Paul Wieman, Upper School Principal
April is a month that stretches our students in a number of ways. Seniors are looking ahead, making decisions, anticipating life’s next big step, wondering what is left in high school. Their energies, while wonderful in their own way, are not exactly focused on the here and now. This is as it should be.
Course selection occurs in April, and these discussions are naturally focused on next year and the goals and hopes that this brings to the table. Important as this is, course selection can be seen as a distraction.
End-of-the-year events are looming, but not here yet. The prom comes to mind (and we all know that the prom is much more about the anticipation and the build-up than the prom itself!), and a regular parade of assemblies, field trips, and special events are just around the corner and getting the attention of adults and students alike.
It is difficult not to get caught up in the fun of spring, and it really is fun. Outdoor sports return, and warm afternoons watching friends on teams are great. The critical mass of juniors is experiencing the freedom of driving, and this takes on its own energy and life. So many things happening, on school grounds and beyond.
AP exams, another end-of-the-year ritual, will be soon upon us, and with these come the understanding that once completed, the end of the academic year cannot be far away.
In the hallways of the Upper School right now are a number of energies, many of them focused later in the calendar, many of them wonderful and exciting and fun, but most of them distracting from the day-to-day task at hand of coming to class, doing homework, prepping for assessments, buckling down to complete a re-write, etc.
So, I write this column to remind everyone that April and May are, in fact, the longest stretch of uninterrupted academic time. More than a quarter of the assessments are ahead of us for each class. Skills learned are now skills applied. Courses wanted for next year and just out of reach (perhaps) can become courses within reach if a student finishes with focus and attention and energy.
In general, the teachers and advisors and administrators in the Upper School are the first to ask students to relax, enjoy life, come to the musical or watch a lacrosse game, cheer on the basketball team. But in April and May, while we still want this for the students, we also find ourselves asking them to remain alert, stay attentive, do not think that just because the exam is over, the course is done.
It remains a balance, as we say over and over again. Sometimes, we ask for students to relax, for that is what they need in adjusting their balance. But let us remember that April and May bring with them a full complement of academics, and possibly a chance to raise a grade, or a chance to earn passage into a certain course next year. Focus and discipline are still needed, and the energy exerted in the spring pays off as the year draws to a close in June.
Students grow intellectually throughout high school, and students naturally benefit from this growth as the year progresses. I am reminded of a respected administrator at RCDS in the 1990’s who said, “Sometimes we get smarter just by being on the planet longer.” I now see the wisdom of her words.
I only remind everyone that this growth continues throughout the spring, and we should all be prepared to benefit from this growth, because we all are spending just a little bit more time on this planet…why not reap the rewards?