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Carolyn Graham Tsuneta - Class of 1978Published September 2013
Given that so many Roeperians leave the school and go on to become quite famous, it’s easy to assume that more ordinary news would not necessarily be of interest, but the truth is that my “ordinary” life feels quite extraordinary to me and so much of what drives me and inspires me comes directly from my experience at Roeper. It astonishes me that I graduated from Roeper thirty-five years ago. I still identify so strongly with the 18 year old girl who left Roeper to go to Northwestern University, but when I look in the mirror, the woman who looks back at me is the mother of three grown sons and the grandmother of one granddaughter and two grandsons. After a long stretch of acting and directing in community theater, my current life seems to be mostly involved with holding steady, so that my family of artists can move forward.
What I have observed in my thirty years of parenting and grand parenting is that my Roeper education informs everything that I do with regard to my children and grandchildren. While I was at Roeper, I learned the importance of questioning everything, remaining open to possibility, asking for clarification if something was confusing. I learned that everyone has different gifts and that we are each obligated to share those gifts with the larger community. I learned that learning something quickly didn’t have any more merit than learning something slowly. It is not the speed of comprehension that determines its importance. I learned that there is not ONE WAY to learn. I saw that my friends with dyslexia had to learn by HEARING words, not SEEING words on paper and that their memories were much stronger as a result of not being dependent on the written word. I learned that being sensitive was a blessing and a curse, but that it was definitely part of being highly intelligent. I learned that the secret to having an interesting life is to be a lifelong learner and that not all education happens in schools. I learned that it was okay to be passionate about ideas and to have strong opinions, that dialogue and even argument have merit when people are trying to understand each other. I learned that humor was a great diffuser of tension and that being able to laugh at myself was crucial to my sanity. All of my children/grandchildren have been/are being raised with these principles. Having such a strong foundation for self-acceptance and having appreciation for the talents of others has been a true gift of the Roeper education.
Jeff Deutsch - Class of 1994Published February 2013
The Roeper School: Teaching Students to Succeed Despite the Heavy Burden of FreedomI'm an entrepreneur who's been in China for the past 8 years. I started off running marketing campaigns for Chinese companies, then founded an SEO company that has handled more than 1,000 clients worldwide. Now I'm getting involved in some new projects from our base in Sanya, Hainan (a tropical island that's part of China, way down south next to Vietnam). My latest venture aims to bring groups down here to learn how to surf and check out the local culture.
I like my life. I work from home. I have the freedom to live in a nice environment, work when I want, and spend lots of time with my family. And I wouldn't have any of it without Roeper, because I would have never figured out how to succeed under the heavy burden of freedom.
I started out at Roeper in 9th grade. Before then, I had gotten used to the disciplinarian environment of the middle schools I attended. At those schools, it seemed the coolest kids were the ones who cut class, rebelled, and got bad grades. I did my best to try and be "cool." In 7th grade I think I set a record for trips to the Assistant Principal's office, and in 8th grade the school faculty went out of their way to get me transferred to another school district. I got held back in Algebra and honestly can't remember what grades I got in any subject. I had a problem with authority, so all of this made me feel proud--like a little punk James Dean fighting the system.
When I arrived at Roeper, I found that it was a completely different environment from what I had experienced before. The teachers were generally not so concerned with having absolute authority over the students--and we, the students, were given a SCARY amount of freedom. Healthy debate with teachers was encouraged. We got a liberal amount of leeway when it came to what we researched and wrote about. Students negotiated scheduling and school policy with staff. We even got off campus privileges! It totally blew my mind.
Looking back, I realize that the teachers and faculty were doing their best to encourage us to grow, think for ourselves, and to figure out how to use our freedom to succeed. It wasn't like going to school. It was like real life. For example, despite the extra workload it would mean for him, math teacher Pat O'Connor selflessly encouraged me to take Algebra and Geometry concurrently to make up for getting held back. He gave me the freedom to kill myself with math homework, and I ended up doing pretty well.
But unfortunately, I didn't always use my freedom for the powers of good. Mostly I was still a little punk, and my bad habits persisted. I exploited my freedom at Roeper a lot, particularly by acting stupid in class and not working hard. Thankfully, the reaction I got was different from my other schools. My classmates (especially kids who'd been at Roeper since Lower School) didn't find my behavior amusing like the kids at my other schools, and teachers and staff didn't give me the punishments I had gotten before either. In fact, their punishments were far worse. They would let me know how DISAPPOINTED they were in me.
They were disappointed because, although I was being given all the support I could ever want, instead of appreciating it, accepting it, and learning, I was still rebelling!
One memory sticks out in particular. After handing in a halfhearted attempt at a DNA model to biology teacher Lotte Geller, she barked at me in her thick German accent, "You know nothing about the structure of DNA!" I felt a sting of shame that I had never experienced in school before, but it would still take me years to understand her reaction. Had it just been a bad grade on a test or a missed homework assignment, she might not have been so angry. She had shown us respect by giving us the freedom to do the assignment however we wanted. She had put in the effort to prepare us, and had been available to support us whenever we needed it. In response to her kindness and support, I hadn't asked her one question or talked to her at all about the project. On the contrary, I had shown a lack of respect for the assignment and put in a total lack of effort.
That is why I described the freedom we were given as being "scary."
Living without the freedom to do what you want is strangely a very comforting thing. Your job is to FOLLOW and CONSUME. If you follow with any kind of effort and still don't succeed, you get none of the blame. Blame is reserved for the teachers, your parents, the school district's policies, the school lunch, society, the economy, and so on. This is what I have seen in Chinese schools too.
Having freedom, on the other hand, is extremely unnerving. You are expected to LEAD and PRODUCE. When you fail, the blame falls on YOU. This is especially true when you have the kind of unconditional support we got at Roeper. Even though I didn't realize it back then--and even though I don't *think* it was by design--the freedom and support Roeper provided put us all under an immense amount of pressure!
However, I believe that pressure is a GOOD thing, because it forces you to rise to the challenge. While it would take me many more years to attain the level of personal responsibility it's taken to accomplish what I have here in China, the lessons I learned at Roeper are what put me on the path. Moreover, I look at the awesome achievements of my classmates--many of whom are leaders in fields like medicine, technology, law, finance, business, and education--and think they might say something similar about how Roeper prepared them for the challenges they have faced in their professional lives.
Cheezy or not, I like the phrase "a diamond is just another piece of coal that did well under pressure." Roeper produces a lot of diamonds under the pressure of freedom and support.
Phred Brown - Class of 2003Published: June 15, 2012
Your world is as you dream it. I based the blueprints for my "bubble" on the feeling of being a Roeper kid. I wanted my adult life to feel like the 13 years I spent on the benches of Roeper's halls and the couches of its classrooms. Roeper's landscape is vast. Its campus may be small, but Roeper has created a world within its grounds that extends far beyond any boundary. I can point to memories - school assemblies, band concerts, sporting events, theatre performances - that make for great examples of a cultivating Roeper environment. But it's the spaces in between those moments that really stick with me.
I came out of Roeper with an optimism that inspires everything I do because the school's community is uplifting in every aspect. Everything I was a part of while I was there encouraged my peers and me to continue upward and find the next level. Band class was first offered as an elective in Stage IV. As a 9-year-old, I spent one semester in Beginner Band playing snare drum. The following semester I moved into the Advanced Band on snare and went back to Beginner band to learn saxophone. At the end of the year, I asked to take a trombone home for the summer. By the time school started back up, I was ready to play the trombone in the Advanced Band. My teachers noticed this passion and always opened doors for my talent and curiosity to flourish. This pattern continued in my life and now I write string arrangements for #1 hit records, produce performances for The Grammys and act as Musical Director for Bruno Mars, where I write live arrangements of songs and lead a band around the world backing a Grammy-Award Winning artist.
The natural progression upon leaving a place like Roeper is to keep going higher and higher.
Roeper is also a place where kids don't have to fit molds. Students explore and develop and rediscover themselves through interactions and growing together. There's so much to take in at Roeper that I think the greatest method of learning is to just stop, observe and take note. That open-minded focus is one of the greatest gifts Roeper gave me. Being able to "stay the course" while remaining aware of - and open to - the periphery has been essential to navigating life after Roeper. There's no template for building a career in the music industry. You have to make your own "step-by-step," and it takes creativity and logic. You also need fearless confidence. In charting this path through life, I often check in with my 10-year-old self. His choices orient him towards success because he anticipates greatness and not failure. His atmosphere guides him in this way and turns his innocent excitement into channeled motivation. Roeper is the habitat in which inspiration begets aspiration and aspirations beget success. I will always be grateful for the life momentum I developed in my time at Roeper, because the trajectory has allowed me to see the world - and create my own - doing what I love.
LeeAundra Keany (Preuss) - Class of 1986
In 1982, the new English teacher, Nancy Hopkins, asked to speak at our assembly about a new school activity. Even for Roeper, it was strange. Competitive public speaking? What was that and why was it called “forensics?” Thirty years later, I laugh at my confusion. Nancy had, in that moment, introduced me to a life-long passion and my eventual livelihood.
That is one reason I have to be grateful for my time at Roeper. But in fact, there were so many moments during my four years there that were truly life defining. And since I am writing this the week after Thanksgiving, it seems right and natural to give thanks for everything Roeper gave me.
For the past 15 years, I have owned my own communications coaching business where I am honored to work with the most fascinating executives, authors, actors, scientists, politicians, and entrepreneurs. All because Nancy started a forensics team at Roeper.
I now get to spout off on political rhetoric as a pundit on television and radio because Kate Millet said the State of the Union was important and no matter how boring it was I must watch it every year.
I answered the Final Jeopardy Question, “What is a filibuster?” correctly and became a Jeopardy champion because Frank Blondale’s history lectures were so indelible I remembered that the American filibuster was first used when Congress was debating the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
I am a writer for Discover Magazine in spite of the fact I am not a scientist nor a journalist because Sandy Lash was so excited about the first space shuttle launch happening on her birthday, I couldn’t help but think it was cool. I should also mention that the number one requisite for a science journalist, keep asking “Why?” until everybody hates you, was encouraged by every science teacher I ever had at Roeper.
I am married to a brilliant actor and the most wonderful man in the world because Dean Acheson taught me enough about three-act structure that I was able to carry on a conversation during our first date.
I volunteer for a number of humanitarian causes because George Roeper once told me about his escape from Nazi Germany and instilled in me a lifelong respect for the rights, dignity, and life of all humans.
I am a (reasonably) confident, functioning member of society instead of a scared, insecure misfit because in Annemarie Roeper’s class “Who am I?” I learned about Barbara Bartz’s former life as a nun and saw for the first time, the richness and worth of difference.
If I have had some measure of conventionally defined success in my adult life, it is because of Roeper. More important, the parts of me I like the best are also because of Roeper.
I am now watching my step-son go through the paces of his public school’s version of a gifted program. While he is no doubt getting a superb “education,” I look at his “accelerated” curriculum, his “development plan” (for a six year old?), and children not too much older than he being tracked for Ivy League, and I am reminded anew of how lucky I was to have Roeper. Roeper served the whole child, all of me. It put my happiness before base achievement, personal fulfillment before society’s metrics, giving before individual ambition.
For me, Roeper was a "School for the Gifted" not just because the students were gifted but also because we received life gifts every day from our teachers, the other kids and of course from George and Annemarie.
As a communications coach, it is embarrassing to admit that sometimes I am speechless but that happens more often than not when I think of the profound impact Roeper has had on me.
Writing has been my pride and passion for as long as I can remember. In fact, I wrote my first poem – as a very little girl – in a tree house on Roeper’s beautiful campus. Along with a large, loving family and an unquenchable thirst to write, it was Roeper that truly nurtured this powerful passion, very early on in my little life.
Everything about the school radiated love, and the people within it showered me with comfort and confidence. It was a magical place, with a pulse and a spirit. My first written words took shape there, sprawled out in a tree house with the sky and the leaves as my backdrop. It will be forever etched in my heart.
I began Roeper in kindergarten, and I stayed for a decade. During the ten years I was there, I could feel my own emotional, spiritual and intellectual maturity begin to rise up within me, growing stronger with each passing year. My time at Roeper was indeed a journey towards self-discovery; a dynamic, never-ending journey that I still walk to this very day. For as long as I move about freely on this earth, I never, ever want that journey towards self-discovery to end. It is a comfortable constant in my life.
When I think back on my years at Roeper, my mind automatically catapults itself back to one powerful, pivotal moment that occurred early in my childhood. It was a soulful, singular moment in time that crystallized the person I was to become. That it happened while I was at Roeper is a bountiful blessing. Here’s what happened:
I was in kindergarten; happy to have good friends, a great learning environment and, like most kindergartners, an overactive imagination. I loved everything within my world of Roeper. I even looked forward to lunch (but not naptime!) My life was wonderful.
The moment itself unfolded late one afternoon, as I was preparing for the long ride home (I lived in Detroit, which seemed, back then, like a thousand-hour ride from Bloomfield Hills.) I remember plundering through my book bag, searching for something to prepare me for the long ride home. I even remember an end-of-the-day glance up the hill, towards the Upper School – a refurbished mansion -- which stood majestically on the very top of a nearby hill. (At the end of each day, I’d bid farewell to my beloved Roeper. I remember thinking the very words, “Goodbye … I’ll see everyone and everything tomorrow!”)
As I burrowed through my book bag, my little hands brought up several, vital items: an apple (I was always hungry by the end of the day), my Raggedy Ann doll (much-loved and well-worn), and – wonder of wonders – a book! I looked at the book for a few seconds. Since I didn’t yet know how to read, the book felt a little off-balance in my hands, like a stranger coming to visit, or a new and wonderful friend whose name I did not yet know.
I decided to open it up...Read More...
I am now working as a visual arts teacher at a small private school in Orange County, CA. The Roeper philosophy on teaching has inspired my projects and ideas for my students. Although most people in Orange County (or really anywhere) are not knowledgeable of Humanism, I have found that incorporating its teaching into each child's life to be an essential part of educating a child or teenager to grow into an ethical, responsible and happy adult. I am amazed at how interested my students can become in subjects as dry as test prep when they are given a say in their education. Self control and self guidance are two important life skills I began to learn at Roeper. More than 10 years later, I am thrilled to be passing these ideals on to my students. I remember how shocked I was to be allowed to choose my own literature classes as an upperclassmen and how much more I cared about my own learning process when I was given constructive guidance.
Before becoming a teacher, these skills also helped me survive the "sink or swim" climate of the UC (University of California) system as well as have the courage to drop everything and move abroad to further my studies. Being accepted as an individual helped me navigate the culture shock of living in another country. Of course, as a teenager, I did not fully appreciate how lucky I was to attend Roeper. However, I can now appreciate how patient my teachers were as well as their unusual ability to adapt to my learning style. Now with the tables turned, I can see that many of my current students have a ways to go before appreciating their own education but I can see that little sparkle in their eyes that lets me know I have started to reach them.
Since I could pick up a crayon, art was a huge part of my life so it is no surprise that I ended up sharing that passion with others. Roeper is one of the last schools to hold the arts in high esteem. With educational theory stating that art not only enriches the mind and soul but helps students improve in other subjects, a comprehensive fine arts program is more important than ever. Roseanne Thompson's 2D and 3D art classes stick out in my memory as a good inspiration for running my classroom. I enjoy being able to incorporate Humanism into my educational practices, although I must admit I am glad it is in a much warmer climate.
Every group of people has a story to tell and every story can teach you something. These are ideas that Roeper taught me, and they are crucial for me in my current position as a production assistant for American History TV at C-SPAN in Washington, DC. Every day I work to bring the rich history of our nation into view so that people can learn more about the world they live in. This passion for thinking critically and learning about the world that Roeper instilled in me has become a valuable resource and has helped me in my career. When I think about it now, I realize that a lot of that came from being a part of the Roeper community as a whole and not just the classes I went to or the activities I participated in.
People who attend Roeper have a wonderfully unique sense of what community means. In fact, it occurred to me recently that for many Roeper alums, community and Roeper are pretty much synonymous. The reason for that is plain and simple: the Roeper experience is more than a typical education – it is an education for life. Roeper teaches you to think critically about what it means to be a citizen of the world and how to work with others - a helpful skill for surviving in Washington! Roeper also teaches you that respect for others coupled with an open mind are some of the best assets a person can have in this world.
Most importantly for me personally, Roeper teaches you how to listen and what you can gain from listening. From my earliest days in the lower school all the way through my senior year I saw first hand that the best way to learn is by listening to other people and appreciating the stories they share. And let me tell you - Roeperites have a lot of great stories to share! So whether it was listening to a teacher speak passionately about material for a class or an assembly about a current political issue or a rehearsal for a play or even just spending time on the sidelines of a soccer game cheering on my friends, Roeper helped me grow to really love learning in every sense of the word.
It is that love of learning and listening to stories that Roeper cultivated in me that has led me to where I am today. So when I sit down to edit an oral history interview for air, or write a script about the legacy of the civil rights movement, I think about how lucky I am that I can help other people learn and see what it means to be a citizen of the world and share even just a bit of that Roeper spirit and compassion through cable television.
I am an alumnus, class of 1970, and a Trustee. First, let me say I came to Roeper from a Parochial School in Hamtramck, where my class had 54 students - in one classroom. The nuns demanded severe discipline and out-of-the box thinking was not tolerated. A teacher punished me once for completing the "Think and Do" book in the first week of school - it was to last all year. I did not follow the rules. All too often rules exist to make the job easier for the teacher and the administration - and not at all considering the student.
My transition to Roeper in 1965 was not easy; I had to break out of the "yes Ma'am" mode. I actually showed up at my first day of classes at Roeper in a suit. You can imagine the reaction.
That aside, Roeper opened my eyes and mind. From Roeper I went on to MIT where I received my bachelors and doctorate (I made the gutsy move to skip the master’s degree and bet that I could go straight for the doctorate.) After MIT, I went on to Law School and am licensed to practice in DC. I would not have had the confidence or courage to apply to MIT, had it not been for Roeper and how it instilled belief in myself.
Roeper imprinted me with a curiosity and respect for learning that shaped my life and career. I performed research at the IBM TJ Watson Research Center – one of the top research laboratories in the world. I filed for my first patent and presented a paper at an international conference as an undergraduate. I spent four years at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – the top government research institution in the US. I have been quoted in the Washington Post, Business Week, and Wall Street Journal. I have started several companies and have savored success and survived failure. Each was a learning experience. Roeper taught me to follow my passions and to love learning.
Roeper and its environment gave me the tools to make difficult decisions and choices – something that a more-structured environment could not. I am repeatedly humbled by the achievements of other Roeper alums. How many schools, comparable in size, have two Olympians in their alumni roster? One with a silver medal? How many have alums that were instrumental in the design of Microsoft Windows operating system? The list goes on - these are just the ones I know about.
Because of the confidence Roeper gave me, as an undergraduate at MIT I had no fear in challenging rules. I performed my undergraduate thesis off campus - at the IBM Watson Research Center, something expressly prohibited at MIT. My research was IBM confidential material until I published it, also prohibited. I was paid for doing the work - also prohibited. My transcript shows courses as substitutes for required courses even though the curriculum at the time expressly indicated that they were not acceptable substitutes. Why did I get away with this? Because I had learned at Roeper not to accept rules at face value, but that if you presented a credible and well-thought through argument, rules might become merely guidelines.
This may come as a surprise to many of you, but I joined ROTC in graduate school (after the Vietnam War which I had opposed.) The Army had to issue an age waiver for me to be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. When time came to attend the officer's basic course, I saw it as a total waste of time. I and another MIT graduate convinced a 2-star general that our technical skills could better be used elsewhere in the military. When the commanding colonel of my unit received the orders to get us assigned to do technical intelligence analysis as "counterpart training" at Fort Meade, his response was "How in the h*ll did you do that, everyone must attend the officers basic course!" The best part about this assignment was that it was so classified that I was not permitted to wear a uniform.
Roeper gives students a belief that they are in charge of their destinies and a sense of confidence they can change the world.
Hi, my name’s Britt Harwood, and I’m a Roeper lifer. I started in nursery school and graduated in 2005. Last May, I graduated from Brown University with a double major in Comparative Literature and Public Policy. I’d like to share some lessons from Roeper that helped me through college and continue to help me today.
As a Roeper student, you have to question everything, think for yourself, and make connections. Not all students leave high school as independent thinkers, but the ability to inquire is the single most important part of academia. When I went to college, I brought intellectual rigor and curiosity with me, because I grew up in an environment that fostered it.
Roeper also engages in a constant dialogue about values. It’s an idealistic place, but its ideals are grounded in the principle that people’s actions directly shape the world around them. As a student, I always had to examine what kind of person I wanted to be, what kind of world I wanted to live in, and how I wanted to help create it. Now that I’m facing major decisions about my future, the intuitions I developed when I was young guide me to make choices that reflect my beliefs.
Finally, I think that Roeper students experience a kind of compassion and tolerance that runs very deep. The Roeper community challenged me to respect everyone for his or her unique worth as an individual. Away from Roeper, I’ve found that respecting others in a meaningful way brings respect back to me; it makes me a more trustworthy person, and it makes life much more interesting.
Roeper’s is not a “textbook” education—but the lessons I learned about living will stick with me long after I’m out of school, and I’m grateful for that.
My Roeper education has helped structure and hone so much of what I value today. Aside from solid critical thinking and communication skills, my teachers instilled an integral sense of human justice, a sense of inner strength, self-motivation and a belief that authority—of all kinds—must be checked. These principles compelled my involvement at Guantanamo Bay and later allowed me to shed light on the gross violations of human dignity and constitutional law that I witnessed. My Roeper experience also furthered a deep sense of empathy. This allowed for a greater understanding and appreciation for the struggles of the prisoners I got to know at Guantanamo. It helped me form a close rapport with prisoners who have perhaps forgotten that they still could trust. So many of my decisions have been, at least lately, influenced by the values encouraged at Roeper. I feel very privileged to have attended school in such a nurturing environment.
Introduction: We have asked Melissa Sommerfeld Gresalfi ’95, to first explain her academic and research work at Indiana University on critical thinking and then elaborate on how that work was based on her Roeper experience.
I have spent the past four years as an Assistant Professor at Indiana University working on one seemingly modest goal: to design curricula that encourage students to engage “critically” with information. Critical engagement involves being intentional about the disciplinary tools you use to resolve a problem, and being able to reflect on how that tool (as opposed to another), enables you to achieve the end you had in mind. Let me give an example from one of the curricula I have designed in math (to see more, check it out at:http://worked_examples.crlt.indiana.edu/projects/9). Let’s say you had to decide which brand of bikes was safest. Someone gave you data about how long bikes took to stop once the brakes were applied. You have data from two brands of bikes. You are shown this graph. Then you have to decide: which brand is safest?
If you are like many middle school students, you might say to yourself: “My teacher told me that I should always use the mean. Gee…how do I calculate the mean….add up all the numbers and divide by the total. OK. Hmmm…Speedy Spokes has a lower mean than Rollin’ Steady. It must be the safer bike.”Next problem.
We call this procedural engagement. This means that kids are using procedures, (hopefully) accurately, but without considering why that procedure works, or how it supports some conclusions (but not others). Some educators are quite content with this level of engagement, believing that what it means to “understand” statistics involves being able to accurately use procedures when called upon to do so. There’s a problem with that definition of understanding.
It turns out that the mean ISN’T the only tool that you could use to decide which brand of bike is safer—nor is it necessarily the best. In fact, using the mean gives a particular definition of safety that is different from other definitions of safety. Specifically, the mean tells you which brand of bike is likely to stop most quickly, on average. So if you think that safety is about stopping quickly, then using the mean is a reasonable way to make sense of the data. But—and here’s the crucial part—if you think that a safe bike is one that’s predictable, that is, you know that the bike will stop in about the same time EVERY TIME, then the mean isn’t going to help you. At all. Instead, you need to consider the range of the data for both brands of bikes. And if you think about the range, suddenly you have a very different recommendation to make….Rollin’ Steady, which has a larger mean, but a much smaller range.
What does all this detail about math have to do with critical engagement? The point is that the decision you finally make is based on the tools you used and what you personally value. This is what expertise is really about—not blindly following a procedure, but making intentional decisions about how to approach a problem, what tools to bring to bear on it, and how to convince others that we are doing something reasonable. Whether the topic is politics, literature, history, engineering, or medicine, expert practice always involves intentional decision-making—critical engagement with the situation and tools you have available to you.
In my research, I argue that critical engagement should be a primary goal for education for two reasons. First, as explained above, critical engagement closely resembles expert practice. The other reason is that students actually learn more when they engage critically (as opposed to procedurally). Think of how deeply you have to understand an idea if you are going to use it to support a claim or challenge a counter-claim. Contrast that with how deeply you have to understand an idea if you merely need to be able to replicate a procedure or provide a definition. Critical engagement involves owning an idea; procedural engagement involves merely reproducing one (to read more about these distinctions, and how they play out in curricular designs, seehttp://inkido.indiana.edu/gresalfi/Pubs/Gresalfi,Barab,Siyahhan&Christensen(2009).pdf).
Despite the seemingly obvious benefits to teaching students to engage critically, it is unfortunately not a typical educational outcome. There are some funding agencies (like the MacArthur Foundation and the Spencer Foundation) who agree this is a worthwhile goal to pursue. The Carnegie foundation has even put together a series of videos about novel insights from educational research that challenge the current status quo in schools—the video can be found at their website:http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/carnegieviews/transformational-play-and-math-education Despite these small successes, it continues to be shocking to me how much effort it takes to convince some people that fostering critical engagement is a reasonable—and attainable—learning goal.
My befuddlement stems, no doubt, from the fact that until I started graduate school, I took it for granted that everyone thought that the purpose of education was to be able to engage in a good debate. This conviction developed from my own educational experiences, which have dramatically shaped my expectations of what education can and should be. Specifically, having attended Roeper for 14 years, I was quite accustomed to being asked what I thought about something, and then having to explain why I thought I was right. I was fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of other students who ALSO had ideas and opinions about things, and were equally passionate about persuading others that THEY were right. And we were quite privileged to have teachers who helped us to transition from simple debates based on opinion to reasoned arguments that leveraged disciplinary evidence to support our claims. Indeed, in the real world, shouting loudly is rarely the ticket to winning the battle (except, perhaps where politics are concerned, unfortunately).
When I look at the careers that my peers from Roeper have chosen, which range from law, to the arts, ecology, engineering, medicine, engineering, writing, and beyond, the clear thread that cuts through their work is a commitment to using their expertise to critically engage the world. It is one thing to be an attorney; it is quite another to use one’s law degree to advocate for children in poverty. It is one thing to study community art; it is quite another to leverage that experience to design programs where children learn to advocate for their own futures. What we learned at Roeper was the importance of taking a stand; what our classes provided for us was a way to engage content so that it could be a tool to use to support those stands. In the short term, this approach to teaching fostered an interest in learning that could be seen in heated debates, frantic study sessions, and creative independent projects. In the long term, this approach fostered so much more: a commitment to look at the world not as it is currently is, but as it could be, and a sense of ourselves as people who are expected, obligated, and entitled to make those changes.
Hello! I am Rachel Ratchford, and I attended The Roeper School for 8 years (4 in the lower school, 4 in high school). I graduated in May of 2009 and went on to to join the class of 2013 at Brown University, where I am pursuing a degree in Human Biology.
I don’t think anyone could have prepared me for the moment when I stepped onto the campus at Brown University for the first time as a student. It is daunting to be a college freshman at any university, and Brown is no exception. It was a scary, strange and beautiful process that was aided by the many lessons that I learned at Roeper along the way.
I feel that the phrase “With great power comes great responsibility” accurately sums up my experience last semester. Roeper did a fabulous job instilling in me a sense of independence and responsibility regarding my academics. The ability to balance a schedule and extracurriculars becomes increasingly more important in college. As a first year, it is easy to become overwhelmed, but Roeperians learn early on how to juggle their responsibilities with ease. Coming from a school that gave me so much freedom has truly prepared me to enter one that gives me even more choice and control over my academic career. I appreciate the opportunity to design my schedule at Brown and was glad to have learned the importance of pursuing your passions while accomplishing what is necessary at Roeper.
Finally, Roeper students learn to be inquisitive and curious about what they are being taught and to challenge what is placed before them. My desire to ask questions and fully understand whatever I am learning has only intensified since attending Brown. Roeper gives students the space to have frank discussions with each other, faculty and administrators on a multitude of issues, from diversity to mathematics. These experiences help to shape tolerant, compassionate and accepting people who can truly affect the people that they meet.
Roeper was a magical place to have spent 8 years of my life. Although I was truly sad to leave behind a place that I considered home; I feel confident that I was taught the skills to succeed in my college studies and beyond.
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