Glass Half Full: Children impress us time and time again |

Glass Half Full: Children impress us time and time again

Recently I read a memorable address that Carol Gilligan made to the student body of Laurel School. Dr. Gilligan, known for the valuable work she did in the 1980s on behalf of girls, remains a significant voice in education.

When I completed my Master’s, I found Gilligan’s research and philosophy not only to be consistent with my own, but also to apply to all students, not just girls. In this particular address, she offered “28 Things I Want Girls to Know…” (

I share a number of them with you today, because they consist of sound advice for all our children. Especially in an era when so many parents feel compelled to provide completely for their children and seem to fear any adversity, like Gilligan, I want young people know that:

“ (1) they can trust their own voices as sources of power and inspiration.

(2) the components of resilience – growth mindset, creativity, purpose, self-care and relationship – are always available and can always be developed.

(3) learning how to tolerate frustration is a life skill.

(4) the ability to adapt, to be flexible, to collaborate, to change direction is often more important than being right. But, I want them to know too that there are times when it’s important to take a stand, not to yield. I want them to know the difference.”

We know these things to be true about ourselves. Sometimes we don’t give enough credit to our children.

Again, as part of my Master’s study years ago, I conducted a survey of approximately 270 students, asking them to describe something they had accomplished within the last year of which they were proud.

Without exception, every child, fifth through eighth grade, shared an experience in which s/he had been challenged significantly and felt successful. Nobody said, “Oh, I’ve always gotten straight As.”

Instead, I heard about the hard work it took to move a C grade to a B. I heard about long hours invested in learning lines for a play or repeated drills to improve in some sport.

What my students told me was that they learned and appreciated the most from the experiences in which they applied many of the very things mentioned above by Carol Gilligan.

We should not be surprised. Given the chance, our children impress us time and time again.

At Rotary last week, one of the older members commented that a primary reason he has been successful in life is that his parents never did anything for him. They were loving; they were supportive; they let him learn how to adapt, be flexible, collaborate and change direction if necessary.

We need to allow our children to do the same, otherwise they will not develop the skills necessary to become successful and contented adults.

If 45 years in education has taught me only one thing, it’s that children have the wherewithal to accomplish amazing things — if we just step back and let them.

Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at

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