A distinct part of North Shore Country Day School’s method and culture encourages communication and dialogue between parents and teachers and students. Our Founding Headmaster Perry Dunlap Smith promoted this communication and partnership. He often used the image of a triangle, with the three points representing students, parents and teachers, as a metaphor to explain how best to support student growth and development.
I have always found the triangle image helpful. I believe, in some ways, the triangle may be more useful today than ever before.
What is important to understand is that for the triangle to be strong and maintain its shape, all three points must be stable and secure. In addition, each point must be distinct from the other two. For schools to function best, students need to be allowed to be students, teachers need to be teachers and parents need to be parents. If the roles are confused or interchanged, things get complicated and problems occur.
In today’s age of instant communication, hands-on parenting, constant score-keeping and even “helicopter parenting,” I worry students are not allowed to own their agenda, and operate with the autonomy and independence necessary for meaningful learning.
Students clearly do best when teachers and parents play an active role in their lives and their development. However, when the adults in a student’s life are too involved, when they circumvent a student’s opportunity to problem-solve, overcome struggles or even enjoy success without great fanfare, we rob them of critical learning opportunities, rob them of the space and time to be themselves.
From my years of experience as both a parent and an educator, I’ve always found the best outcomes result when we keep that in perspective and let learning happen. The triangle works if we give it a chance.
North Shore Country Day is a private, college-prep school for high school, middle school and elementary school students in Winnetka, IL, a suburb of Chicago.