From the Principal's Desk:
Greetings from Cresthill and wishing you health, prosperity, and contentment in 2021!!!
As we flip the page to the second semester, I find myself grieving once again the lost opportunity to get to know all of our new families who started with us in August and to reconnect with returning families - we never even got to have an in-person Back-to-School Night, or student-led conferences, or choir/band/orchestra concerts, or a Fall play, or... (huge sigh). I can't help but feel disconnected from you all in a way that is deeply deflating and a bit disorienting. I'm a relationship guy. I don't function well without the give-and-take of connection and contact. Simply put, this is not the Cresthill experience either of us want, and it breaks my heart that you and your child are not getting the full experience. We really are pretty fun and cool around here. You'll have to take my word for it.
Of all the things I dislike about this remote learning, and there are many (don't get me started!), what I am most concerned about for our young adolescents is the potential negative impact on their healthy brain development. I'm not so worried about the subject area content they may be getting in reduced servings right now: data shows our children are missing out on less learning than most of us assume. Rather, my concern is more about the development of a thing sometimes called Executive Function. Executive Function refers to a host of behavioral tendencies that have to do with managing oneself and one's internal resources in order to achieve a goal. And as humans our goals are almost always about group affiliation, identity and belonging. Things like self-regulation, impulse control, perspective switching, planning, emotion inhibition regulation.
Executive Function is an umbrella term for the neurologically-based skills involving mental control and self-regulation. And here's the kicker, because of the way our brain is designed, the development of these life-altering skills is largely done through social interactions and engagement with others - preferably who are different from ourselves. We are social beings, even the more introverted ones among us, and our brain is constantly scanning for feedback about our 'survival' (whether that is physical or emotional 'survival'). When tweens are isolated or extremely limited in their relational/social interactions, their brains are being starved of what it most craves - feedback about security. We should have never employed the term "social distancing" when what we really mean is "physical distancing."
When it is time for this old principal to ride off into the sunset, I hope the legacy I leave behind will be that Cresthill is a school that takes seriously the idea that schools are places where kids come to know and be known. That learning to be a sturdy human being is about so much more than mere content acquisition and standardized test scores. I'll close this message with a scientific finding. Harvard has been studying happiness with a longitudinal study that has been going on for 80 years now. Their conclusion is based on data that clearly and consistently show: "close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives."
May your lives and the lives of our Cresthill kids be enriched with close relationships in 2021. We have to work harder at it now, but it can be done. And I am counting the days before we can be back in school in-person with our students...