Guest blog by Olivia Belkin ’18
From Upper School English Teacher, Marty Frazier:
This blog post was derived from a paper from Belkin’s junior English class unit on persuasive writing. We based our study on mid-nineteenth century texts and the vast number of social movements gaining ground in that era (women’s rights, abolition, workers’ rights, etc.), and we read Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe as the foundation for this exploration. Students then had an opportunity to create a piece of persuasive nonfiction that spoke to an issue of interest to them. We had a range of directions for the paper. Some students chose issues related to life at HB (dress code, class requirements), while others investigated broader issues like gun rights or drug prevention. One of the major requirements of the piece was to speak directly to an authentic audience, and Olivia chose to write to potential HB families and share why our environment has the potential to make a lasting impact on young women. Read on for Olivia’s story.
“We learn not for school but for life.” When I first heard Hathaway Brown’s motto as an entering freshman, I did not realize how much the school emphasized lifelong learning. Not only did my school teachers and administrators encourage me to participate in a myriad of extracurriculars in order to grow as an individual, but they also reached out to me on a personal level to promote healthy, academic relationships. Also, my mentors and teachers explained why I needed to value my future in education, providing me with opportunities to prepare for college and package myself as a viable college candidate. Hathaway Brown, founded in 1876, sets the highest standard, compared to the other schools in the area and around the nation, for its students. Although there are a number of great schools in the Cleveland area, and it is sometimes tough trying to decide what makes one greater than another, I would like to share with you what makes HB so special. They encourage extracurricular participation, student-teacher relationships, and college readiness. HB creates the most well-rounded high school students, individuals who will truly make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others.
Hathaway Brown offers a number of extracurricular activities that aren’t found in most schools. Extracurriculars are activities that students engage in outside of the classroom such as sports, theatre, music and much more. Specifically, engaging in activities outside of school exposes students to practical situations beyond the classroom setting. As the National Center for Education states, “Extracurricular activities provide a channel for reinforcing the lessons learned in the classroom, offering students the opportunity to apply academic skills in a real-world context, and are thus considered part of a well-rounded education… and thereby decrease the likelihood of school failure and dropping out” (The National Center for Education). Participating in out of school activities allows students to apply the skills learned in school to their daily lives. HB ensures the success of students by providing many extracurricular opportunities, which allows students to choose activities that interest them most. HB strongly encourages students to participate in whatever activity interests them specifically, whether it be the art club, the robotics team, or the lacrosse team. Even if the club does not currently exist, HB challenges students to create their own avenue for delving into a subject of interest.
Personally, I am interested in sports, so I decided to join the lacrosse team freshman year. This allowed me to gain skills in teamwork, leadership, cooperation, time management, and mentorship. The National Federation of State High School Associations explains, “Studies also suggest that student athletes are less likely to participate in unhealthy or risky behavior when they are playing sports in high school.” Firsthand, I find myself making much better choices on the weekends because of my commitment to athletics. Through the influence of HB faculty and coaches, I have learned to value my teams and my mentors and participate in healthy, appropriate behavior for my age group. Some people may say that emphasizing student involvement in extracurriculars will cause students to feel overwhelmed and more stressed. This argument proves unwarranted because it fails to acknowledge that students must engage in a balanced lifestyle, regardless of participation in extracurriculars. HB does not encourage over-participating in extracurriculars; Rather, HB tells students to pick those activities that most interest them, and focus on those rather than engaging in every activity. This explains why there is such a diverse number of activities to choose from in the realm of extracurriculars. Clubs and sports teams are open to all students and are extremely easy to join. The idea of engaging in extracurriculars focuses on the quality of the participation rather than the quantity.
In addition to extracurricular engagement, Hathaway Brown stresses the importance of student-teacher relationships. At HB, the student-to-faculty ratio is 8:1, allowing students to meet with teachers one-on-one regularly and develop relationships with the faculty through interpersonal communication. As stated on the Hathaway Brown website, “Hathaway Brown School faculty hail from all parts of the United States and around the world. The faculty do more than provide encouragement and set high expectations for HB students; they’ve invented academic designs that enable students to challenge themselves to excel, explore and discover” (hb.edu). HB hires the best and brightest of faculty members to ensure that students learn from the most educated, experienced, and worldly teachers. According to the American Sociological Association, “Positive teacher-student relationships have been shown to support students’ adjustment to school, contribute to their social skills, promote academic performance and foster students’ resiliency in academic performance.” Throughout my time at HB, I have already learned about the importance of student-teacher relationships and I greatly value these connections. When I first entered HB as a freshman, I was fascinated to find that not only teachers but also students make a conscious effort to meet with the faculty in order to understand assignments and also to improve their overall academic skills. At most schools, students do not seem as comfortable talking to their teachers as much as me and my peers rely on these relationships. At HB, the teachers are approachable and encourage interactions with students outside of class time. I mimic this openness and engagement in my everyday life, as I hope to serve as a mentor to others in my community outside of the HB community.
On the contrary, some may argue that students may become too dependent on their teachers for help and support, and never form independent ideas or beliefs (American Sociological Association). This argument is invalid because HB teachers do not complete assignments for their students. Teachers at HB know how to engage with students in a way that is helpful and supportive, but also challenges students to figure out problems on our own. Mr. Frazier, an English teacher at Hathaway Brown of two years, attended Oberlin College, attended a program in New York City called Teach for America, received his Master’s degree in Education and Special Education, and is currently working on receiving his Master’s degree in English at John Carrol. When asked about how he balances helping students out with allowing them to work autonomously, he stated, “I think about this a lot as a teacher. I try to ask questions rather than to give answers. I ask the student, ‘What do you think about your argument? What do you think about your organization?’, and often times if you as a teacher are able to get a student to examine her own work through question, it ends up that she sees where she needs to deliver” (Interview). HB encourages you to take the initiative and reach out to them so they know you want to do well and learn. After interviewing a previous graduate from HB, Cassidy Artz, she explained to me how her previous years at HB as allowed her to gain knowledge on student teacher interactions that no one else around her had. As a graduate of Northwestern University, Cassidy noted “HB taught me how to take initiative inside and outside of the classroom. When I first started at Northwestern, I was amazed to find that I was the only student in my psychology class of 200 students to actually visit my professor during office hours. I believe that I succeeded in this course because I took the time to meet with my professor and talk about the material. Additionally, I formed a solid relationship with my professor and I greatly benefited from this connection. I think my peers never practiced engaging in student-teacher relationships in high school, so they did not even think to see the professor outside of class. At HB, we were almost expected to form these relationships. I am extremely grateful for this model of education.” As explained by Cassidy, HB not only helps students build student-teacher relationships in high school, but also models how to continue to form mentorships for the rest of life.
In order to help students prepare for their future, HB emphasizes the importance of attending college and preparing for the college application process. At HB, 100% of students in 2016 attended college, and that same year, “eighty percent of the members of the Class of 2016 were accepted to their top-choice schools, or one of their top choices, if they ranked them by group. In total, 20 percent of the class received 22 Ivy League offers, and HB students were accepted to all eight Ivies” (hb.edu). Also, after interviewing HB graduate Cassidy, who graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa at Northwestern, she explained, “I attribute my academic success in college and beyond completely to Hathaway Brown. I learned how to balance my academics with my extracurriculars and really follow my passions.” Cassidy exemplifies how HB breeds success even beyond Shaker Heights. The HB college advisors look at each student’s high school journey separately, making the college application process an individualized experience. Cassidy also stated that, “the college office completely changed how I viewed myself as a potential college applicant. They rallied for me, and I felt like they were my personal cheerleaders throughout the college application process. Once I went to college, I relied on the skills that HB taught me in high school. Whether writing an essay for class or sending a thank you note to a peer, I learned lifelong lessons during my time at Hathaway Brown.” Here, Cassidy not only praises the college office but also the faculty who taught her practical life skills. People may argue that the focus should not be on getting into college, because college is not the only important goal in life. This may be true, but people who go to college have higher self-esteem, more self-direction, are much better at problem solving and decision making, and are overall much happier with their lives. (USC Center for Higher Education). If someone does not have a college degree, the future may be limited in terms of career options and other opportunities. HB realizes that students have the amazing opportunity to attend college and really do whatever they want to live a meaningful life.
In conclusion, HB serves as a wonderful community that encourages the growth and achievements of young women. Compared to all independent schools throughout the Cleveland area, HB shows to be the most striving and successful school, making it one of many reasons for one to send their children here. Through the emphasizing participating in extracurricular activities and the importance of student-teacher relationships, HB helps students thrive. HB encourages applying to college and succeeding in the college atmosphere, and as a result, invests in the future and each and every student. Hathaway Brown truly serves as a salient example of a high school that motivates students not only living life to the fullest in the present, but also to look forward to the future, beyond North Park Boulevard. In the end, HB students truly learn not for school but for life.
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