Surrounded by the colors, textures and shapes of children’s imaginations expressed in a vibrant art show, parents and visitors gathered on the center of Marymount of Santa Barbara’s Riviera campus recently to take part in a conversation between Head of School Andrew Wooden and Dr. Jennifer Freed.
Dr. Freed is an engaging speaker considered to be a thought leader on the topic of how children succeed. She has been featured on Good Morning America, National Public Radio, ABC and Fox News, and her own show called Freed Up on Voice America.
A licensed family therapist and educator for more than 25 years, the past clinical director at Pacifica University, Dr. Freed is the recipient of the 2009 Santa Barbara’s Local Heroes Award.
She is currently the co-founder/director of the highly successful teen program called Academy of Healing Arts (AHA!), which serves more than 2,000 families annually in California. AHA! is dedicated to the development of character, imagination, emotional intelligence and social conscience in teenagers, while helping them set goals, support their peers and serve their community. The Academy of Healing Arts was awarded Youth Program of the Year by the City of Santa Barbara in 2010, and AHA! is also the recipient of the 2010 Southern California Teen Coalition Teen Award in the category of Be the Change Award — a category that recognizes youth/teen groups/organizations working to help teens make a difference in the world or in their community through projects, activities or personal changes that make tangible differences.
The conversation that took place at Marymount was the second in a series of conversations designed to give parents and educators tools to help children develop skills they will need for success.
In November, the bestselling author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character came to speak at Marymount to discuss his research into the character traits that lead to success in children. In his book, Paul Tough mentions the work of Carol Dweck, one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation and a professor of psychology at Stanford University. Her research has focused on why people succeed and how to foster success.
Wooden started the afternoon conversation with a concept that is key to Marymount’s philosophy in education — instilling a growth mindset in students. It is a concept that Dr. Dweck identified in her book Mindset, and describes the difference between seeing challenges as an opportunity for improvement — a growth mindset — versus a set mindset that can be characterized as rigid expectations and definitions of success. In a set mindset, challenges or setbacks can be considered failures.
Dr. Freed continued on this theme of handling setbacks as adults and modeling resilience for children in very practical terms for the gathered audience at Marymount. She encouraged parents to admit mistakes to children and to express how they learned from those mistakes.
At the conclusion of the conversation between Wooden and Dr. Freed, a visiting father remarked, “This was so useful. I loved the parent support and education. Sometimes being a parent is not an easy job, and it is helpful to hear from the experts.”
“Marymount’s commitment to the individual child and to the vital partnership between school and parents in educating children has always been a strong point,” Wooden said. “Today, it is more important than ever before because we have the responsibility to prepare kids for a world that is changing quickly. Instilling 21st-century skills, hiring and training teachers to teach those skills, and partnering with parents to do so is happening at Marymount. We engage in dialogues like the one we had with Dr. Freed to help all of us do the best we can to serve the children in our care.”
Marymount is an independent coeducational school, junior kindergarten through eighth grade, on a picturesque 10-acre campus nestled on the Santa Barbara Riviera. Building on a 75-year tradition of excellence, the educators at Marymount have crafted a unique learning experience that blends mastery of core subjects with acquisition of the essential skills students need to navigate and be successful in a rapidly evolving world.
— Molly Seguel is director of admissions for Marymount of Santa Barbara.