This has been a powerful new school season for me, my 17th at The Community School: my daughter Madeline, a senior, literally raised by the village that is the TCS community, is applying to colleges. We’ve toured and she’s interviewed at Bard, Skidmore, Hampshire, and Bennington, so far, with Sarah Lawrence, Haverford, Hamilton, and Williams on her list. Each campus experience was invigoratingly validating to Madeline as a student and me as a parent, but also, in some ways even more so, to me as the Director of The Community School.
Each interview ended with Madeline and the admissions rep walking toward me, smiles broad, with bounteous praise for Madeline’s schooling. From her fluency in Spanish to her service on our Standards Committee and School Board of Trustees, Czech Exchange in her junior year to her senior project plans, which include a half- year independent study to learn Arabic before working with a Syrian population outside Toronto, her experiences at TCS stood out as exceptional. Bard’s rep’s enthusiasm for our integrated math and science program was palpable. We have created a mix of 6-12 graders chosen for their problem-solving ability, passion for math or science, and curiosity, to learn and use everything from algebra I to calculus, cell biology to physics, in order to solve the real- world problem of how to provide food year-round in our climate by building a permaculture-based bio-shelter. He went so far as to ask for the syllabus in case there were elements Bard could integrate into their own program.
While doing some research this fall to support TCS’ path less taken, I noted that many colleges and employers want what we offer; that our slow down/dig deep philosophy is not unusual but increasingly essential. Trinity’s checklist for their admissions application readers contains the characteristics we’re nurturing here at TCS: curiosity, empathy, openness to change, ability to overcome diversity, risk taking, delayed gratification. Olin’s required two-day building challenge interview looks a lot like our integrated math and science class. MIT’s Maker Portfolio shares qualities of our new portfolio system, designed to have students showcase and reflect, over time, on their growth in areas above and beyond traditional academics, including critical thinking dispositions. Yale includes the option to submit a short video on the prompt describing, “A community to which you belong and the footprint you have left.” Think TCS kids would have any struggles with that application addition? No way! Colleges and employers and communities want our students. Why wouldn’t they? They’re bright, considerate, considering, alert, compassionate, nimble humans.
Also evident to me, as I undergo with my daughter this process of moving her into life beyond TCS and home, is the fact that our students are articulate and dialed in to the world around them. They carry a compassion for the plight of others, an understanding of how solving problems—large and small—will directly impact their own futures (as well as yours and mine), that collaboration is essential to understanding point of view—and vice versa. They know how to find information and totally get it that the days of memorizing from books are long gone, that the 21st century requires the ability to process information and use it. We must be active doers in this world of ours. And our kids are sure doing a lot.
Happily and importantly, it isn’t only Madeline who revels in and benefits from our work.
You can see what we’re up to simply by checking out our website or Facebook page. We update those almost daily with new photos, blog posts by kids, smidgens of info from me or other teachers. What you won’t see is that we need your support if this life-changing, world-changing, mind-blowing school is to reach those who want it, who need it, who will use it well. Your donation subsidizes the tuition our students can’t afford to pay, and thus, the future of The Community School. Carroll County has the second highest poverty rate in the state, at 10.5%. Most of our parents are self-employed or work in the service industry. Many people tell us with the best of intentions how amazing TCS is, and that if we only moved the school to a more affluent region, we’d have a waiting list for admissions. Abandoning this glorious place and these dedicated people is not who we are or what we want, so that leaves us relying on the generosity of you, our faithful, visionary, buoyant friend.
Will you support the insight and ingenuity of our teachers? Make learning a real thing–not a hypothetical? Keep the fires lit on Bunker Hill Road? We’d be so grateful if you’d be willing and able to send a donation, however large or small–one shot deal or once a month. You need to know that we can’t do this creative, ebullient, majestic work without you. You make all the difference.
With great fondness and gratitude,