Small but Mighty: The Enchantment of Small Schools
Those of us lucky enough to lead small schools often refer to the “magic” or “enchantment” of small schools. This past June, heads of small schools from all around the country came together for the Fourth Annual Small Schools Conference in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Over the course of three days, we were able to share stories and recharge our excitement about our unique school communities. While many small schools are weathering difficult economic times, all of the schools represented at the conference remain as focused on their unique missions as they ever have been – perhaps even more so, as they look to the anchor of their mission for needed strength and focus.
What is so special about small schools? Small school advocates would likely agree that the most compelling aspect of small schools is the kind of relationships they foster. Relationships between teachers and students, parents and teachers, or administration and teachers or parents are the magical ingredient to our success. Another is that we are all here by choice; we have all made a conscious decision and some level of sacrifice to be present with one another, and have made a commitment to our unique mission. And our mission commands more of us than academic excellence (which many would consider a given); our mission calls us to develop discipline and determination, tolerance and compassion, an unquenchable passion for learning, and a compassionate heart committed to service. But it’s not just all magic – small schools have research on their side as well. President of the National Association of Independent Schools Pat Basset wrote, “The most compelling research in the education marketplace in general and by NAIS indicates that it is small schools (i.e., intimate places where all students are known) and great teachers that are the two factors that produce high achievement in students.”
People who choose to work in small schools view their jobs as much more than an occupation. Many define it as a vocation or a calling, and report feeling tremendous satisfaction about the work that they do each day. Perhaps First Grade East Teacher Sarah Kerr said is best: “I love working at All Saints because of the people. The faculty is warm, inviting, and always willing to lend a hand. Because of its size, I can develop meaningful relationships with other staff members as well as with the families and children. The class size is a blessing because I can reach each student and help them to develop their true potential. Parents are supportive and kind, working collaboratively with the staff to ensure a promising future for their children. It’s the kind of place that breeds mindfulness, not just within ourselves but in the world around us.”
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