William is a senior at Grace Church School. He attended Brooklyn Waldorf from 2nd through 8th grade, and is a proud member of the School’s first graduating class.
Grace Church has a great program where juniors can choose to spend their fall semester away at a specialized boarding school. In my junior year I visited The Oxbow School, a one-semester art boarding school in Napa, California. My experience there was fantastic – mornings were for academics, and I spent afternoons and evenings in the sculpture, painting and photography studios. I learned a lot about myself, living away from home, managing my time and studies independently. I met amazing kids from all over the country, and they are tremendously inspirational artists. I was really proud that the Oxbow faculty selected my midterm photography project as the background for the end-of- semester student show.
When I returned I found out what a normal junior year was like. I enjoyed several of my spring classes – especially History of the Middle East and Philosophy of the African-American Experience. I am on the Varsity Swim Team, and my favorite school club is the Diversity Council. Last year I had the privilege to attend the national Student Diversity Leadership Conference for four days in Florida.
Outside of school, I spend a lot of time on art. I have a big glass mosaic project I’ve been working on at a studio in Chelsea, and I take classes at the Art Students League and the International Photography Center. I’m studying for the SAT and looking for summer internships, preferably with a civil rights group.
Brooklyn Waldorf was key to my development as a critical thinker. It taught me to think creatively, and to understand that thinking in different ways can lead to a variety of solutions. Also, Brooklyn Waldorf taught me that having the “answer right away” isn’t always helpful to learning. Letting questions be open-ended and deeper can lead to more understanding and more interesting conclusions, rather than focusing on just being correct. Coming from the perspective of high school, where sometimes people obsess about grades, Brooklyn Waldorf made me truly interested in learning rather than just seeking a certain outcome in class. Brooklyn Waldorf also taught me that teachers really care about their students, and that those relationships can be really powerful. Brooklyn Waldorf has made me a confident advocate for myself.
Brooklyn Waldorf also taught me that academic subjects aren’t really separate. I see this most in my interest in art and history. My final art piece at Oxbow was a research project on the Moroccan colonization of the Sah’rawi peoples of Western Sahara – I built a large sculpture, two sanded pieces of wood 8 feet high that I soaked and curved into a tunnel with narrowing walls, constricting the viewer/participant as she travels through the sculpture, and creating a sense of oppression and uncertainty about where the exit is. It was satisfying to research this subject and then create a piece of art to reflect what I learned and felt.
Both Charlie Orphanides, my class teacher, and Yolanda Navarro, my Spanish teacher, greatly impacted me. Mr. Orphanides taught me not to be hung up too much on perfect results, but to enjoy and learn from the process, whether it was in art or in academics. Mr. Orphanides also taught me about history in a way that was really interesting and thought-provoking. He made history relevant, and it’s one of my favorite subjects still. Miss Navarro taught us more than just language – she is such an interesting person and she brought all her life experience to Spanish class. I had a great time last summer, in Barcelona with my sister, when we got to visit Miss Navarro and her family. I hope to visit Mr. Orphanides this summer when I look at colleges.
I loved sixth grade when we were knighted! All year we studied the Renaissance, and each of us had a teacher who secretly observed us. Then our class had a big sleepover in the solarium the night before the knighting ceremony. And, Brooklyn Waldorf is how I found Hawthorne Valley – I’ve gone to summer camp there every year since third grade, and I hope I’ll work there one day.
I would tell them that Brooklyn Waldorf is a great place to be a child, and to become a student. Having lots of outdoor time made learning easier for me when I was little, and the progress to more challenging subject matter as I got older was exciting, not intimidating. Brooklyn Waldorf is a very positive place – teachers and staff really care about the children. Now that I’m older, I can see how much thought and work goes into making the curriculum seem natural. I always felt challenged, but not usually stressed. My classmates and their parents are my extended family and I’ll always be grateful that I had a middle school experience that prepared me for high school without the stereotypical drama and bullying.