Charles Blow of The New York Times recently wrote an op-ed that captures well what great boarding schools doand what I’ve seen here these last two years. Blow writes in response to a study about colleges but I would argue that a learning environment like the one he describes is even more relevant in the high school years than in college and is more likely to happen in a boarding school than in a day school:
—teachers who go the extra mile, because they love to, not because they are forced. That extra mile takes the form of teachers getting to know students individually and knowing and thinking about what makes teenagers tick. Great teachers are often like sociologists and anthropologists in the way they approach their classroom, their advisee group, their cast, dorm or team. Boarding schools, particularly those that hold on to the teacher-coach-dorm parent/advisor model, create more opportunities for faculty to learn about students and “earn the right to be heard” by them
—develop student confidence that creates a positive feedback loop—which great teachers and coaches intentionally disrupt to point out, firmly and clearly and gently, that not everything that comes out of a student’s mouth, pen, or computer is great just because the student said or wrote it (it’s not good for students if we become a place where everyone gets a blue ribbon just for showing up, trying out, or auditioning)
Here’s an excerpt from Blow:
surrounded by professors who were almost parentally protective and proud of me — encouraging me to follow my passions (Yes, start that magazine, Charles), helping me win internships, encouraging me to go away and work for a semester, and cheering me on as I became a member of a fraternity and editor of the student newspaper. And, because of them, I emerged from college brimming with confidence — too much at times, depending on whom you ask — and utterly convinced that there was nothing beyond my ability to achieve, if only I was willing to work, hard, for it.
And here is the study that prompted the column in the first place.