Dear Principal: A Father Writes a Letter to Himself Without Knowing It

Cincinnati Montessori Society – Online Newsletter, Issue 23, Winter 2016

A Father Writes a Letter to Himself Without Knowing It
By: Jeff Groh
Photo taken by: Tracy Casagrande Clancy

In 2013, I became a father. I had been a Montessori teacher for 13 years and started imagining the type of education I wanted for my newborn son. As an exercise, I wrote a letter to the fictitious principal that would one day be in charge of my son’s elementary school years. I rediscovered the letter recently while rearranging my office at home. It was perfect timing, because my son will start at The New School Montessori in the fall of 2016, and it just so happens that I was recently selected as the principal.

Dear Principal,

I am sending my son to your school because I believe it will be the best place for him to grow up loving to learn. A love that I hope develops strongly enough to stay with him for a lifetime.

I hope he is taught in an environment where lessons are presented in ways such that discoveries are made through experimentation and dialogue, rather than passed down as information to memorize. I hope his learning isn’t measured on a scale that intimidates or implies that the purpose of school is to see how smart he is instead of as an opportunity to deepen his love and commitment to understanding himself and the world around him.

So, on his 6th grade American History test, if he forgets the date of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, I hope your teachers will understand him well enough to not allow his low score to overshadow how he loved the way the speech sounded when he first heard it or how it prompted him to read a book on Lincoln’s life, even though he wouldn’t be tested on it.

I would hate to think that he memorized every “right” answer provided to him rather than search for both questions and answers on his own. I would like him to be impacted by books he loves, and the ideas that might inspire him to pursue a career in public policy, law, or social work. I want my son to realize that the joys of “being smart” in the world pale in comparison to the joys of feeling connected to the world.

Without nurturing the joy and love that comes from acquiring new knowledge, whether its on “the test” or not, turns schools into imitations of what we actually want for our children. They imitate growth and accomplishment while quietly extinguishing the motivation for real growth and accomplishment -joy!

Comments 2

  1. It was such a joy to read that, Jeff! And it epitomizes so well all the things our family treasured about The New School Montessori while our kids were students there. I knew with confidence that the school would continue to move forward on its beautiful trajectory under your guidance. This letter is proof.

  2. I was a teacher in public schools for 32 years and struggled often with my role in the classroom. I wanted to inspire but inspiration was not easily “assessed” in school. It bothered me that past grades were cemented and couldn’t be changed months later when that student demonstrated an understanding of those tested concepts.
    I admire your desires for your son and celebrate the fact that you are now instrumental in making sure others receive the same!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *