A Letter from Principal Stolov
The first days of a new school year conjure an array of emotional
experiences for all involved; parents, students, teachers,
administrators, principal, vice principal, even those of us who have
completed this ritual for many years. This year begins my fiftieth
consecutive year of a new beginning. For parents it might be a mix of
relief coupled with a touch of sadness as their precious child moves
closer to becoming a separate “self”; still closely connected to parents
and family but slightly less than a few days before.
Most Hermosa students revel in the joy of their new school supplies
that represent the promise of a new beginning. Teachers and
administrators often share dreams that infiltrate their minds on the
nights just before school. A common theme is a huge room full of
children with imperative needs. Almost all involved feel some sense
of excitement. We stir this emotional stew on these first days, as we
seek to adjust to new schedules, routines, relationships and
At this time of year, some of the most complex of all emotions to
understand are those related to separation. Although we may not
wish to acknowledge it, our child’s ultimate task is self-construction.
Like it or not, this requires a certain degree of privacy and distance
from the very parents who have taken on the most awesome job,
assisting the development of a human being. A parents’ job is to
raise our precious children to leave us, and our children’s job is to
grow into adults and find their path in life.
If you look closely, you can see this process happening every day,
especially at this time of year. Farewells at the Hermosa gates, or the
airport, dorm room, and apartment. For most of us, I dare to say, if we
could slip into the classroom or dorm room unnoticed, we would.
We want to know how our kids are doing, what they are doing, and
whom they are doing it with; and the feeling does not go away!
Dr. Montessori taught us that we achieve safety, growth, and
responsibility by offering careful preparation, not protection.
Montessori teachers and parents practice the art of “Following the
Child.” If we pay close attention, our children give us the “signs” we
need to assist their growth. The difficult job of “letting go”
progresses in small incremental stages of independence and release,
until our children are eventually completely apart from us, and
happily able to manage on their own. This does not mean that the
emotions we feel while separating are easy at any stage. I remember
the days at the end of summer prior to my son’s departure for a
university out of state. I requested that he try to do something that
would make me grateful that he was leaving. He didn’t, and we
shared a laugh, and a hug.
When we successfully “let go” we are not disconnecting from our
beloved children, but are traveling a path that leads to a continually
developing relationship. It is important that we give our children the
space to find their way, the opportunity to process their experiences
independently, and communicate the news of the day, without us
knowing it first. When we refrain from inquiring about our child’s
every thought, including what we most want to know when they
have completed their school day, we demonstrate our confidence in
their growing self-awareness and ability to communicate. If we
refrain from adamantly asking the questions “What did you do
today? Who did you play with? What did the teacher do?” but to
convey our subtle interest in our children’s lives, we offer our children
the opportunity to share a bit of themselves with us. I see the
concept of “following the child” as a lifelong process. My interest in
the “who, what, and where” of my 37-year-old son’s life is just as
strong now as when he was 5. Happily for me, my adult children now
teach me many valuable lessons. I remember with clarity the last
time I asked my son to enable my new phone. He told me to try to do
it on my own, and that he would help me after I tried. Then he
uttered this statement, “You know mom, I’m not always going to be
here to do this for you. You’re going to have to learn to do this on your
own!” The connections we share with our children are precious. Our
goal as parents is to prepare them to travel successfully through life.
When we are finished with our jobs, we hope to be connected, enjoy
each other’s company, and share experiences; completing a full cycle
of dependence, growth, independence, release, separation and
ultimately the development of a new relationship.
Instead of the question, “How was school today?”, try a question
such as, “Was anyone happy to see you come to school today?” or
“Who was happy to see you?”.