October 2019 – Dr. Connor Cook is new to ROBS this year, but he’s not new to the rhythm of middle school life. He held the same position at another private school in Houston prior to ROBS (where he also taught English and coached lacrosse).
Dr. Cook holds a doctorate in education, a master’s degree in literature, and a bachelor’s degree in political science. But his real expertise is kids, particularly those traversing the inelegance of middle school. Read what he has to say about it—from memories of his own experience to parenting advice to recommended reading.
What is your most memorable experience from middle school?
My most memorable experience from MS is the time I went to watch the Varsity Boys’ Lacrosse team practice on a Saturday in the Spring of 1995. I was in eighth grade, and I thought our lacrosse team was the coolest bunch of guys in the whole school. My dad dropped me off that morning, and I sat in the bleachers while the team practiced. The team inter-squad scrimmaged at the end of practice, and they needed another player, so Coach Sindler called me out of the stands to play attack. Luckily, I had my pads with me (I planned to shoot on the goals after they had left, so I had my stuff). Coach threw me a white team jersey, and I was playing lacrosse with the high school Varsity team, as an
What do you think is the hardest part of middle school?
Change. I have so much respect for our MS students. Their brains and bodies are changing each and every day during the most formative time in their lives. In MS, there are new social dynamics and academic pressures that don’t exist in Lower School, and it can be very difficult to figure that stuff out as an adolescent. I don’t know very many adults who would choose to go to their MS reunion—most would rather forget MS altogether. The quicker our kids can practice empathy, kindness, acceptance, and self-advocacy, the easier their MS lives will be. At the very least, I hope our kids know that they are known and cared for each and every day.
If you could give parents of middle schoolers one piece of advice, what would it be?
From the parent perspective in any given school situation, I would ask them to reflect on this question on a daily basis: are we preparing our kids for the path, or are we preparing the path for our kids?
You’re also teaching Reading-Writing Seminar for Eighth Grade. Name two books you think every person should read before they graduate eighth grade.
Homer’s The Odyssey. It tells almost every story that can be told, including a hero’s journey and a young man’s coming-of-age. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is also a great read for this age. It teaches us empathy, compassion, and wisdom in the face of extreme prejudice and adversity. But the best books for students are the ones they find interesting and read from cover to cover.
What would your students be surprised to know about you?
I love to play chess and guitar.
What does your work mean to you and what do you hope it means to others?
My work means the world to me. ROBS means the world to me. I get the opportunity to be on a team with smart, dynamic, faithful, kind people who want the best for kids. I have the best job in the world because it is focused on helping adults and kids be their best and learn for the betterment of our future. What could be better? What could be more important?