Monthly Archives: October 2009

5 Steps to a Better Interview!

You’ve requested materials, looked at websites, talked with your parents, and decided which schools you like. Now, it’s time for the dreaded interview. Needless to say you’re a little nervous. Here are five easy steps you can take to make your interview memorable (in a good way).

1. Smile and Introduce Yourself

It might be tempting to hang back and wait for the Admissions Counselor to ask your name or for your parents to introduce you. If you want to make a stellar first impression (and start your interview off on the right foot!) stand up when the Admissions Counselor walks into the room, stick your hand out and introduce yourself. Not only will you impress the counselor, you’ll probably chase away some of your nerves. As my former chorus teacher used to say, fake it till you make it.

2. Have Something to Say

There are a number of questions that Admissions Counselors usually ask. The questions vary depending on the school and the student, but there are a few that you can count on answering in nearly every interview. One of the most common is: Tell me a little bit about yourself. You have two options when you answer this question. You can smile shyly and tell them your name, where you’re from, and what you’re favorite subject is…or you can think about it ahead of time and wow them with an answer like “My name is Samantha. I’m in eighth grade. I’ve been passionate about dancing since I was five. I dance five days a week and my favorite type is jazz. My favorite thing about myself is my ability to make people laugh. I chose to come and look at Stoneleigh-Burnham because I love your website and the fact that I would have the chance to dance every day. “A thoughtful answer will show you really care about the interview and that you’ve thought about how you want to represent yourself.

3. Learn About the School Ahead of Time

If you know that a school has a great visual arts program, an excellent varsity soccer record, or a stellar English program before you interview, chances are the Admissions Counselor will be impressed. Some of my most memorable interviews have been with students who knew that Stoneleigh-Burnham was the result of a merger between five schools or that we have a strong visual arts program. If you take time to research the school ahead of time we will notice.

4. Dress Appropriately

Many private school students wear uniforms. If they don’t, chances are they have a stricter dress code than a public school. Be sure to ask about the dress code ahead of time…if you forget, don’t panic! Wear something on the conservative side. A longer skirt, khakis, polos, dress pants, dresses and sweaters are all appropriate. Remember, you want to make a good first impression!

5. Write a Thank You Note

Writing a thank you note is both polite and an excellent way to stay on an Admission Counselor’s radar. Send the note 1-2 days after your interview and be sure to spell the Admissions Counselor’s name correctly! Handwritten notes show that you appreciate the time they spent with you. A little goes a long way!

Happy interviewing!

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A Nice Surprise at the End of A Busy Week (and Weekend)

Last weekend we ended an intense week of Admissions Open House, Board of Trustees meetings and Family Weekend. It was all wonderful, but the pace of the week was fast and furious. I went to sleep very early on Saturday night when the campus fell quiet again! That said, I do have some impressions of the week that are probably worth sharing:

  • Open House is always fun. I get to talk about who we are and where we’re going; girls and their parents get to try out this environment to see if it feels right. I love to see the reactions of parents as they try to imagine their daughters in our school, and of the girls interacting with our students. Any prospective student is lucky to have parents who are seeking the right match for the right reasons. We get to do it again on November 11th.
  • Going through Family Weekend in Year Two is so much more gratifying this second time around! Finally, I know most, if not all, of the parents and can interact comfortably them. I love talking to them about their children’s growth and development, and now that I’ve been here for awhile I have witnessed that growth first hand and can speak about it specifically. I remember going to a soccer game last fall, chatting up what I thought was an SBS father on the sidelines — only to discover in short order that his daughter was on the opposing team! A real first year foible. By contrast, this year I have only had to work at getting to know the families of our new students. A nice change.
  • I have to comment on our performing arts presentation that happens perennially on Family Weekends. This fall the performances were particularly impressive, given our scant 5 weeks of practice before the performances. Kudos to the arts department for inspiring our students to such heights in so short a period of time. I’m still singing Fly Me to the Moon in my head and remembering Quincy’s strong voice belting it out. We all imagined we were in a smoky cabaret at midnight — and it was only 1pm in the afternoon!
  • Our Board of Trustees is terrific, and the school is fortunate to have so many people who care so deeply for it. They worked hard through their two days of meetings, and in between sessions emerged to interact with the school community. Formal dinner on Thursday night was a lot of fun with the students, and coffee and Richardsons’ chocolates were served after dinner in the Blue Room for trustees and faculty/staff. Delish. Since my arrival last year we’ve brought on four new trustees in all, two last year and two at this most recent meeting. All told, they bring expertise in finance, investment and development, key areas of our work these days. I am grateful for the support and guidance this board has given the school.

I headed off for Boston the Monday after Family Weekend in order to attend the Heads’ Summit sponsored by the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools. It was a day at the Simmons College School of Management with other girls’ school heads, focusing on strategic thinking and goal setting related to finance. While these sessions, led by two Simmons professors, were interesting and timely, it was just as edifying to share experiences with our fellow heads of school. Many of them I already knew, but there were several others there who were new acquaintances.

I went back in to school on Tuesday, and Kate – a new ninth grader and alumna daughter – made my day. She sauntered into my office and presented me with this, her own rendition of our school logo:

I’m still not sure how she did it with such precision, but it now adorns my front stoop and is lit up each evening for all to see. These are the little moments that make a day fun. They are the things that define a place and are so hard to quantify when families come to find out what we’re about. Kate went home to Vermont after her parents came for Family Weekend, but she still was thinking about Stoneleigh-Burnham while away. That’s when she carved her pumpkin. I love that.

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What matters more is what we say.

The following was written by Bryna Cofrin-Shaw a senior at the Stoneleigh-Burnham School. Bryna will be heading to Lithuania this spring as a member of the American Team which will be competing in the World Championship. For more specifics check out the article on our website here.

On October 1st, Sophie Dorsch, Kat Bordewieck and I, along with our coaches Paul Bassett and Cyndee Meese, shuffled into a Deerfield Academy auditorium. The room came as close to the floor of the U.S. Senate as any place I’ve been, and from the circular rows of seats, we had a view of all 165 of our competitors and their coaches. After attendance was taken and logistics taken care of, Deerfield’s debate coach, sent us on our way. “To quote Lorne Michaels, creator of Saturday Night Live”, he said, before letting us go, “We don’t go on because we’re ready; we go on because it’s 11:30. Well, you’re not here because you’re ready; you’re here because it’s October 1st, 2009.” It was comforting to know that maybe I wasn’t the only one whose persuasive speech wasn’t memorized or Radio Newscast persona created, but as I looked around the room, that comfort dissipated quickly. Here was a room full of teenagers from all over the world, all clad in powersuits and uniforms, ties and high-heels, holding stacks of folders and looking around coolly. I was, by all definitions of the word, intimidated.

What proceeded was three days of constant event rounds, lots of fun (and often slightly awkward) social gatherings, Bryna and Sophie prepping for the first roundand many meals spent in the DA dining hall, trading war stories with my coaches and teammates. For those who don’t know anything about debate, or at least this debate, here’s how it worked: each team brings three (or six if you’re international) competitors and each competes in three out of the eight events, some of which are debate (such as Kat’s Parliamentary debate) and some are public speaking (such as Sophie’s Interpretive Reading of Winnie The Pooh). By the end of the weekend, everyone has competed in six rounds, doing each of their categories in front of two separate audiences and judges. It was a long weekend.

Each day brought new combinations of events, new judges, a new chance to compete. Sometimes things went smoothly, other times I forgot lines, ran out of time, tripped over myself. One thing I learned is that when doing Dramatic Interpretation, an event I competed in that is essentially an acted monologue, pretending to be a crazy person is a good way to go. I performed a scene from The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in The Universe as a homeless bag lady who talks to aliens, and when I performed my entire piece in the wrong order the first night, everyone thought the incoherence was deliberate! One unfortunate thing about the weekend was that I never got to see Sophie or Kat perform. Sophie wrote a hilarious After-Dinner speech about a new version of Cash for Clunkers that accepts husbands instead of cars, and I heard that the whole room was laughing, even the judges (who are specifically told not to display emotion). Kat performed an After-Dinner about the famous Darwin Awards, and a Dramatic Interpretation about an abused girl who finds comfort in science. PB described it as “amazing”, and since Kat came in 22nd, the judges must have been impressed as well.

The International Independent Schools’ Public Speaking Competition wasn’t like other debates, though. Unlike most, where you arrive at a school dressed and ready, then debate or speak, hear the results and go home, the IISPSC lasted four days. Every time we competed we just had to put it behind us and look toward the next event, knowing that we would have no idea how we did until Sunday’s final rounds and the Awards Banquet. Unlike other debates, the IISPSC actually gave us a chance to get to know all of the kids we were competing against. The intimidation I felt the first day went away quickly as I began to actually meet my competitors. Just like me, they were practicing their persuasive speeches over and over in their heads and wearing ridiculous costumes for their Dramatic Interpretations.  After each day’s competitions, there was also time for things like Contra Dancing and roasting marshmallows. One of the best parts of the whole tournament was meeting the students who had traveled all the way from countries like Peru and the UK just to be here.SBS Debaters at Deerfield Academy

In the end, Stoneleigh Burnham finished strong. Kat came in 22nd in her Dramatic Interpretation, Sophie came in 46th in Interpretive Reading, and I made it to the final rounds for Radio Newscast and Dramatic Interpretation. I ended up 17th out of 168, and will join eleven other Americans in Lithuania for the World tournament in April. Even though PB, Cyndee, Kat and Sophie won’t be boarding the plane come spring, it’s our whole team that’s going. It was more than a team effort, it was a team win. Each of us brought something to the competition; Sophie’s cheerful outlook and ability to keep everything in perspective, Kat’s debate experience and confidence, and PB’s devotion to the team and his always-wise advice. What I remember most, though, was something that Cyndee said to me: “It’s not about you, it’s about the piece.” As soon as she said that, everything fell into place. It didn’t matter if I felt like a disheveled, nervous wreck sometimes. My mission was to convince judges that sex-reassignment surgeries should be covered by health insurance, my mission was to give a top of the hour newscast, and to convince an audience that I was a homeless woman speaking to aliens. If I learned anything from this weekend it’s that the confidence Stoneleigh-Burnham instills in us doesn’t mean that we have to be self-assured and perfectly composed all the time. What it means is that even if we’re nervous and on the brink of forgetting all we’ve memorized, what matters more is what we say. Kat, Sophie and I all said what we needed to say; we did our speeches, debates, and monologues justice, and can walk away proud.

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It begins with a whisper…

“It begins with a whisper on the eve of Mountain Day. Seniors are secretly told that the next day will be Mountain Day and they busily (but quietly!) begin planning for the big day! Big sisters prepare to wake their Little Sisters the next morning to break the news!

Mountain day, a tradition shared by Mary A. Burnham, Stoneleigh-Prospect Hill, and Stoneleigh-Burnham Schools, is about leaving the daily routine behind, enjoying the company of others, and of course about enjoying the New England autumn. So begins the email sent to alums early on the same morning that the students of Stoneleigh-Burnham School are waking up to the surprise.

They never know when, but very early one beautiful fall morning the students awaken to the sounds of laughter and shouting in the hallways. Distant strains of music fill their ears as they rise from their beds and open the doors to their Big Sisters.

Our students will always remember their first Mountain Day, there’s nothing quite like being awoken to discover that classes are canceled and you’ll be enjoying a day off with students and faculty!

On Tuesday October 6, the Stoneleigh-Burnham School once again celebrated Mountain Day. Below are some of the thoughts our students shared at the end of the day.

“The thing I enjoyed most about mountain day was hiking with my friends and finally reaching the top!” -Claire 2012

“My favorite part was actually hiking the mountain with friends, it was a GREAT way to bond with our little sisters, have a lot of laughs, and make new memories with new faces!” -Ashley 2010

“I liked the hike with my big sister and co-little sisters.  It was a lot of fun bonding during the long hike when we thought we were on the wrong trail and lost.” -Emily 2012

“This year mountain day wasn’t just fun it made me feel good and also we helped each other while we were going up!” So Hyun 2014

“I loved the breakfast with the big sister. I had a hot Friendly’s meal. The hike seemed to bring everyone of us together more because it was a struggle that we all had to get through ( a fun struggle!!). I like the hike, but I am not going to lie. I was sort of thinking that mountain day was going to be the day we slide down a huge slide. But I didn’t need an oversized slide to have fun that day. It was Great.” Nafisatou 2013

“I really enjoyed mountain day. It was a lot of fun to have breakfast with Sky and her little sister’s. I loved the view at the top and had fun hiking up the mountain, even though I got really tired. It was really cool not having classes that day and just hanging out with your friends.” Tillula 2013

Students and faculty alike enjoyed the hike and lunch atop the mountain. Check out Stoneleigh-Burnham Schools YouTube channel for a slideshow of the day!

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Debate and Public Speaking Team Hosts First Tournament of the Year!

The following post was written by Kat Bordewieck, a senior and President of our Debate and Public Speaking Team. Kat will be competing in the International Debate Competition at Deerfield Academy on October 2, 2009 along with two other Stoneleigh-Burnham students. Below are her reflections on the first debate and public speaking tournament of the 2009-2010 school year held at Stoneleigh-Burnham School on September 26, 2009.

Walking out of the drizzle and into reception in my heels and blazer, I wasn’t confident or worried but filled with Awardstrust. Trust that I would compete well, that the day would go smoothly, that our coach Dr. Paul Bassett (aka PB) would finally remember the receipts, and that the Stoneleigh- Burnham Debate and Public Speaking Team would be what I think it is, a force to be reckoned with. This fall Stoneleigh-Burnham School had the honor of hosting the first event in the 2009 DANEIS public speaking season. On that rainy Sunday morning I checked in all twelve schools including Roxbury Latin, St. Paul’s, St. Sebastian’s, Exeter, and Kingswood-Oxford to name a few. As I checked each school in I had the opportunity to meet each one of my competitors as well as reconnect with old friends.

The first round was Interpretive Reading. Our order was alphabetical by last name. I have never resented my last name more. I had to go first, in the first round, at the first debate.  Nevertheless, my time practicing with Cyndee Meese, our acting coach, served me well as my accents of Bathsheba and Liddy from Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd filled the room. I later found out that my teammate Bryna also excelled, winning a trophy and a third place prize for her interpretation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice which we had helped her pick the week before.

Round two centered on two opposite styles: After Dinner speeches and Persuasive arguments. Sitting in the Biology lab we all laughed at Sarah Palin impersonations, the “real meaning” of the Star Spangled Banner as told by a drunk Englishmen, and my rendition of the Darwin Awards which won me a sixth place out of 23 speakers.  Bryna had another great round and finished first out of 17 for her persuasive speech about changing insurance policies to include sexual reassignment surgeries.

The final round is considered the dark horse of debate. In this round, each student is given less than two minutes to prepare. Competitor after competitor delivered their speech while the judges sat unresponsive–not a cracked smile or encouraging nod among them. My envelope included the prompts: Fenway Faithful, The Faint Hearted never won the Fair lady, and Chip N’ Dale.  Choosing to proceed without a pen and paper, I outlined my thoughts in my head including pop culture, the Salem witch trials, and Renaissance art history in my preparation. Ending each of my rounds with sFinal Awardsatisfaction and confidence,  I finally made my judge laugh out loud.

The awards were given around 5 pm. PB called us “rock stars.” I felt I could finally take a deep breath and relax.

This feeling didn’t last long though as PB went on to remind Bryna, Sophie and me that we are entered in the four day International Tournament at Deerfield Academy next weekend with the world’s best speakers.

The SBS Debate and Public Speaking Team is off to a great start this year. Our advanced team is confident and our novice team has good leaders for help.

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