What does it mean to be a healthy school?
Some say there are three reasons why people choose to work in schools. They are: June, July, and August. While summer months do provide a welcome change of pace and a certain level of renewal, working with students and adults—and realizing growth—is the true reward of the important work we do.
Like many schools, New Hampton uses the summer months for thoughtful reflection and planning for the ways in which we can improve our programming, facilities, and culture. We are in a constant state of evolution; we work to ensure that we are inspiring and engaging our students and families with the best possible experience, and that they understand the value-added benefits of being a Husky—values which extend well beyond graduation day.
How do we measure our progress?
As a school, we aim to provide the best possible experience for our students. Since every student is different, and their needs and aspirations are unique, this can be difficult to measure.
Schools can track data points from admissions and advancement that speak to demand or satisfaction, and student life statistics can speak to involvement or behavior. While we take time to monitor and act upon these points of feedback, understanding the climate that exists within our community is what truly drives the work we do as a school.
To this end, we initiated a climate survey with our full constituency last spring to uncover the honest impressions of our community. Our surveys included parents, students, faculty and staff and alumni. Through this, we were provided with honest and relevant feedback about the culture and climate of our school and community. The results are helping us focus on our potential blind spots and find the most important opportunities to make improvements to our school environment.
As I shared with our students and staff during convocation, we all like positive feedback that recognizes our effort and increases our sense of pride and purpose, and we were lucky to receive wonderful feedback through this assessment. However, real growth comes from a willingness to receive and act upon our shortcomings.
What have we learned?
New Hampton is fortunate that our community is very proud of their association with our school. We received high marks for the positive energy that exists on our campus, and the acknowledgement from our constituents for our consistent progress in building an inclusive school community, where differences are respected and supported, whether that is how our students learn, their interests, or their backgrounds.
What did we learn that needs attention and how are we addressing it? New Hampton School’s size is one of our true strengths as it allows everyone to be known and for universally strong relationships to exist. However, we may know a student well, but taking time to acknowledge their contributions is another step. Our survey results shed light on the fact that we should improve the breadth of students we “recognize” within our community, celebrating more successes in classes, through role-modeling, in the arts and in our athletes.
For me, a healthy school is one where all members are known, appreciated, and recognized for their contributions. Our opening days work with faculty focused on the essential question of how we can provide a consistent sense of belonging for each and every student. Naturally, some students are harder for adults to break through with and truly get to know; a few whose subtler gifts are not as prominently seen as the winning goal at a game or breakout song at school meeting. Being sure to shine the light on those with meaningful contributions that may be less evident is our charge in this year. Guided by this year’s motto, We Are One, we look forward to building togetherness by highlighting the successes and growth—big or small—of every individual in our community.