Why we do this

The White Mountain School was founded in 1886. Like most boarding schools, our institution excels not because of its legacy or reputation, but because we — the faculty, staff and administrators — constantly strive to enhance and improve the academic experience for students and help students be their best selves.

Last week, I was in a meeting with our Head of School, Tim, discussing our academic focus on student driven inquiry. Tim remarked that when implementing programs and ideas, he likes to be able to answer the Five Ws and One H — who, what, when, where, why and how — the journalistic questions whose answers are considered basic in information gathering and problem solving.

The thought resonated with me. I spent more time reflecting on how that journalistic approach applies in a broader sense to boarding schools and WMS specifically. Perhaps the allure or media perception of boarding schools has actually diminished the real reasons families choose boarding schools for their students.

At WMS, we know the answers to the Five Ws and One H, but we also know that asking the questions and continually seeking answers is what makes us better. My job, along with that of my stellar admission team, is to tell the story of WMS. We better be able to answer the basics: who(students in grades 9-12/PG), what (college-preparatory education),when (the traditional school year but 24 hours a day), where (a beautiful campus, with several newly renovated buildings, nestled in the White Mountains of New Hampshire), why and how. The answers to the first four are straightforward and similar to those of most college-prep schools. It’s “why” and “how” are what get me out of bed in the morning.

Our Mission Statement captures the why and how and delivers our story in a few simple, but meaningful, words. We believe the world will be a better place if people are more courageous, compassionate and curious (why). We help foster and nurture those characteristics by implementing an academic philosophy of inquiry and a community of engagement (how).

We have a variety of strong programs — including the Field Course trips our faculty and students are on this week — that embody our why and how. Yet we strive to be even better, to enhance our academic curriculum and learn from the very best research on student success. To lead the charge, we recently hired our first Director of Student Inquiry and Research, Sara Kelley-Mudie. We were thrilled when Sara accepted the position. When I asked her why she accepted our offer (she had a few reasons!), she said:

“When I thought about my career and the type of work I wanted to do, my ideal job title was ‘Director of Inquiry.’ I was so excited to find a place that believed as strongly as I did in the power of student-driven inquiry.”

Read more: To Build A Better Question by Sara Kelley-Mudie, Director of Student Inquiry and Research

By Sarah Catlin, Associate Head of School for Admission and Enrollment

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