Through My Lens, January 2016

Many who know me or have been to my office have seen my collection of Pixar characters. In fact, I have two shelves full of toys from the studio’s movies Toy Story, Wall-E, Finding Nemo, and Cars, to name just a few! Recently, at the Golden Globe Awards, Pixar’s film Inside Out won as best animated feature film, and for anyone who has watched the movie, it provides a wonderful glimpse into the mind of a young person and the complexities of emotions many preteens and teenagers experience. It also sheds light on how our emotions as parents or educators can shape our hopes and desires for our students. This summer, I happened to read an article (linked: that explored what universities can learn from Pixar about emotions. Emma Jones, a lecturer in law at the Open University, states: “In Inside Out, it is emotions which are guiding Riley’s every waking moment and even influencing her dreams. They decide her reactions and create new actions, such as running away at a point where events seem overwhelming. But for centuries, stemming from the work of philosophers such as Plato and Descartes, emotions have been viewed largely as a series of reckless impulses that were unthinking and potentially destructive.”


As we begin 2016, fresh with possibilities and also coming to the end of our first semester of this Walnut Hill academic year, I urge families to look at this moment as an opportunity to engage in a larger conversation about hopes and aspirations. Explore the invitation to ask how things are going, where room for growth exists, and how to set goals for the second half of the school year. Many parents look to the marking period as an indicator of success. In fact, this represents only one moment in a student’s journey toward lifelong learning. We each have to come to find our place in the world, both personally and professionally, by realizing that our strengths and weaknesses are equal in relationship to our long-term desire to achieve and grow. When speaking with my 13-year-old son, I know that his frustrations are no different than those of any other student who wants to achieve success or excellence. Honoring those feelings while being supportive of where our kids are in their learning process is the best decision we can make as parents.

“In today’s society, the employability of graduates is high on the agenda and universities are expected to equip their students with professional and transferable skills that will smooth their transition into paid employment. Being in touch with, and able to manage, emotions adds an additional so-called ‘soft skill’ to the student’s repertoire. In contrast, being taught that emotion has no part in intellectual studies can lead to students’ suppressing emotions in a way which can be harmful to their personal development.”

This quote, again from Emma Jones, reiterates the work that we, as parents, teachers and caregivers, have to do. Preparing our students for success once they leave Walnut Hill is paramount to all the adults on this campus. Working with the students to communicate emotionally within themselves and to others is crucial to their development. It’s our responsibility, as the caring adults in their lives, to help them connect with us and with one another about their hopes, their dreams, and the “inside out” challenges of their daily experiences.