Bryan and I want to extend our deepest thanks to you, the entire faculty as well as the student body at University School of the Lowcountry. Although there are still several months left to go, we can already say with certainty that Kate’s 6th grade year has been a great success!
Despite being very bright and curious, Kate’s entire school career until this year had been somewhat of a struggle. While maintaining good grades, Kate struggled to find relevance in the material she was learning. She had little interest in the constant repetition and then exact regurgitation of facts. She was frequently frustrated with the monotony of the classroom routine- the top-down approach of “teacher lectures – student listens.” She felt very left out of her own education, powerless and bored by it all.
As parents, we were very concerned. We knew that Kate was academically gifted, but we worried that if she remained uninspired at school, not only would her grades potentially suffer, but more importantly, that the joy of learning and the love of knowledge would be sucked out of her. We made the difficult decision to find another school for her.
With some trepidation, but lots of faith in the philosophies driving the creation of USL, we enrolled Kate as the very first student at the school! I breathe a sigh of relief every day that we made that decision. Each day at USL is a creative, collaborative effort. From the deep discussions of current affairs in the morning, to the fascinating lab experiments at the end of the day, to everything that happens in between, Kate feels for the first time like an active participant in her own education. She feels “heard,” academically and emotionally, by both the faculty and the other students. As a result, she feels much more confident in herself, both as a student and as a friend. She knows her ideas, thoughts and feelings will be respected, and that she must do the same for others.
Bryan and I have always felt that we want to be sure our children are not just getting a fabulous academic education, but that they are learning how to be citizens of the world. Perhaps it is a small thing to take note of, but we feel that the fact that all the children have been taught to stand, shake hands with eye contact and introduce themselves to anyone entering the school, is just one example of how USL teaches above and beyond the academics. I find it hard to imagine the entire class standing, shaking my hand and introducing themselves to me or other visitors at most other schools. Everyday messages of how to be respectful and connect with others in the world are reinforced in other small, but so meaningful, ways. This message of how to treat others and how to expect to be treated is something I felt was lacking in Kate’s education before we came to USL.
This kind of learning to interact within the world is further solidified by the weekly field trips. I recently heard you tell a prospective parent that the kids had already had about 30 (yes, thirty!) out of classroom or speaker experiences. Wow! In addition to the fascinating material they are learning with such exposure, how wonderful it is that they are learning to represent themselves and the school in the community. I think it gives them a real sense that they are part of the world at large. Again, a message I think many schools do not convey to their students.
It is heartwarming to see Kate go to school everyday with passion. She wants to be there, excited for each new day. I know that the academics are far above average, and that the faculty works hard not just to teach, but to really involve the students in their own learning. I am so proud of you and the USL community. You have been able to reach out to Kate and renew the joy of going to school and the love of learning. You are always willing to talk to parents at any time, and in fact want and ask for parent feedback all the time. I don’t know if you even realize how unusual this is. You have also renewed my faith in trusting myself and my instincts. It was not easy to take Kate out of a well respected private school, and many questioned our decision. But I knew something was missing for me as well, and that it was something very important. I guess the only way I can describe it is that I wanted a school with a soul for Kate. I wanted a more purposeful education, where the children don’t learn what to think, but how to think. USL is giving this gift to Kate everyday.
Bryan and Amy Frain