back-to-school nights for all grade levels and enjoyed social parent evenings on campus by division. Last week I had the great good fortune to be invited to the Franklin Lakes community and I spent an evening with parents in that neighborhood. We discussed life at school, the state of parenting in the technological age, and I learned about the things that make TPS special for their families.

At Primary School Back-to-School Night, I shared with TPS parents some wisdom I learned from high school students in California. We had participated in a program at Stanford University’s school of Education called Challenge Success ( The mission of this program is to broaden the definition of success in schools, and the team associated with this program includes Madeleine Levine, author of The Price of Privilege and Maureen Pope, the author of Doing School—both of whom are widely featured and quoted in the recent film The Race to Nowhere. It was the high school students from Mission San Jose High School who had adopted the slogan: “Don’t ask me what I got, ask me what I learned.”

If we as parents can practice using this mantra with our children—especially our youngest children—we can learn to shift our focus beyond grades and performance and engage them in meaningful conversations about becoming life-long learners. As parents, we are our children’s first teachers; there is much we can do to have them remember us as some of their best.

About Kathleen McNamara Head's Up!

an educator in Independent Schools for over 28 years
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