Modern Approach to Traditional Boarding

Thursday, November 03, 2011 -

Students at Brentwood stand when a teacher walks in a room.  They take off their hats when they enter a building.  They don’t chew gum or use cell phones during academic time.  They treat each other with respect and are polite with one another and with visitors on campus.  They look you in the eye when they speak to you and they know what it takes to live in community.

How does this happen?  Hard to say. It is just a part of the Brentwood culture; always has been. The new students each September seem to adopt it by osmosis.   We have been known to call it ‘the Brentwood magic’.  Manners, niceties, empathy, altruism and kindness are already a part of our campus culture so new students, within a few short weeks, adapt seamlessly.  It becomes the norm.  Parents are often surprised at the change they see with their children in such a short span of time.  Suddenly their kids have ‘grown up’ and become young adults.  It is wonderful to see.

One theory I have is that at Brentwood we give our students a voice. Boarding at a university preparatory school allows young adults to transition to university life in a safe, supportive environment.  However, many boarding schools require students to follow strict protocols, as this is their way of establishing order.  At Brentwood, we want students to develop relationships and through these relationships (with each other and with our staff) the lessons of self-discipline, courtesy and respect are understood and adopted. For example, we do not require students to sit with the same people for meals each day like many more traditional boarding schools.  Students can sit where they want, with whom they want and eat when they want.  We are preparing students for university life and beyond and once you remove the protocol and encourage relationships, young people learn to become decision makers and, in turn, become better prepared for life.

The maturity of our student body is evident to anyone visiting our campus; I believe it is because we, as faculty respect and treat them as young adults. In addition, the supportive, empathetic nature of our student body makes it easy to make this transition.  It truly is something to behold and something visitors comment on frequently during campus visits.

Brentwood magic? Osmosis?  Whatever it is, you will know when you meet a Brentwood student.  They stand out with their confidence and their ability to engage with the world around them.

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