Letter From the Head of School
Whether this is your first time visiting the Pilot School’s website or you are a veteran parent of a Pilot student, I’d like to invite you to join me in a (re)consideration of the way we think about, plan for, nurture, and cultivate the minds of children who learn differently.
As parents, you may have been told a narrative about your child, one rife with milestones, benchmarks, grade levels, and checklists. Unfortunately, the prevailing stories that exist about students who learn differently are built on a deficit mindset, one that focuses on what a student can’t do, on where gaps exist, and on quantifying the distance to “typical.” It is natural for a parent to want their child to be successful in the classroom, to effortlessly navigate school years, and to seamlessly build confidence along the way. When we hear that our child isn’t doing any one of those things, it can feel scary, alarming, frustrating, and discouraging. But often left unconsidered in those discussions of progress is the fact that the typical markers of achievement are narrowly focused and leave mountains of unchecked strengths and skill sets.
So I welcome you to challenge the notion of “typical” and instead consider what outstanding, extraordinary success can look like. Steven Spielberg. Richard Branson. Agatha Christie. Leonardo DaVinci. Muhammad Ali. Anderson Cooper. Ann Bancroft. Charles Schwab. Steve Jobs. The people on this list were not just “typically” successful. They were (or are) extraordinarily successful. And the only thing that they have in common is that they all learned differently. More importantly, many of them specifically credit their successes to their learning differences. They harnessed the advantages of their unique minds to think outside of the box, to imagine atypical solutions, to observe the world in unusual ways, to work through problems in ways no one else did. That is the power of learning differently. It is in this light that we should think of our children who learn differently, too.
At Pilot, we work tirelessly on Unlocking the Potential. That means focusing on the maximum. The optimum. The furthest reaches of possible. Certainly, bringing students up to grade level is a stop along the way, but the bar must be set higher for our students with such uniquely gifted minds. I’ve spent my entire career working with students who learn differently, those from kindergarten to college age, and I can attest with great certainty to the power of “different.” Different minds require a different approach to education, one that is individualized, integrated, and intentional. We lower the barriers without ever lowering the bar. We revere the special, unique, different minds of our students, and it is with utmost respect for those minds that we teach them in a way that unlocks, unfolds, peels back, and lets loose. Without a doubt, discrete academic skills are vital: decoding, reading fluency, numeracy. As are executive functioning skills: organization, knowledge transfer, self-regulation. But equally important is creating, problem solving, abstracting, building, observing, synthesizing, empathizing. That is what we seek to unlock. That is the magic that happens at Pilot.
As you spend time on this website, you’ll hopefully learn more about the ins and outs of our approach, and about the possibilities that exist for your child at the Pilot School. What you cannot find on these pages, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss with you in person. My door is always open, and I look forward to working alongside you and your child.
In joyful partnership,
Dr. Alli Williams
Head of School