Dan’s Desk – August

August 2017

Dear Viz Parents,

Welcome to the 2017-18 school year! We are primed, eager, and ready to go. After a summer of many interesting professional development experiences and a great deal of building renovation too, we are excited to welcome the students back and watch as they discover what’s new on campus. With additional classrooms, a new counseling center, and expanded Makerspace and Viz Video studio areas, there will be a fresh look and feel. In addition, the more defined Middle School area off Menard Deck will give those students a home base that we previously lacked.

Our school-wide goal for the year is reducing student stress while simultaneously increasing academic achievement. Many of you attended Dr. Stuart Slavin’s presentation in March on student mental health and well-being. Dr. Slavin convincingly demonstrates the correlation between high student stress levels and reduced academic performance. His work motivates us to find ways to create a calmer environment that emphasizes learning and engagement. As such, we will continue our work with Dr. Slavin this year.

St. Francis de Sales speaks to stress as well in one of my favorite writings of his, the Peace Prayer:

Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; the same Everlasting Father Who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.

We all suffer from time to time from worry and anxiety; we know firsthand how counterproductive it can be. Once we “put aside our anxious thoughts,” we can face the day ahead with a calm spirit and much better focus. We can truly “be who we are, and be that well.”

Undoubtedly, much of the work on stress reduction will take place at school, but we also ask for your help at home. We suggest that you consider asking your daughter some of the following questions, rather than how she performed on the latest test:

  • What happened today that you are most grateful for or proud of?
  • What happened today that you are least grateful for or proud of? What will you try to do differently tomorrow?
  • What class dovetails with your personal career interests?
  • Are there leadership opportunities that you might pursue?
  • Based on feedback from your teachers, are there modifications you might consider to the way in which you use your study time?
  • Whom do you feel closest to at school?
  • Whom would you go to for help if you had a concern or problem?
  • What ethical issues have you discussed in your classes?
  • What are your reflections about these ethical issues and about your service projects?
  • What feedback have you given your teachers about their classes?
  • What techniques do you use to refocus on class activities when you feel your attention wander?
  • What are your academic goals in addition to good grades?
  • When you feel anxious, what do you do to settle yourself down?
  • How did you manage any difficulties you experienced today?

As we pursue this goal, we hope that you look for and see evidence of the following in your child’s experience at Viz:

  • Normal levels of anxiety and stress
  • Growing confidence
  • Pursuit of personal interests
  • Low “pressure towards perfection”
  • Ability to better cope with challenges
  • Excitement about what’s happening at school
  • Connections with adults and engagement with classes and activities at Viz
  • Frequent instances of ethical and real-world issues come home for conversation

Many of these ideas are part and parcel of the strategic plan which we introduced last spring and will continue to return to throughout the coming year. Viz is a wonderful school that is destined to get even better as every sector of this community – students, teachers, administrators, parents, Sisters, Board, and alums – works closely together.

We all look forward to an exceptional school year and know that it takes each of us working together to realize our goals.