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January 2009 Archives

Finding, Training, Committing-To and Retaining the Best Teachers

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There's never a shortage of holy grail pursuits in education. "How do we reach all students; is there any way to make sure that all students achieve; and, can we possibly provide equal opportunity/education for all" are just three of the larger issues. Connected to these three are the never ending questions of finding and retaining the best teachers. Can we identify and keep good teachers in the profession and how can we do this?

President Obama's campaign talked about education and the reality that America will need two million or so new teachers during the coming decade. This means that public education will get substantial stage time over the next few years.

"The country needs a massive education overhaul, and better teachers will be the most important element in that overhaul. Spending more and attracting able teachers is the best way to use resources to improve the human capital of our children and the future of our nation." (Glaeser, Boston Globe)
We must find, train and retain the best teachers because the strongest correlation to student success is- as best as we can tell- is quality of teacher:

"The clearest result from decades of education research is the importance of teacher quality. My colleague Tom Kane finds that students who are lucky enough to get a teacher in the top quarter of the teacher-quality distribution jump 10 percentile points in the student achievement distribution relative to children who end up with less able teachers. Improving teacher quality has about twice the impact on student outcomes as radically reducing class size." (Glaeser, Boston Globe)
Suddenly, in my reading the topic, pops up everywhere. Each article comes out the same research with each author adding a perspective or twist:

Most Likely to Succeed

Studying Schooling

Want better schools? Hire better teachers

Recruiting, retraining a new type of teacher

Summarized, there is no way to identify good teachers as they graduate from colleges and enter the classroom. Certification and an imprimatur from an ed school bears no relationship to a teachers quality and effectiveness.  

"The real variance was within the programs: each trained some stellar teachers, each trained some duds. A teacher's abilities, or lack thereof, become clear only over time. Thus, Kane argued, tenure review should begin only after the district has enough data to tell whether a novice teacher could ever become an old pro. Kane wouldn't remove the certification barrier entirely, he says, but he does advocate "moving the dam downstream, to where we actually have some information." (Harvard Magazine, Studying Schooling)
The best way to identify good teachers seems to be to apply the methods that the corporate sector uses. Hire larger classes of new hires- even those with degrees in subject matter as opposed to just education; train them; provide feedback and support; develop clear performance measures; promote, advance and pay the successful teachers letting the less successful go or remain in reduced roles- just like the private sector.

Teachers working with students is more valuable and important to professional advancement than a diploma or certification.

Gladwell's New Yorker article is the most readable and fun on the subject. I most enjoyed the analogy that likens finding a good teacher to finding a good NFL quarterback. Everybody looks good coming out college and entering the profession. But only the job itself can find and separate those who excel at it from those who will only be good, or, wash out of the profession all together. College is a training ground providing only minimal insight into real world success.  
Of course the NFL benefits from having plenty of money to finance developing and putting its talent pool through the learning period.

I love the idea of bringing the best and the brightest into teaching and having them work like hell to become great teachers. Then, I take a deep breath and say "damn, we've got long way to go; how can we pay for this?"

In my experience, the world has a very small supply of adults who find school age children interesting enough to spend the whole day with; there just doesn't seem to be a deep resevior of adults who want to work with children. Two, teaching is a low status profession and this cultural position is very difficult to overcome. Increased teacher pay could help by- at the minimum- demonstrating that teaching is a valued, important, fundamental piece of our society.  

And, third, the concept of tenure. In private schools, I never worked under a tenure system. And, bluntly, the whole concept of tenure for a school teacher strikes me as odd. As I understand it, tenure exists at the collegiate level to protect academic freedom keeping professors (with terminal degrees) from having to shape their research and publications to the desires of their department or school. Other than freedom from parental pressure, I don't understand the role of tenure in public school setting.

Finally and most importantly, if we want to demonstrate the value of great teachers by making them well-paid professionals, where will the money come from?

These are some heady hopes and dreams to pin on the Obama administration as they come to power short on cash.

From Sneakers and the NBA Back to His Alma Mater

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It's now about the kids for Seth Berger. After building, then, selling And1- the athletic shoe and gear company- Berger has returned to Westtown School outside Philadelphia as basketball coach.  

As he tells the Philadelphia Enquirer (Seth Berger, from And1 to Westtown), "It is absolutely a total, total fantasy." Berger understands the school's mission and values and, as one of his players tells it, he lives for easy shots as opposed to the high flying style of And1's marketing.

Berger doesn't shy away from his NBA resources and experiences. He seems to have made a complete transition now loving and inhabiting his new role: "...I'm just a sneaker head like anybody else. Today, I'll wear Adidas at practice." (Philladelphia Enquirer)

Happenings at Asheville School

Part of my social media workshop with the Asheville School, a coed boarding school in Asheville, NC, will result in the production of an episode of AQ's Boarding School Podcast.

I'll take the group through the basics of preparation and production, but before coming to campus I asked the school's Director of Admission to send me a list of happenings at Asheville. There's lots of great stuff (see the list below) and one of them will serve as the topic for our podcast conversation. I hope to post it to the site next week- stay tuned.

I"ll keep you up to date on how the winnowing of topics and production progresses. Until then, checkout the list below and give the folks at Asheville a shout to learn more about the school.

Happenings at Asheville School
  1. Civil Rights Day ( teacher organized day of speakers and seminars)

  2. Frank DeFord coming to campus (prominent sports writer)

  3. The Shakespeare troupe coming to campus to perform As You Like It

  4. The trustee meeting next weekend (setting tuitions)

  5. Sandy London coming to campus (world hunger and child deprivation journalist)

  6. Accepted students return to campus for Comeback Weekend!

  7. Asheville School student, Kayla Bacon, participates in Inauguration Day in Washington DC

  8. Asheville School Offers Unique approach to teaching the Humanities
Thanks to Mark Montgomery of Great College Advice for allowing us to host this edition of the Carnival of College Admission.

Welcome, all. This edition of the carnival seems to have expanded a bit. We've got some perspectives on on-line courses, life-long learning, and, quite timely, spending and money management during college.

Like most endeavors, having a plan increases one's chances of success. These resources are great places to begin you planning.

College Admission
Paying for college is at the fore of every college bound students planning. Never simple college financing requites some planning and thought. Eric Perron offers his warnings on the temptation to tap retirement accounts as part of paying for college; he suggests, don't. Read Erics thinking at:

Perron presents Paying for College from Retirement Accounts? Please Reconsider! posted at Dream Strategy.

I love the honesty of this approach: Good Colleges for B Students. This article is exactly what it says it is. Good and great places to go to school if you're not a perfect student. Ted presents Good Colleges for B Students posted at CampusGrotto.

More and more colleges are looking to Twitter as a way to forge deeper relationships with their constituents. Has your school or college followed suit? Steve Ritchie at edSocialMedia provides excellent thoughts on Using Twitter for Recruitment.

Choosing the Right College
Four basic thoughts as you begin to choose a college- "How To Select The Best University For You"

Richard Adams presents How To Select The Best University For You posted at Reading Berks.

Admitted Students & College Life
Deryl Sweeney at dormbuys writes about opportunities to confront challenges and grow beyond one's comfort zone. He presents Are the Roadblocks in Your Life Real? posted at 2East: The College Living Blog.

While personal growth and understanding are certainly goals of the collegiate experince, making yourself marketable in today's job market is indispensable. Dawn Papandrea introduces readers to "personal branding." "What do you stand for? What sets you apart from your competition? What are your unique attributes? How do you represent yourself online and offline?" Dawn Papandrea presents CollegeSurfing Insider » So What is Personal Branding Anyway? posted at CollegeSurfing Insider.

Every School has always had it's oddball courses that some of us just had to take. It makes perfect sense that, with the advent of on-line courses, two things would happen. First the number of offbeat courses would grow and, second, someone would kindly gather a list of all the oddball courses they could find. Thank you Heather Johnson. Heather presents 100 Weirdest Open Courseware Classes That Anyone Can Take posted at Online Best

Yes, college educating and teaching aren't always perfect and the education isn't always clearly and directly meaningful. PicktheBrain offers seven suggestions for improving collegiate education. PicktheBrain presents 7 Ideas for Rejuvenating Education posted at Universities and Colleges.

Spending, building credit, and credit cards are part of the college game not to be taken lightly. Being able to pay one's bills is serious business. Money Blue Book provides some reasons for pause as you see that next credit card offer in the mail. MBB presents College Students Apply For Student Credit Cards posted at Money Blue Book Finance.

An additional take on student credit cards, responsible spending, and college money tips is available at: Best Student Credit Cards posted at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity.

Indispensable in tight times, Vincent Mackey provides a primer on preparing for job interviews at College - U. Got It? Yes, interviews require preparation and homework. Read his post, College - U. Got It? Preparing For Your Job Interview, at College - U. Got It?.

Leaving college is much like leaving a job. It used to be that we cleaned out our desks, said goodbye, and turned out the lights. It's more complicated than that now. At SquaredPeg Brad J. Ward, offers a basic plan for leaving your workplace/school cleanly- Transitioning out of a job.

Nearing the end of your undergraduate degree and thinking about law school? Surfer Sam provides a quick hit list on things to know and consider and expect when thinking about law school. Sam presents The Real Dope on Law School posted at Surfer Sam and Friends.

College will keep your brain sharp while you're there but what happen later in life when your brain and your body get softer. Keep your brain fit with puzzles, reasoning and memory exercises at SharpBrains. Alvaro Fernandez presents Brain Teaser to Exercise your Memory and Reasoning Skills posted at SharpBrains: Your Window into the Brain Fitness Revolution.

Online Degrees
Traditional Seat time isn't the only way to earn a degree. blog offers a gathering of on-line degree programs in a variety of fields. College Degrees presents Educatione your children, earn a degree online posted at TheCollegeDegrees.Com Blog.

Lifelong Learning
Few American have a single career throughout adulthood and each time we make a change we might require further education, or further education might prompt one to make a career change. Education expenses are part of the American tax code. Explore education tax credits at:

Education Tax Credits: Hope & Lifetime Learning Credits posted at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity.

National Library Week- who knew. Holly McCarthy offers 100 ways to celebrate April 12-18: 100 Terrific Websites to Celebrate National Library Week posted at Online Best

iPhone as Organizer
For connoisseurs of iPhone apps: Top 20iPhone Apps for Overwhelmed Students Margaret Garcia presents Top 20 iPhone Apps for Overwhelmed Students posted at Phlebotomy Technician Schools.
Stephanie Portillo, a Spanish teacher at Randolph-Macon Academy recently received the Air Force Association's Medal of Merit and the Veterans of Foreign Wars' National Citizenship Education Teacher Award. She has taken her personal dedication to her students.

Drawing on her own school service experiences, she now works to instill the understandings and responsibilities of volunteering in her students. Portillo coordinates R-MA's extensive student service programs- Interact-Community Service.

Portillo's grounds her message and lessons in the belief that contribution doesn't require money. Time, commitment, and hard work provide the strongest foundation for valuable service. She explained to the Northern Virginia Daily, "We try to teach the kids that, above all, this is not about cutting a check....and, we try to teach the kids that while donations are needed, if we roll up our sleeves and help out, it doesn't have to involve money."

Armed with the understanding that their efforts make a difference, these high school students carry the knowledge that they can contribute through their lives.

"You are planting a seed that is multiplying," Portillo said.
It's not boarding school admission, but it's an interesting read about the different ways and roads to want what's best for you kids.

Lisa Belkin contributes a nice synthesis of a parent's takes on the college admission craziness. In her post to the New York Times Motherlode column she brings together three perspectives that circle around:

"Who is right? The parent who sees the application process as a life experience, and thinks that offering a crutch might help them now, but cripple them in the future? Or the parent who says "we're not in Kansas anymore," and feels that all the work put in and learning done during high school will not be enough without advice and guidance on navigating the increasingly competitive system?"
Her piece contains links to three other pieces.

Photo credit: Aaaron Michael Brown
My apologies for having dropped off the internet for a few weeks. We live in that part of New England that was left without power for almost two weeks in mid-December due to a particularly vengeful ice storm. The upside was that school vacation began seven days early. The downside was that we were distracted from writing blogs and focusing on school applications by stoking the fires and sitting in the car to charge our cell phones.  

Our daughter was scheduled to have her SSATs privately administered the day after the storm struck. She did that as the consultant had a wood stove and kerosene lamps, so we figured our daughter would at least be warmer than she would at home. However, she didn't score as well as expected, which we hope is due to the unusual circumstances and not an inaptitude for test taking. This meant that last Saturday, at the last possible session, she took the SSATs again. This also meant that a precious three hours were lost in the final weekend before applications were due.

Having decided to apply to five schools, none of which have similar essays, she got to work. We were impressed by her diligence in writing essays, editing and re-editing them. Her self-discipline and initiative were in marked contrast to our son's procrastination and seeming disinterest. She agonized over her most memorable day, what she hopes to gain from boarding school and which photographs to attach. My husband and I agonized over the parents' statements and breathed a lot in the face of helping her manage her anxiety over presenting herself as well as possible. As the deadline approached this week, we at last wrote the checks and sent the applications off.

The interviewing and applying has consumed such a large part of our fall that while we all feel much lighter having the process behind us, we will also miss the fun of learning about new schools. We have been blessed to meet so many interesting and impressive students and admissions officers during this journey. Now we wait until mid-March...

To maintain privacy and confidentiality, our author writes under the pen name "Boarding School Mom" and all family, child consultant, and school names will be changed or omitted. You can reach AQ's Boarding School Mom at [email protected]. 

The UK has it's own financial mess on its hands- much like ours with over valued and leveraged real estate and the loans behind real estate purchases gone south- with pound sterling headed south in a directly proportional relationship.

So what does this mean to American boarding schools? For years American boarding schools have been recruiting students overseas and international students have become part of the boarding school fabric. If this Reuters' article (Elite schools seek strength in sterling's weakness) is correct and English schools seriously pursue a larger international population, it adds element of competition for international students for American boarding schools.

Richard Murphy, a research economist at the Center for the Economics of Education, told Reuters:

"The pound has weakened against the yen by 40 percent since January last year, so we expect more foreign students from Asia...It will be harder for U.S. private schools to attract foreign students, the demand will be bigger for private schools in the UK because of the good exchange rate..." (Reuters)
Also from the article, "Dominic Scott, Chief Executive of the UK Council for International Students' Affairs, said he expected increasing numbers of well-off students to come to private schools in Britain, especially from China, Malaysia and Singapore."

Increasing competition for international student will require American boarding schools to hone their messages and make their strengths sharper than ever. American schools- public and private- are still the best in the world at educating and nurturing the widest range of kids imaginable.
Having taught Toni Morrison's Beloved a few times, I found this new take on bringing it to classroom very thoughtful, but in the end, reflective of the challenges of bringing any great work to students.

Ian Shapira writes about teaching Tony Morrison to an AP class at Cardozo High School in DC in an article titled, "Tackling Toni Morrison: Obama-Generation Readers See Civil Rights Era With Different Eyes:"  

Of course the students grumble about the time and narration shifts: who's talking now; where are we? But, what's most interesting is the notion that students' reading lenses and perspective are becoming post-racial:

"Young students tend to read Morrison from a less overtly racial perspective and might not be drawn instinctively to literature about historical subjects such as slavery or segregation, said Eleanor Traylor, a Howard University professor and friend of Morrison's who is teaching "A Mercy" to graduate students.

"I grew up in the civil rights generation, the Black Arts Movement, but these kids have another driving force: They have Barack Obama, for God's sake," Traylor said. "Young people today have been delivered from exclusive paradigms and read with a broader vision of the world and a less restrictive lens."
If we really have grown into a post racial world and our relationships and connections have become more fluid, then building webs of meaning and understanding when we read Morrison or call our neighbors down the street may become less historical and more focused on our acts and the question 'what does this (my action, my relationships, you name it) mean now, today and how does fit or work with everything connected to it?'

The world may have just gained several layers of complexity.

Photo credit: wpwend42

To follow up on Brian's earlier post about Culver Academies impressive string of Presidential Inaugural Parade invites (dating back to the Wilson inauguration), I found the Youtube video below that features Culver's Black Horse Troop & Equestriennes as they proudly rode past President & Mrs. Obama's viewing platform.

Our congratulations again to the Culver riders. To witness and participate in such a historic represents once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

New York Times reporter Martin Fackler quotes a phrase that many of us in the tuition driven world know but seldom utter; "Korea (South) experienced a study-abroad bubble." In his January 10, 2009 article "Global Financial Crisis Upends the Plans of Many South Koreans to Study Abroad," Fackler elucidates the now fading convergence of the strong won and competitive desires of Korean parents that came together to create what I call a study abroad migration.

Fackler cites a Korean Education Ministry figure of 350,000 South Korean students studying abroad in 2007 with the largest contingent in the United States.

"South Koreans have become the largest group of foreign students in the United States, according to American government statistics, outnumbering even those from China, with a population much larger than South Korea's 48 million people."  (Fackler, NYT)
American boarding schools and colleges & universities have enjoyed strong numbers of full-tuition Korean students seeking experiences and advancement through western style education. But this well of relied-upon tuition may be beginning to dry-up.

Korean families are now assessing and scrutinizing study abroad opportunities in light of the weak wan and global financial crisis. The competitive desire to keep-up and advance still drives many families, but it's being tempered by reality. One year programs have become more attractive for families that can still afford an international experience.

Some academics worry about the possibility of increasing inequality with only the wealthiest families sending their students abroad.

"Upper-middle-class families will still have the ability to send their children abroad, even if it means great sacrifice," said Oh Ookwhan, a professor of education at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. "This will allow them to stay ahead of less fortunate families."
Don't miss the current wealth of up and coming mens' basketball talent in the 2009 prep school class. The Rivals 150 list of top prospects includes no fewer than 20 boarding school students from boarding schools such as Tilton School, Brewster Academy, South Kent School, St. Mark's SchoolHargrave Military Academy, Patterson School, Oak Hill Academy, Christ School, Miller School and International Management Group's  IMG Academy.

Hargrave has four students in the top 150, Oak Hill & Brewster have three, while Tilton, Christ and Patterson each have two players in the Rivals 150 list.

If you enjoy high level basketball and have the opportunity to take in a game with these teams we certainly recommend it. Seeing these players and teams is easiest in the NEPSAC Class A level.

Visit the NEPSAC home page for schedules, scores and information on all NEPSAC sports.

Photo credit: e453753

For the past few months, Brian tracked Florida State's (& The Hun School's) Myron Rolle and his application for a Rhodes Scholarship during the heart of the college football season. If you missed his posts, you can read them here & here.

Just this week Myron formally announced his decision to postpone entering the NFL draft in favor of accepting the prestigious scholarship and heading to Oxford for the year to pursue a Masters in Medical Anthropology.

ESPN's Chris McKendry caught up with him during yesterday's SportsCenter and they discussed his plans for the next year at Oxford, the NFL and his post-playing career ambition to become a Neurosurgeon with the intent of creating a free health clinic in the Bahamas.

He's a young man with a clear vision on how he can positively impact communities around the world- to demonstrate such a sharp focus at his (or any) age impresses me to no end.

You can watch the entire interview below:

Former Kimball Union Academy & Brewster Academy Athletic Director Bill Pottle received the NEPSAC Distinguished Service Award in mid-December. "The NEPSAC Distinguished Service Award is given annually to the individual who has contributed significantly to New England Independent School Athletics and Physical Education through enthusiasm, dedication, leadership and vision." Bill is easily one of the top two administrators that I worked with.
Update: Checkout this post (Video of Culver Academies' Black Horse Troop and Equestriennes Riding in the Inaugural Parade) to watch the Culver students ride past President Obama's viewing stand during the Inaugural Parade.

The Black Horse Troop and Equestriennes from AQ Member School, Culver Academies received an invitation and will participate in the Obama-Biden Presidential Inaugural Parade January 20th. This will be the 15th time that the team has participated in the inaugural parade.

The Boys' Black Horse unit counts 14 inaugural parades with the Girls' unit totaling five previous appearances. Culver's participation in inaugural parades dates back to Woodrow Wilson's inaugurals.

Learn more about this honor by reading Culver's press release on the Troop inaugural participation.

The Washington Post ran a piece highlighting the rise of online interviews in the admission process.

The online interview isn't well-established and still faces some technology hurtles. Not all families have the technology readily available and admission office staffs need some convincing and prodding to learn new ways of communicating with applicants.

The web interview certainly offers the prospect of saving families travel dollars.

One of the largest hurdles to more online interviews seems to be admission office reluctance and unfamiliarity with the technology.

I'm guessing efficiency will win out in the end.

With respect to boarding schools, anyone participate in an online interview (either as an interviewer or interviewee)? I'd love to read your impressions- chime in below.

Faculty Who Connect: Perhaps the Greatest Private School Strength

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It's a bit of a feel-good story- student who was a complete pain in the a**; returns to his alma matter after becoming successful; thanking the faulty member who reached out and connected; and making a sizable donation.

From Dirk Johnson's New York Times article:

"In the early 1980s, James J. Liautaud was a trouble-making student at Elgin Academy who ranked near the bottom of his high school class. He drank beer. He smoked cigarettes. He skipped class.

The dean, James Lyons, recognized the rebellion as insecurity, and saw what others did not - a student from a financially struggling family, trying to fit in at a prestigious school among wealthier, more polished peers. The dean, who had a working-class upbringing himself, put his job on the line. "If he goes," he told the faculty, "I go."
Faculty connection is a great strength of private schools- boarding and day. Faculty connect; nurture; and find the diamonds in the rough- even when it takes some patience, effort and risk.

As Mr. Liautaud told the Times, "It's a real simple deal...Jim Lyons believed in me."

The rough diamonds don't always turn out to be as wildly financially successful as Mr. Liautaud, but the number of rough diamonds uncovered, nurtured and smoothed by dedicated private school faculty is countless.
An odd thing during these times of declining endowment income- several New England colleges are doing OK. In a Boston Globe piece several smaller tuition driven schools report that the relationship with their students and school growth haven't yet changed much. They're used to offering good value and opportunities- funded predominately with tuition dollars. Smaller endowment income never allowed them to grow beyond defined means.

Ronald Champagne, president of Merrimack College told the Boston Globe:

"In these hard economic times, institutions that relied heavily on their endowments, like Harvard, suffered the greatest losses in terms of impact on their operating budget...In a sense, we have a blessing in disguise."
A boarding school head recently expressed similar sentiment during a conversation- explaining that he was used to covering all of his school's expenses with tuition dollars. With fewer dollars, there would of course be cuts and reductions and he's prepared several budget drafts based on varying enrollments. But, he said, the big schools who've become used to supplementing operating costs with endowment income will be pinched the hardest. In some cases, well endowed schools have developed high fixed overhead that isn't easily adjusted downward during tight times.

Experience living with one's means has it's advantages.

The number of boards and school heads addressing the tight economic climate and communicating with their constituencies honestly and directly on these matters- while not a solution- provides some measure of comfort. Tackling the issues honestly and directly beats all the options.

Applying On-line Doesn't Mean Waiting Until the Last Minute

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Tamar Lewin published a piece this past Wednesday in the New York Times covering the clog of applications in the pipes of on-line application systems.

We know from experience that a good number of families wait to submit their applications until the last possible moment. (We used to run the on-line application system that many boarding schools use.) Families often assume that submitting applications on-line allows them to submit applications later in the process and that it will always be glitch free.

Wrong. Give two seconds of thought to the topics and we can all think of a few possible problems- families dealing with an internet connection issue, credit card processing problems, forgetting to press the all important save button. You get the picture.

While on-line applications offer all sorts of advantages- convenience, easy editing, etc. Don't wait until 11:59PM of the application deadline. Be prudent; give yourself some padding and extra time.

Kents Hill School Slideshow

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Right before Christmas I visited Kents Hill School to record a podcast and shoot a series of short video interviews with students. Both will be available soon, but in the meantime, I whipped together a slideshow of the photos I took while touring campus. The school, by the way, is set on a beautiful piece of land that enjoys clear views of the White Mountains some 90+ miles away.

I must give credit for the format to Tod Baker at the International School of Tianjin. His blog post, Photos Spark Movies that Spark Actions (Part 1), served as the motivation for converting photos into a slideshow video. Thanks Tod!

Walking Tour of Kents Hill School from Peter Baron on Vimeo.

You can view the complete collection of photos from my day on campus on Flickr.
I've always been a fan of promoting from within; it tells so much about an organization and its people. The Daily Progress published a story about Blue Ridge School's (St. George, VA) coming transition at the head's position. These transitions occur all the time. Blue Ridge's confidence, perspective and understanding make this one a worthy story.

Blue Ridge knows who they are, what they do, and, it seems, the faculty internalize the Blue Ridge way. The school announced that John O'Reilly, the school's assistant headmaster for academics will replace Dave Boulton at the end of the school year. His promotion is part of " a succession plan put together by the school's board and administrators to pick existing staff members for the right jobs."

As outgoing head, Mr. Bouton told the Daily Progress, "When you promote from within, you not only get people ready to hit the ground running, but you provide a sense of security. We're growing our own leaders."

"A Change of the Guard at Blue Ridge School"

Blue Ridge School is an independent, all-boys, all-boarding, college-preparatory school offering grades 9-12.
Twenty-two of my thirty-two years in independent schools were spent in day schools, some very good and some fairly mediocre, but all of them had good students with dedicated teachers. Their debate teams did well; the football teams reigned supreme. Most went on to colleges and parents were fairly pleased with their investment. However, it wasn't until I went to my first boarding school as an assistant headmaster that I realized that these are schools that take education to another level. And by that, I don't mean that boarding schools are repositories for more advanced placement or honors classes, nor am I suggesting that the college placement was any better. All of those are features of schools that can be found anywhere. Where a school defines itself is where its soul is, and the soul of a boarding school lies in its development of a unique community of adults and students all living together; sharing a common purpose as defined by the mission of that school. Such schools are places that are not defined by the culture of the immediate surrounding community but by the multitude of experiences of their students, many of whom come from regions of the country and the world unknown to the average independent day or public school student. Boarding schools are places where students develop an appropriate sense of independence that all parents inherently wish for our children. Boarding schools, by their very nature, encourage and guide their students to learn to develop those emotional intelligence skills we often find so elusive in a seventeen year-old.   

How these schools do this is something that can only be discerned by walking the campus and spending time listening and observing. Doing so, one will find, for the most part, motivated students with a common purpose happily engaged in the lives of each other. Artificial barriers to understanding and acceptance tend to disappear; social cliques can be rare; and intellectual risks can be taken without fear. The possibilities for expanding the education of a child beyond the classroom are enormous. As an example, I often think of a boy who came to us some years back as a sophomore from a local public school. We soon found that he had an extraordinary voice, but his talent had been unrecognized by his school. Freshmen rarely get recognition for their talents in large schools, often because they are too fearful to even attempt to share their talent. Yet, he was auditioning for our school musical and, yes, he had an extraordinary voice. He went on to become the highlight of our entire theater program and is now on a full scholarship studying opera at a conservatory back East. I do not believe this would have happened had he not transferred to a boarding school like ours.  

Imagine a place where your son or daughter rooms with a student from Malawi or Kiev. Imagine students with a range of religious backgrounds living in the same hall together. If we have learned anything of the events of this new century, it is that the days of cultural isolation are over - we are all so interconnected. It is inevitable that our children, when they become adults, will be faced with a completely different kind of world - a world that requires a different sort of individual. I am not certain children can learn that worldview without venturing beyond the block they live on. Boarding school students experience the world through classmates and teachers who come from cultures and places different from their own. They are poised for success in the new, global environment. Experience a boarding school and you will understand.  

Leo Marshall serves as the Director of Admission and Financial Aid at The Webb Schools in Claremont, CA- a coed, boarding school offering grades 9-12.
Talk about perspective. Sports suffer from overuse as metaphor and insight into the model for life.  But, in this story, athletics is an end not the philosophy, thinking, or means and the latter three provide the crux of the story.  

Kevin Laue plays basketball at Fork Union Military Academy. FUMA plays great basketball- teams comprised of PG's and younger athletes many of whom are headed to NCAA Division I or very strong lower division programs. Mr. Laue's athletic talent is great enough to play at this level driven by the desire to earn a Division I basketball scholarship. He's 6'10" with size 17 feet- averaging 6.9 points and 7.4 rebounds this season.

The perspective, Mr. Laue plays with only a right hand.

His parents provided the experiences and the opportunities and Mr. Laue has grown into quite a young man. He now finds himself the subject of a documentary film and providing a model and inspiration for others.

He's received recruiting letters from Division III schools, but he's still fighting to convince Division I coaches that he can play the highest level of college basketball.

You can read more about this young man and his story by reading a recent New York Times article.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2008 is the previous archive.

February 2009 is the next archive.

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