Good read in this month's Psychology Today:
Even with children, development is not a mystery, says Susan Engel, a psychologist at Williams College. "It's a crystal ball. You just have to know how to read it." The trickiest part may be finding—or deliberately creating—situations most likely to elicit the traits you want to observe in action.
Not claiming that we "know how to read it," but we do see a lot in the Lower School of what Ms. Engel implies about forecasting who a boy is likely to turn out to be in the future based upon the character he displays as a younger boy. With a Honor Code, rigorous academics, a rotating schedule, discipline system within a spirit of freedom, and a single-sex enrollment among an achievement population, we certainly are guilty of "deliberately creating situations most likely to elicit the traits (we) want to observe in action" with these boys.
We often discuss our own practices within the school, criticising ourselves about better ways to deliver an education to these boys. While we may not air our laundry publicly, we wrestle over everything from the pros and cons of introducing iPads into the classroom and curriculum to what is the healthiest lunch for the boys at a fair price.
Similarly, we constantly entertain options and opportunities for specif students to maximize their time here, and where we find places for "deliberately creating situations" that better the chances for a boy to be encouraged to grow into the school's mission... for both his betterment and the school's, we try. Sometimes we don't do a very good job for some elusive reason, but it not for a lack of trying. Kids find their way, we think, within the structure and culture we offer more than they respond to our particular mandates.
Often, we see a student's character traits emerge within whatever activity is at hand, and in the incidences when we see his future state in comparison to who he was as a student here during one of these various processes/class discussions/teams, we much more often than not are not surprised at the result. Why? Because we saw his early character traits. In other words, we help, but much of what becomes of our students is the result of what each brings within the complexity and mystery of his own dynamics. Character traits support about everything that these boys do... or fail to do, in other words.