A number of months back Carrie Jacques (River Stone Principal) was telling me that the last time they had the school’s accreditation team come the one thing they said was that they had never seen students in such a rigorous academic program also seem so happy as the kids are at GDA.
I’ve thought a lot about that, because it is a wonder.
So, with the rigorous academic standards of GDA, why are their students so happy?
This is my theory:
There are few things in life as life-breathing or fulfillingas completing something so hard you didn’t think you could ever do it. GDA kids are submerged in challenging material and high expectations for their age. These expectations are not unreasonable (as anyone that has ever looked at a 3rd grade grammar book made for students in 1907 can tell you), but certainly unreasonable in today’s standards. So GDA kids are constantly swimming back and forth between currents that go from “I can’t do this” to “I just did this!” on a daily basis. Their challenges are chased down by accomplishment bringing them fulfillment and confidence–two key ingredients that create a happy child.
But, as parents, this gift that GDA gives our kids is undoubtedly our greatest challenge. It’s hard to fight for and uphold the standard when your child throws their pencil down and gives up. But the beauty (and somewhat addicting) aspect of this program is when they pick the pencil back up and get through it. The look on their faces when they’ve hurdled defeat… that look of relief mixed with pride… is intoxicating.
And at the end of the day or the end of the project or the end of the year you discover as the parent that your legs are stronger, too, because you ran the hurdles together. That hallmark happiness of a GDA student becomes your own because you shared in every challenge with them. You fought together. Pulled your hair out together. Cried together. Did it. Together.
Why are GDA students so happy? Because they conquer expectations put on them by educators and parents who believe in them more than they believe in themselves. And they’re doing it on a daily basis.