It's hard to believe that Fessenden's academic year has come to a close. Before we gear up for another year of informative and entertaining editorial, we thought we would share your favorite posts from the 2018-2019 school year. Enjoy!
If you’re one of the many parents deciding between private and public school for your child, you know there are myriad considerations ranging from the cost of tuition to the intangible feel of an academic environment. Read More.
In this popular video, a family shares why they chose to enroll their son in a junior boarding school. The answers may surprise you. Read More.
There’s a lot to be said for cherishing the things that spark joy in your life. Just ask Marie Kondo or any of her “Tidying Up” devotees. But while the KonMari Method has swept the States by storm and people are blessing their belongings goodbye in search of happiness, the idea of joy is a little different at Fessenden. Read More.
Whenever alumni drop by to see the School, they are surprised by the changes that have occurred since their departure, as they search out familiar places from their student days, often finding them to be very different than they recall. “The Schoolroom seems so much smaller than I remember it!” is a common remark, or “I can’t believe I lived in this tiny dorm room!” Of course, the real differences are in themselves. Boys when they graduate and men when they return, they often visit to show us who they’ve become. For faculty and staff who welcome them back, it’s a “full circle” moment.
On May 2, another graduate returned to see the place where he had lived and gone to school from fifth through ninth grade. Matt Nathanson ’88 hadn’t been back to Fessenden since 2003, when he came to help us celebrate Fessenden’s Centennial Year. He played his music in the newly-opened wrestling space for a small audience of students and parents. A lot has happened since then. Matt has built a remarkable career as a singer/songwriter, including platinum and gold records; national tours with artists such as Indigo Girls, Train, and Kelly Clarkson; countless television appearances; and 13 albums. Matt has a dedicated legion of fans who follow him, loyally filling venues wherever he performs.
It might have seemed that Matt’s day at Fessenden was different from the usual alumni visits. After all, he performed two shows for students, faculty, and staff in our recently completed Class of 1985 Auditorium, combining a sampling of his music with stories of his experiences at Fessenden and in the music business. Along with his bandmate, guitarist Aaron Tapp, Matt played favorites such as “Headphones,” Prince’s “Starfish and Coffee” (with an audience sing-a-long), “Faster,” and his huge hit “Come On, Get Higher” to an enthusiastic response. It was a very special event for everyone involved, made all the more so by the fact that an alumnus was the first guest performer on our new stage.
However, for those of us who remember Matt as a boy who sought any opportunity he could to sing and play his guitar on the stage of the old Performing Arts Center, seeing him return as a man who has stayed true to his passion was especially meaningful. There he was again on our stage, doing what he loves to do.
It is something we are fortunate to see happen again and again at Fessenden. Boys come to Fessenden with dreams, aspirations to do great things, and our job is to keep those dreams alive. Our reward comes when they return to us, as men of accomplishment, inspiring the next generation of Fessenden boys to believe in themselves and to do the things they love.
Our thanks to Matt for spending a wonderful day with us!
Think about the number of times you have been required to interact with colleagues, peers, or strangers in the last week. Have you attended a work meeting? Participated in an important discussion that required a shared consensus? Or simply had to send an email to a group of people?
Communication and public speaking are critical skills, and research indicates that they must be honed at an early age. According to Psychology Today, a fear of public speaking affects “approximately 25 percent of Americans,” so it’s best to become practiced in publicly delivering information as soon as possible. At Fessenden, we promote public speaking as early as Pre-K and Kindergarten, and opportunities to practice and learn the art of communication extend through the ninth grade.
Communication In the Real World
The art of communication is multifaceted. A quality educational experience will acknowledge this and foster this important skill in a variety of ways. According to a recent article in Education Week, top employers list good oral communication skills as important qualities, but truly qualified applicants are hard to come by. The article notes, “relatively few regular public K-12 schools explicitly teach those skills, and even fewer teach them with real-world workplace scenarios.” So, if you’re considering a private school for your child, ask about the ways in which they teach and practice communication with students.
Here are four types of communication skills (and how they’re applied at Fessenden):
- Written: The development of written skills is woven throughout our curriculum, as it is in many schools. Students practice letter formation in Pre-K and Kindergarten and embrace various types of writing as they join our Upper School ranks; whether it’s creative writing or research writing, opportunities abound. And, our annual literary publication celebrates the diverse creativity of our students.
- Oral: Throughout a child’s time in Pre-K and Kindergarten, there are a number of chances for our youngest students to stand before their peers and practice confidence, eye contact, volume, and a general comfort with speaking in front of others. Opportunities at circle time and within classroom environments become gateways to bigger events, such as concerts and play performances. This skill-building leads to additional experiences as students get older. During this time, plays and musicals are more advanced, boys are required to deliver a meditation in front of their peers before the end of their ninth grade year, and they can often be found presenting to faculty and their fellow students as part of in-class studies and project-based learning units.
- Interpersonal: Individual and group interactions are important aspects of the learning experience. Our character education program is what sets us apart from many other schools, and it is thoughtfully incorporated into our curriculum. Character is as vital to our culture and curriculum as are science labs and soccer practice—and has been since our founding. It’s woven into music lessons, meal times, and basketball drills. It’s evident in our interactions with one another and in the choices we make when no one is looking.
- Nonverbal: We constantly teach students that they can say a lot without saying anything at all. Just as there are ways to be respectful, compassionate, and attentive without communicating verbally, there are ways to be disrespectful and disengaged without talking. This comes into play when we discuss mindfulness and when we represent the school in public—like our annual community service days or field trips—and each day in the classrooms, the hallways, and the dining hall.
You Tell Us.
What are some of the ways you see communication coming into play at an early age?
Official Opening of the William R. Elfers ‘63 Center for the Arts
On April 6, the Fessenden community gathered to celebrate the opening of the William R. Elfers ‘63 Center for the Arts. The evening featured the Grade 5-9 Arts Show and the unveiling of the School’s completely renovated and modernized arts facilities, including a stunning new recital hall and state-of-the-art theater. The spectacular new center ensures that boys of all ages will have the opportunity to experience the arts in a facility that matches the excellence of our visual and performing arts program.
The arts center is named for alumnus and trustee Bill Elfers ‘63 who stepped forward as the lead donor for the project because he attributes Fessenden with providing a solid foundation for his endeavors later in life. Bill enrolled in Fessenden’s five-day boarding program at the age of 11 and is truly appreciative of the academic preparation, values, life skills, and work ethic that Fessenden instilled in him. The motivation to continue achieving academic -- and later, professional -- success has stayed with him throughout his life. Bill shares, “Fessenden’s program, teachers, proximity to Boston, and campus facilities make it the best school of its kind in the United States. I am very proud to have graduated from this fine school and I’m very proud to support it.
Center for the Arts Highlights
Fessenden’s new Center for the Arts is the result of a major overhaul of the 35-year-old arts wing as well as a substantial addition. The new spaces features:
- a contemporary theater with 246 fixed, tiered seats; enhanced backstage areas, and a dedicated lobby;
- state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems offering hands-on learning in stagecraft and production;
- a new, 125-seat recital hall that will double as an instrumental music classroom;
- a gallery on the second floor of a completely renovated atrium with additional, illuminated display space to formally exhibit the work of students and outside artists;
- expanded and updated classrooms and studios for students working in two-and three-dimensional media, graphic design, ceramics, printmaking, and woodworking;
- vocal classrooms and soundproofed practice rooms for musicians, individually and in ensemble;
- a 12-station keyboard lab and central computer for teacher-guided or self-led playing; and
- a recording studio with up-to-date recording and playback technology.
Fessenden’s Arts Curriculum Highlights
The new Center for the Arts was designed with collaborating, creating, and convening in mind and integrates the arts into every academic discipline, just as art, music, and culture fold organically into everyday life. Boys in Grades 5-9 can choose from an impressive list of music, theatre, and visual arts electives:
- Concert Band
- String Ensemble
- Private Music Lessons Options Include: Bass Guitar, Cello, Clarinet, Double Bass, Drums, Flute, Guitar, Piano, Saxophone, Trumpet, Trombone, Viola, Violin, and Voice
Visual Arts Offerings
- Studio Art
- Digital Filmmaking
- Innovation Studio
Theater Arts Offerings
- Fessenden Theatre Company
- Musical Theatre
- Theatre Arts
- Stage Combat
Since the opening of the William R. Elfers ‘63 Center for the Arts a few short weeks ago the space has been bustling with activity. Please check our calendar for upcoming events, many of which are open to the general public. Or contact us to schedule a campus tour at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-630-2300. We look forward to seeing you on campus soon.
In more ways than one, boarding school is an investment. There is, of course, the financial reality of tuition associated with a private school education. But the term “investment” extends beyond the financial cost of a tuition-driven educational experience. It is also an investment in your child’s future.
As you consider private school as an option for your child (and your family), you’ll want to know how you can measure the success of such a program. Some of the benefits of boarding school will be visible and apparent early on in your child’s experience, while others will take years to see. Every child is different, so attempting to determine whether the cost of tuition will pay off can feel challenging when the metrics are nebulous. Here are five things successful boarding schools will deliver to your child:
Your Child Will Begin to Develop Positive Study Habits
The development of strong study skills is a frequently- noted benefit of boarding schools. In many cases, study halls are built into daily schedules—often multiple times a day. At Fessenden, we constantly hear from students that “it’s easy to study when everyone else is studying.” Tasks like completing homework become second nature when it’s “part of your daily routine.” It is especially good to develop these habits at a junior boarding school, which will give students a competitive advantage at and prepare them for secondary school—and also when they eventually go off to college. Boarding school students are immersed in a learning environment at all times which sets the stage for their future academic journeys and shapes them as learners.
Responsibility Will Take on a New Meaning
At Fessenden, boarding students have a balance of structure and independence, which allows them to learn to become responsible students, friends, and community members with guiding support. It may sound simple, but the skills of remembering to practice good hygiene, preparing for the upcoming school day, and developing time management are improved throughout the year. At Fessenden, we are proud to be partners in parenting, and our residential faculty—including dorm parents, friendly dogs, and tiny tots—create a home-away-from-home experience. We meet with students before or after dinner for extra homework help; remind boys to call home, brush teeth, or put clean laundry away; celebrate a range of successes and triumphs; and encourage and support students when they are feeling down. This nurturing mix of guidance and freedom leads students to feel a sense of pride in becoming increasingly responsible young men.
The Power of Choice Will Be Realized.
Most boarding schools encourage students to develop the important skill of choice. Successful boarding programs will foster this in the classrooms and in students’ daily lives. For example, student choice is a critical component of project-based learning, which can be utilized more easily by private schools that aren’t held to strict state standards and mandated tests. But student choice is also incorporated into things like weekend and evening activities. At Fessenden, we allow students to make their own choices and design their own weekend experiences, which teaches them how to balance their schedules. When an exhausted student who signed up for a hike in the morning isn’t quite so keen to join the hockey game he signed up for in the afternoon, he learns an important lesson about managing his energy and physical needs.
Success in Secondary School and College
According to The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS), an organization that conducts research and promotes awareness and understanding of boarding schools, 78 percent of boarding school students feel well-prepared for college, as compared with 36 percent of private day school students and 23 percent of public school students.
The Fessenden Difference
While Fessenden’s boarding school population is fairly small compared to the whole school (approximately 100 students out of the School’s more than 500 total students in Pre-K through Grade 9), the impact our residential program has on the footprint of the School is significant. For example, while our day students don’t board at Fessenden, they enjoy the warmth and richness created by the boarding community, including the opportunity to develop relationships with 40 faculty families who live on campus. It adds another dimension to the daily experience and contributes to the close-knit community from which we we all benefit.
You Tell Us.
Do you have a student who is currently enrolled in a boarding school? What types of growth have you seen?
Gabe Lopes, a sixth grade student, shares his thoughts about his past, present, and future at Fessenden. We hope you enjoy this delightful student talk about the Fessenden experience.