Dr. Douglas J. Lyons, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools, spoke to guests Thursday evening in the Healey Family Center for Innovation as part of the ongoing Derby Academy Speaker Series.
His presentation, “Return on Investment: Why an Independent School Education is Worth the Cost,” discussed the significance of the school environment and the role emotional development can play in life-long learners.
The impact of the school, prior to the development of social maturity, is critically influential in the growth of a child, Dr. Lyons stressed. For young children, any type of anxiety impedes learning. If a child is in a classroom setting where they feel known, cared about, and supported by their peers and teachers, they develop the emotional, social, and academic skills to thrive in an ever-changing society.
His lecture shared research and personal anecdotes from the 40 years he spent working with students and families, illustrating the influences that shape a child’s journey from innocence to maturity.
“My life’s work convinces me that what happens here at this school, the work that is done here, is infinitely more consequential than the work done at Yale. My friends who are Yale professors agree. Why? It is rare that a child discovers a love of learning after she has been admitted to Yale.”
Dr. Lyons then referenced a survey conducted by Independent School Management
in 2009 as the market declined, asking independent school parents why they re-enrolled their child at their chosen school. Parents reported their four greatest influencers:
- The skill of the teachers and quality of the program.
- The role of the school as a counter-culture influence.
- Their child’s relationship with their teachers.
And most significantly:
- The safety their child feels – physically, emotionally, and socially.
Dr. Lyons concluded with the notion that as parents, there are only a few things we can give our children. One of which is an early start in learning. Invest now, because it better to grow a 15-year-old who is an optimistic, tenacious learner who will flourish, as opposed to a kid who went through a program with a somewhat joyless experience, he stressed.
He then paraphrased a quote from a children’s book asserting the value of a happy childhood: It hangs around your neck like a rainbow and it will forever color how you see the world. “These are the years when we have the most impact on children and their adult lives.”