From the Head of School
Winter Greetings from Oxford Academy!
In the past few months, I don’t think a day has gone by where I have not been inundated with articles regarding the challenges of raising children in today’s society. More than ever, families are seeking guidance from professionals on how to prepare their kids, but find themselves more overwhelmed than ever. Whether it be appropriately navigating social media, dealing with video gaming addiction or technology in general, today’s children are faced with more and more pitfalls and often lack the self-advocacy and self-resilience to do so successfully on a consistent basis. Many parents don’t have the answers, but perhaps our schools do.
I am guessing that many of you have heard of the “Whole-Child Approach” in some form or other over the years - but what does it mean? I must admit, I find the title somewhat ironic - as if parents or schools were only committed to the development of half of a child. However, an article I recently came across gave me pause and as I read it, I couldn’t help but think about Oxford and what we do here for our boys.
The article, written by Kumiko Makihara for the Washington Post, talks about how a Japanese elementary school prepared her young son for college. Throughout the article, she outlines a variety of strategies employed by the school and I thought it worthwhile to connect them to life at a boarding school, and more specifically, here at Oxford.
The first thing Makihara specifically mentions is “seikatsuryoku” or life skills. Her son learned things like making new friends, living independently, and bouncing back from setbacks. Sound familiar? These are the very reasons to attend boarding schools, especially a small relational one like Oxford. When I speak to our alumni, the two things I repeatedly hear about are the life-long friendships they made with their peers as well as their teachers, who they credit for positively impacting their lives, in many cases, completely changing their trajectory.
Makihara then goes on to write about her son’s experience as part of a community and specifically touched upon greetings. In our small community where we have constant one to one time with our boys, they can’t help but work on their social interactions and are greeted every morning by multiple faculty and staff. In fact, they are expected to start their day in an engaging manner as they prepare for morning assembly. I am often surprised at how many kids today lack the ability to carry a conversation because they have not had enough experience doing so. This is one of the areas that differentiates Oxford from other boarding schools. We have the incredible luxury of time with our students. Over the years, Oxford has purposefully stayed small so that we can engage our students in meaningful ways organically and naturally. Where many schools have to build official times for these kinds of interactions, they happen all day long at Oxford and encourage a growth mindset.
Makihara also talks about how her son was allowed to find his way to and from school and around campus, and that at times, he wasn’t successful. I love this point for two reasons: one, the more independence we can instill in our children at a young age, the more able they are to navigate more complex challenges. Secondly, navigating a journey sounds simple but one only has to look at the changes in how society perceives a 6-year-old walking to school today versus twenty years ago to see how we have lost that skill. In my youth, I used to walk to and from school every day and although I had some awkward moments during that time, I have no doubt that it instilled in me the confidence to find my way. It is also one of the reasons that Oxford students have an opportunity to travel abroad every year and during that trip, each of them is expected to navigate from one historic landmark to another without technology.
The final points from the article focus on a variety of areas, including time management/organization, dining, handling conflict and finally endurance. I could certainly delve into each and describe how we at Oxford address these life skills but if you are reading this article, you already know this. You already know that an Oxford education is truly a gift, an opportunity to achieve “seikatsuryoku” and we have been successfully doing it for over a hundred years.
So rest assured, the answers to today’s challenges are within reach at our schools - especially at a transformational place like The Oxford Academy.