It’s enrollment season at The École, which means my schedule is teeming with meetings with prospective families who wish to enroll their child(ren) in our school. As you know, there are fewer spaces available this year than last, but we have just as many applicants. As we say in admissions lingo, it’s tough! The question that I am most often asked at the moment is “What type of children are you looking for?”
Why do we accept one child over another? What are the criteria? What are the prerequisites / the magic formula? These questions are as nagging as they are complex and lead us to consider the identity of The École. In order to be able to answer such questions adequately, we need to be able to define who we are.
When faced with a notion as vast as defining our school’s identity, we tend to begin with what we are not. We can say for example that we are not as French as the Lycée, not as elite as Dalton, not as massive as Avenues. Once we have laid down those guidelines, we can begin to highlight what we are: we are a family school, we are friendly, flexible, bilingual…etc.
However, these elements are not enough to paint a clear picture of The École, and to a certain extent, they even perpetuate certain false truths about our school. Because we are 100% French – just like the Lycée – but we are also 100% American; because every year we send our students to the best high schools and later to the best universities – just like elite schools; because the degree to which we care for our students has nothing to do with how small we are, saying so would be to underestimate the extraordinary work of our teachers and School Life Assistants (SLAs). They are so devoted to their work and attach such importance to the children in their care not because we have 320 students but because they are passionate about what they do and they would be just as passionate if we were massive!
Perhaps it is from that starting point that our identity begins to take shape – from the passion that unites us, animates our meetings, pulsates through each day, and gives us the energy – even on these overcast January days – to always see and aim for the best. A school made up of passionate people, with Philippe and Laurence at the helm, oozing ideas, projects, and desires, setting the tone for a young school with a bright future. A school for passionate, fascinating people, from diverse backgrounds, with rich histories, strong values, and a desire to share, communicate, and complete part of their journey together.
This week, it was hard to avoid the buzz about Chat GPT, the Open AI chatbot that writes dissertations from simple prompts (it’s been banned from New York schools for the time being but the debate is raging among educators). Before we know it, machines will be writing for us – maybe even this weekly letter will be composed using AI in the future. There will be little left for us to teach except for what it means to be human and how to make connections with passionate, fascinating people.
In the end, we could say that’s already what we do at The École and that it defines pretty well who we are.