Tag Archives: Admissions

Why I Came, Why I Stay

The other day at Open House, one of the attendees, a public school teacher, asked each of us present on a faculty panel to talk about how we ended up at Stoneleigh-Burnham, and why we stay. Our stories were as individual as we are. My own begins the summer I was getting married…

It was the summer of 2004, and my fiancée and I had just graduated from the M.A.T. program in the French and Italian Department of the University of Massachusetts. Each of us had completed all the requirements for Massachusetts State certification except for the French proficiency exam. My fiancée called up to find out details, and was told that there was a non-refundable fee of $75 and it would be given on one of three possible Saturdays in August, one of which was to be our wedding day. The exact date, she was told, would not be given out until no more than three weeks ahead of time, “for security reasons.” We were about to spend a year living in France anyway, so we elected not to register for the exam. That meant, when it came time to apply for teaching positions, we had no choice but to apply at independent schools. And that’s how I ended up at Stoneleigh-Burnham.

As for why I stay, I gave two reasons. One is that I identify as a gender activist rooted in feminist ideals, and working in a girls school feeds that part of my life. A second is that we know what research and experience tells us works well for kids, and ironic as it may be given that many of the best teaching models were originally developing in and for public schools, at this point in our nation’s history, independent schools are actually freer to apply those models than many public schools. I may deplore that situation, but that makes it no less true.

The person who asked the question quietly mouthed a “thank you” to me, and we moved on to hear Miriam’s story as she was sitting to my immediate left.

Essentially, of course, I was saying that I stay in teaching and I stay at Stoneleigh-Burnham because I believe deeply that what we do matters. I’m acutely aware that not everyone can say that about their job. Just one more thing for which I am grateful this November.

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Filed under Admissions, Feminism, Gender, On Education, The Faculty Perspective

Thank You, Public Schools

Thanks to John Norton of MiddleWeb for publishing this article by Bill Ivey and for granting us the right to publish a portion of it and link to the original.

Peter Gow, a college counselor at Beaver Country Day School and longtime virtual friend of mine, has recently been invited to write a regular blog for EdWeek.org with an intriguing theme. Called “Independent Schools, Common Perspectives,” it is designed to explore the worlds of independent and public education and how they can strengthen each other. A refreshing concept and worthy goal.

In an entry entitled “Middle Schools: A Gift From the Public Education System,” he looks back to his own years in what those of us in independent education used to call “Junior Schools.” Those were the days when “independent schools were falling all over each other to turn their middle grades–five through eight, roughly–into middle schools.” Peter shares his own warm memories of working in middle schools, and, as the title implies, he explores the role of public schools in developing and promoting what has come to be known as the middle school model.

(continue reading)

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Filed under On Education, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Faculty Perspective, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School

Room For Change

I glance up and notice the little plastic clasp screwed into the underside of the shelf of our TV stand. The pointy part, that stuck into the clasp and prevented the door from being opened without extreme intellectual and physical effort, has long since been removed. Not so the memories of putting it on in the first place, which my wife and I did around the same time we added the gadgets to every cabinet door in our apartment above the library, plugged plastic shields into all the outlets, stuck soft protectors on every furniture corner we owned, and generally ensured everything was as safe as possible for the imminent arrival of the child that turned out to be our son. Long before he thought or even knew about crawling, we had done everything we could think of to protect him from any dangers we could imagine.

As our children grow up, of course, we continually and deliberately work to ensure they can eventually take care of themselves. It may be bittersweet at times, but if our true goal is that our kids grow up to be happy and confident, balancing self-reliance and connectedness, we really have no choice. Yet, the same instinct that leads us to prepare our apartments months ahead of when we really need to is never far from the surface, as my parents periodically remind me whenever my brothers, my sisters, or I are going through hard times in one way or another.

As parents of Seniors are all too well aware, this is the week when all colleges that have not already announced their decision send out notifications. Peter Gow, the college counselor at Beaver Country Day School, captures the feeling perfectly in a blog entry entitled “College Admissions: Agony, Ecstasy, Reality” when he writes, “For the students… the moment of opening the letter, popping open the email, or logging into the decision site is probably as charged an event as they have experienced: a moment of truth. (…) Many see their entire futures, as well as their self-concepts, riding on the decision made by the admission committee at some beloved college, and some will take “bad news”—denial or waitlist or even January admission—as a personal blow.” You see your kids grow up into these amazing people, and suddenly a decision taken by total strangers hundreds of miles away, often made of necessity on the basis of about five minutes’ worth of discussion, has the potential to devastate them with just a single word. As we envision such a moment, little plastic clasps, shields, and corner protectors are utterly pointless. All we have is our intense love for and faith in our kids to try and help them pull through the week. Peter keeps tissue boxes close at hand during this week, and no doubt day parents do too. But as boarding parents, you can’t even offer a Kleenex, never mind wrap your kid in a hug.

On the other hand, what stronger ally than our love for and faith in our kids? Whether communicated in a glance, a quick squeeze of the shoulder, a back rub, or via words spoken softly between longer pauses or thumbed with a sort of desperate urgency into a text window, our ability to reaffirm all those wonderful qualities we see in our kids and to let them know we love them can at least lay the groundwork for the decisions that will eventually settle out. Peter captures this well, too, when he notes that “college counselors, like teachers, administrators, parents, friends, and the world at large spend this week above all other weeks in the year helping kids understand that it’s not about rejection or acceptance but about making the most of the opportunities life gives us.”

In talking to students and parents, to Andy Patt in years past, to Lauren in more recent years, as well as to my brother-in-law who is a college counselor at Thayer, I knowhow deeply important the role of a school is in providing their own support. As a seventh grader once said, “Tell me what you really think about my story. My parents liked it… but they have to!” In our own knowledge of kids, with that peculiar blend of love and objectivity that a teacher brings a student, we can and do perform our part in helping kids work through the agony and the ecstasy of this week. Here, too, I feel lucky as my son’s house counselor (his school’s word for “houseparent”) wrote all of us parents early in the week to gently prepare us for what we thought we knew was coming, and to tell us she would be always open to the kids telling whatever news they chose to share and seeking whatever support they felt they needed but that she would not be forcing the issue. And though he may not have written us, I trust my son’s college counselor to do the same.

I know my son well. He has a long history of making the most of the opportunities that life has brought him – and our family has been extraordinarily blessed with opportunities. We will get through this week together, he, my wife, and I. He will find the college where he was meant to be, work hard, learn, and be subtly shaped as he continues to set the direction of his life. And then one day, perhaps, his own child will await the decisions of colleges. He may talk through his feelings with us, whatever he chooses to share. And a brief glance of understanding will pass between us as we remember this week and draw on lessons learned. “The point is that the lives of eighteen-year-olds have plenty of room for change, a lesson that only experience can teach us and that I have been surprised and generally pleased to discover is taught to us recurringly over many decades.” (Gow) The same, of course, is true of twelve-year-olds, thirteen-year-olds – and yes, even fifty-two-year-olds.

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Filed under Admissions, College Prep, Graduation, On Education, On Parenting, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Faculty Perspective

On the Importance of Having Fun

I know that Stoneleigh-Burnham School is an academic institution and the girls are here first and foremost to learn. However, I (and perhaps this has to do with my relatively young age and still vivid memories of my own time at Stoneleigh-Burnham) think that having fun, and taking time to enjoy the people around you will teach you lessons that are nearly as important as the ones you will learn in the classroom.

I am a firm believer in the importance of having fun.

I’m lucky enough to work with our middle school girls which means that we find excuses to have fun all the time. Sometimes it’s organized, like our second annual Midnight Madness this past Saturday, and sometimes, the middle school girls find ways to surprise even me.

Take Monday night for example. I, along with most of our middle school students were in the Meeting Room for evening study hall (the rest of the middle school girls were in the computer lab down the hall). They were a bit rowdy, which is normal for them, but at one point they reached a new level of distraction and I told them they needed to quiet down and focus. My tone must have been sharper than usual because the whole room got very quiet and the girls all looked over at me to see how serious I was. Suddenly, with a deadpan expression, one of our 8th grade students yelled out:

“Who let the dogs out?”

And the entire room began to bark.

I laughed so hard that I cried…and I was struck by two things, first that the Baha Men apparently have international acclaim (students from China, Mexico and Ghana knew what the appropriate response was) and by the fact that the girls had once again reminded me of something I already so firmly believe in, that it’s always important to be having a little fun.

-Laura Lavallee ’04, Associate Director of Admissions

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Filed under Admissions, School Happenings, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School


Every Admissions Counselor experiences nerves the morning of an Open House. You never know, regardless of registrations, how many families will really show up, whether or not your student tour guides might be out sick or whether at the last minute someone speaking on your panel will forget to show up.

The day starts though, and despite your nerves, you lose yourself in the excitement. The excitement of your tour guides as they meet and greet all the new families, the excitement of the prospective students as you send them off to classes, perhaps the first of many they will take at Stoneleigh-Burnham School, and the excitement of the dedicated faculty and administrators as they talk about their love for the school and its programs.

As the day continues most Admissions Counselors will find themselves thankful for the positive attitudes of the various members of the community that prospective families meet. Stoneleigh-Burnham is lucky to have a talented and dedicated group of teachers and administrators from diverse backgrounds. We are lucky to have students from 15 countries and across the United States who speak more than 17 languages among them. It isn’t every day that you get to meet and study with girls from Rwanda, Canada, Mexico, New York, New Jersey and Florida.

However, no matter how fantastic your students are or dedicated your faculty are, there are still a few nerves when the panel of students and faculty convene to answer the questions of all the prospective parents. This is it, the moment of truth when parents are truly able to learn about the school. The answers are candid and the students are honest. In theory, this might be every Admissions Counselors worst nightmare, but it’s not mine.

During our last Open House I had five of our students, representing both day and boarding students in middle and high school, come together to answer the questions of prospective parents. As they introduced themselves, told what sports they play and what grade they were in, I settled in to listen to their answers.

“What is your favorite part of the day?”

A chorus of answers followed: the time I spend at the barn, my athletic practice, lunch etc. Each of the girls offering her own perspective on why these parts of the day are so important.

“Ok, since you’ve told me your favorite thing, tell me what you don’t like.”

I’ll be honest, even my confidence faltered for a minute when this question was asked. I should never have doubted the love that our girls have for Stoneleigh-Burnham School though…

The most common response was “there really isn’t anything I don’t like.”  You could hear the sincerity in their voices and you could see the honesty on their faces. These girls meant every word they said.

Finally, one parent raised her hand and asked “Why do you think all girl’s education is better?”

One of our students piped up and said “You don’t have to worry about your hair or what you’re wearing. You don’t have to worry about asking a question and being laughed at. It’s very safe and it makes it easy to learn.”

I smiled as I listened. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

To ask some questions of your own, join us for our next Open House, Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 8:30am. Register by calling 413-774-2711 ext. 257 or online at http://www.sbschool.org

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Filed under Admissions

Congratulations and Welcome!

First and foremost, to all our newly accepted students…

Welcome and Congratulations!

We couldn’t be more delighted to invite you to join the Stoneleigh-Burnham community. You are all talented, dynamic and insightful young women and we know that you will excel at SBS and make the most of the educational opportunities Stoneleigh-Burnham has to offer.

With that said, I want to share with you a few of the things I enjoy about working in Admissions.

  • I love talking with prospective families and telling them about my own experiences at Stoneleigh-Burnham.
  • I enjoy traveling and sharing all that SBS has to offer with consultants, placement counselors and students.
  • I find it interesting to read applications and interview prospective students to determine if they will excel here at SBS.
  • I enjoy the hustle and bustle of a successful Open House…and the quiet that follows it!

However, without hesitation, I have to say that my favorite part of working in Admissions has got to be the acceptance phone calls.

I remember my own call, delivered on March 9, 1999 early in the evening. I was called by the then, Associate Director of Admissions who told me that she wanted to be the first to congratulate me. I know I shrieked. Then, rather unceremoniously, I told her that I needed to get off the phone so I could go tell my Mom. I still remember running down the stairs, yelling to my Mom the entire time. As the other acceptance letters arrived in the next few days (I had applied to several schools) I don’t think any of them made me as excited as the phone call from Stoneleigh-Burnham had.

Now, on the eve of March 10, I gather with the other members of the Admissions Office to make our phone calls to the newest members of the Stoneleigh-Burnham community. Each year we all have a favorite call. It usually involves yelling and a fair amount of jumping up and down (which I assure you can be heard through the phone). This year though, my favorite call was a bit more subdued but no less enthusiastic.

It happened early on the morning of March 10, the young woman in question had been out the previous night when I had called with the news. I caught her just before she left for school and I told her how excited I was to accept her to Stoneleigh-Burnham and that the official letter would be coming in the mail. Her reaction was priceless…there was a sharp intake of breath followed by a quiet and drawn out “yessssss”.

A few minutes later, her father sent me a quick email to let me know that I had made her day and that as she headed off to school she was crying tears of joy.

This is the moment that I wait for each year. The moment when I get to make the phone call and share with our newly accepted students the first of many Stoneleigh-Burnham traditions. I look forward to it…and I know, just as it was for me, that for some this will be the acceptance they will later consider the most important and exciting.

So, now that the phone calls have been made and the acceptance letters mailed, on behalf of the Admissions Office and the entire Stoneleigh-Burnham community…Congratulations and welcome, we hope you will be joining us in the Fall!

The Admissions Office invites accepted students to join us on Tuesday, March 30, 2010 for Accepted Students Day. You can register by contacting the Admissions Office at 413-774-2711 ext. 257 or admissions@sbschool.org


Filed under Admissions