It may feel like much about school life is pretty automatic. Your child attends the local school in the district and shares a class with anybody of similar age from the neighborhood. They generally learn the same topics at about the same pace as most other schools who follow the mandates of the Common Core. At the end of the year, they take a standardized test to make sure that the school is still performing according to expectations and they get promoted to the next grade level if they pass the class. What can be missing in this automaticity are relationships and intentionality, both of which can be difference-makers in the growth of young children and early adolescents.
When parents decide to exercise their choice and enter a private school admissions process, they are beginning a relationship with the school. Applications, conversations with admissions officers, student shadow days, open houses, standardized tests, and teacher recommendations are all elements used for schools and families to get to know one another. Together, they commit to answering the fundamental question: Will the child and family thrive in this learning community? Then, there is another choice point: the school may select the student, and the family, in turn, selects the school. This is exactly the same process that is used to bring new faculty members onto the campus. The result is that everyone in the independent school community - students, families, teachers, and staff - really wants to be there. Their investment in the life of the school and in the success of one another is deep and personal. They are unified in their commitment to cultivating positive relationships and to nurturing the growth of children.
The independent school community makes choices that we believe are in the best interests of children and that are in keeping with our school missions. We make choices about how we allocate our valuable resources of time, space, people, and money. For example, my school has been committed to “whole child”education since its founding in 1961. We believe that the integration of academics with social/emotional learning requires intentional time everyday. Students at our school begin each day developing positive relationships with peers, their project group members, lab partners and teammates. In the safe, supportive learning environment, students take risks, make mistakes, and grow from them. Prospective families ask if we adhere to Common Core. While Common Core may be a worthwhile lens through which to evaluate curriculum, our independence allows us to choose curriculum we believe causes growth for the students we have selected to be in our school.
The relationships formed in a mission-focused educational community and the intentionality of a program designed by expert faculty for the specific students in their classes has the greatest impact in the elementary and middle school years. In this environment, students develop their self-concept, their identities as learners and as contributors to their ever-expanding communities. They discover how to use the resources available to them - their teachers, their classmates, the internet. They grow to become self-aware, self-regulated, and self-advocates. They ask for help when necessary, defend their thinking with evidence, express their point of view. In addition to foundational knowledge, these fundamental skills woven into the fabric of their being will accompany students into high school and beyond. In fact, by the end of 8th grade, the ultimate goal is that the students possess the confidence to know that they will be successful in a variety of learning environments. Choosing to be intentional in the elementary and middle school years creates opportunities that can last a lifetime.
Take the next step in your relationship with Saint Andrew's, join us for an Open House or School Day Tour.