By Monica Van Aken, Ed. D, Head of School
What three things should a school do so that in the future it might be considered a ‘school of consequence?’ This generative question guides and challenges the faculty members and administrations of many private schools. In borrowing from Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… And Others Don’t, we might extrapolate this distinction: good schools incorporate success factors and run with them. Great schools go one big step further. Great schools define “greatness” itself as the outcome they seek.
Greatness is exemplified in our Portrait of an MMS Graduate, which lists the qualities we strive to develop at MMS and that we see in our graduates. They:
• Value time and manage it effectively.
• Are skilled in the creative use of technology.
• Are effective self-advocates.
• Take ethical action on behalf of others.
• See critical reaction as information and opportunity.
Through interviews and anecdotes, we have learned that our graduates are excellent in the skill of using time efficiently: “I am able to use time effectively, completing my work on time, excelling on tests, projects, oral reports, team assignments, and I am never late for anything,” said 2005 graduate, Brittany Mays.
MMS graduates are able to execute projects and academic assignments using software in ways that far surpass their peers. One graduate said,
“Using a computer for Facebook, gaming, and talking to your friends is not the skill-set needed to crank out an academic assignment. I came out of MMS already knowing how to write a paper using footnotes and endnotes; I can easily insert my own illustrations and interesting graphics to create slides that won’t bore you to tears, and can compose music to go with my presentations. I can make timelines and films. I know how to be responsible with technology. More importantly, I can learn new applications quickly because of the time I spent learning new things here,” said Steve Mather, MMS ‘05.
MMS graduates have no problem speaking directly to their teachers to ask questions, clarify, seek out pointed feedback to improve their academic performance, or just to develop a friendly relationship. Vanessa Libby, MMS ‘08 said, “I couldn’t believe how students avoided teachers when I got to high school. I mean they actively tried to stay away from them, even avoiding eye contact. That was completely foreign to me. I mean, they are there to help!” Stephanie Hice, MMS ’07 told us, “There were kids in my class who hated my math teacher. I mean everyone really had bad things to say about this teacher. I always made a point to stick around after class to talk about the work, and I found that she was helpful, kind, and very creative. There is no doubt that she was consistently demanding, but I liked her for that. She really wanted us to have a grasp on the material.”
MMS graduates adopt a long horizon beyond the playground into the community and the world and demonstrate the public purpose of private education through their volunteerism and interest in issues that affect us locally, nationally, and globally. Graduates have served in the Peace Corps, as Vista volunteers, and have been community activists in Milwaukee. They have raised money for water wells in Central America, taught in the slums of India and South Africa, advocated for the cleanliness of the Great Lakes, and a great deal more. Our hope is that our students will understand that their advantages in life must be used for the common good, and we know from learning more about the ongoing work of our graduates that this is important to them as well.
Becoming great is a process of honing and reflecting, tweaking and perfecting. For example, we continue to learn the most important developments in technology so we may bring them to your children. This enables our students to become fully functional creators and problem solvers. Having an excellent formula for education is good, and we have that with the Montessori method and philosophy as our rudder. Striving to become great by constantly adding and improving on the formula means that our school is able to have a lasting impact on the lives of children as they become adults in the wider community.