Be your authentic self
If you want to know about the outcomes of an Oak Meadow education, there is no better place to start than with our alumni, now attending some of the most prestigious high schools in Massachusetts (and the nation). Over the last nine months, I have been able to meet with alumni at nine different high schools in this area. Our young alumni have developed capacities of self-awareness, insight, perspective, and substantive confidence that are truly impressive.
Just last week, I met with a group of alumni now attending Groton School. Here’s what they told me about their experience at Oak Meadow:
- The transition to Algebra was easy because I already knew that material from Oak Meadow. Mr. Wilkins helped us to think deeply about math concepts. All of that preparation in the early Montessori years, building from the concrete to the abstract, also helped to embed those logical patterns in my head.
- One of the best aspects of an Oak Meadow education is the multi-age classrooms, where you get to interact with and learn from older students, as well as mentor younger students. That experience served me well when I got to Groton, because that’s exactly the way things work in high school.
- I appreciated the focus on creativity at Oak Meadow. That provided me with experiences that have helped me develop as a learner.
- What I loved most about Oak Meadow was the independence. We had engaging lessons and had lots of opportunities to think deeply and ask questions.
- Some people understand that Montessori education includes working at your own pace. It’s more than that. The teachers helped us learn to be self-motivated and self-directed by challenging us to work hard and reach outside of our comfort zone and realize more of our potential.
I also asked these graduates to share any insights they might have to help our middle school students as they begin to take the first steps in exploring the high school options, visiting schools, and preparing for interviews. Here’s what they shared with me:
- As students begin thinking about high school, what’s most important is to know what you are passionate about as a learner.
- Look for opportunities for leadership as you go through middle school. Participate in something outside of school that is important to you, whether that’s sports or arts or service or something else that matters to you.
- What’s important in the high school enrollment process is demonstrating what you are interested in, how you want to continue to grow, and why a particular school is a good fit in terms of your demonstrated skills and future aspirations.
- Prepare for the interview. Practice doing interviews with teachers and adults at Oak Meadow.
That advice from our alumni matched perfectly with the counsel from a panel of high school admissions officers and an Oak Meadow alumna who were at our school last Wednesday night, as part of the annual Secondary School Night for parents and students. The panelists represented Chapel Hill -Chauncy Hall, Middlesex School, The Putney School, Lawrence Academy, and Concord Academy. The event is designed as an opportunity for our parents and students (in Upper Elementary and Middle School) to become better acquainted with the process in looking at schools, taking tours, interviewing, and submitting applications.
Here are some of the comments shared by admissions directors and an alumna last week:
- Be your authentic self. Don’t try to fit someone else’s mold.
- In the high school admissions process, we’re not looking for kids who try to fit into our school. We want kids who know who they are. This also turns out to be what’s most important when you look for a college as well. (Going thorough this process now will be an advantage to you when you apply for college in four years!)
- What are you interested in? What would you like to try in high school? Why?
- Which high school gets you most excited about what is offered socially, emotionally, and intellectually?
- How would you define your ideal high school?
- Who are you now as a learner? Who do you aspire to become as a learner?
- Developing a sense of ownership of your own learning is the key.
Is it really possible for students to develop this level of self-awareness and authentic confidence by the time they graduate from middle school? I believe it is absolutely possible, and even inevitable at an independent Montessori school like Oak Meadow. Our teachers are dedicated to knowing children as individuals and helping them discover more of their own potential. Every child is capable of achieving a higher level of cognitive, social, and emotional intelligence than they may have imagined possible. As teachers at Oak Meadow, we set our sights on helping children discover more about themselves, master essential knowledge and skills, and embark on lives of meaning and purpose.
This turns out to be exactly what the most selective high schools and colleges in the US are looking for in prospective students.