Eighty-Six Thousand, Four Hundred Minutes.
Written by Amy Wilson, 92'
Director of Admissions
That is the minimum time most American kids
(preschool through grade 12) spend at school each
year. That doesn’t count extracurricular activities or homework. That doesn’t count the hours that you, their parents, think, wonder and worry about your children while they’re away. Thinking about school, driving to school, attending school, waiting in the carpool line, helping with homework – all of it – is time consuming.
Many people say time is their most precious resource. And most parents would say that their children are among the most precious things in their lives. It stands to reason then that school is the place where you invest much of what is most important to you. The question I ask is: what kind of investment does your school make in you and your child? Do the teachers and administrators seem to nurture strong relationships? Do they understand the weight of that impact? As a new teacher, I didn’t.
In my first year of teaching, I received a beautiful, kind, incredibly generous note from the mother of a fourth grade student. She thanked me for being a positive influence in her daughter’s life – and here comes the scary part – because I spent more waking hours with her daughter than she did. I became a teacher because I wanted to invest in the lives of children. I was more than ready to nurture their intellectual and emotional growth. What I didn’t quite understand until I read the words on that card was the depth of my responsibility and impact on both child and family. This mom told me that I was a topic of dinnertime conversations, that “my” way of doing long division (with all the checks and balances in place) was the only “right” way to do it in their house, even though the parents had learned it differently. That she, the mom, didn’t have to worry about any playground drama because I was there to coach her daughter through it.
The gravity of teaching these children replayed in my head and in my heart. I bore the responsibility for noticing the small things. For loving them through the triumphs and challenges. For communicating honestly with their parents about all I observed, but in a way that championed each child. My job was to spark a lifelong love of learning, encourage creativity, and inspire confidence, tenacity, and self-advocacy. I was teaching these bright minds to share and think outside themselves, while reminding them of their worth and the importance of self-care. I spent more waking hours with the 22 children in my class than their parents did, and I was 22-years-old.
My own life experience was limited, but I had one huge advantage: an amazing foundation that I formed at The Oakridge School. My education was solid, but equally as important, I had an army of people who believed in me.
The voices of wise leaders, master teachers, and skilled coaches constantly replay in my mind. When I faced a challenge in the classroom, they spoke through me. When I needed to dig deep and have hard conversations, they pushed and supported me. I was never alone. I had wonderful role models at my alma mater.
I knew that teacher investment in me changed me. They really knew me – warts and all – and cared deeply for me anyway. As a teenager I cried and celebrated with them, and when I grew up, they were there again. In college, they allowed me to shadow them in their classrooms and hone my craft. When I got married, they came to my wedding. And when I had children of my own, they celebrated with me. Some of them now teach my children.
Schools are supposed to invest like that in their students, right? They are supposed to prepare our children for academic challenges, but if we’re honest, don’t we want more? Yes, we all want the metrics that we use to judge schools by to be top-notch: college placement, impressive opportunities for students to seek their full potential in academics, arts, and athletics, and intentionally placed innovation and entrepreneurial opportunities . But don’t we want the people who are with our children the majority of their waking hours to really know them and partner with us to support them?
That is what my husband and I wanted. So, 20 years after my high school graduation, our children became Oakridge Owls. We knew they would be seen and loved exactly for who they were. They would be pushed and nurtured. And their experiences would be individualized because the adults who spent more than 86,400 minutes a year with them would know them well. Direct lessons on soft skills, public speaking, servant leadership, mutual respect, problem solving, self-awareness, and finding joy in the pursuit of passions are helping our boys excel and grow into young men who we are amazingly proud of and really like being with. Our boys know they are supported and are being seen, not only for who they are but who they can become. They are being taught life’s most important lessons by people who really know them and care about them.
If you crave strong partnerships with the educators who spend more waking hours with your children than you do, please call me. I have the distinct privilege of getting to welcome new families to Oakridge as its Director of Admissions, and I want to learn more about your family and how we can partner to make the most of your child’s educational experience.
Amy Wilson is a graduate of The Oakridge School and holds a B.A. in English, an elementary education certification, and a Master of Liberal Arts, all from Southern Methodist University. She has taught lower school, served as a technology integration specialist, and worked in special events, alumni, and donor relations. Currently, Amy has the honor of welcoming new families in her role as Director of Admissions at The Oakridge School. She and her husband couldn’t be more grateful that their two boys are Oakridge Owls.
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