Administrators Weigh In On “The Balanced Student Experience”

Published : Thursday, September 26, 2013 | 12:49 AM

At a one-evening panel discussion in June, Peter Bachmann, Vanessa Walker-Oakes, Sarah Cooper, Peter Vaughn and Midge Kimble spoke briefly in response to the question: “What does balance look like at Flintridge Prep?”

Each panelist spoke based on their unique perspectives as faculty members and administrators. For example, Sarah Cooper spoke about the balance achieved when a teacher is both a subject matter expert and an enthusiastic and hands-on teacher, while Vanessa Walker-Oakes spoke about the balanced educational experience as it pertains to college preparation.

“Colleges value balanced, engaged students…who are ready to live independently and take advantage of college the programs,” she pointed out, but added that students may still receive a mixed message, since “Colleges’ emphasis on data points such as GPAs and SAT scores can run the risk of encouraging students to pursue academic achievement…in ways that may not be in keeping with Prep’s mission.”

Midge Kimble spoke about balance by evaluating social pressure, lack of sleep and the pressure students feel about those very data points—grades and test scores.

In smaller breakout sessions, parents and alumni were asked to define “a soulful adolescence,” a term introduced by Peter Bachmann early in the evening as an ideal toward which to strive. Many participants noted that a balanced experience at Prep is both rigorous and soulful.

While some encouraged the school to nurture more opportunities for student introspection, others noted that putting energy into sports activities rests and reboots the brain for academic rigors. Others mentioned that the social nature of the community and the close relationships among students and faculty are essential parts of the balanced experience. Students feel encouraged to try new things and feel rooted for every step of the way. As Peter Bachmann put it, “Students know their teachers are pulling for them.”

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