Where Do Students Go After They Leave AMS?
One the most frequent questions parents ask about Arthur Morgan School is, “Where do students go after they leave AMS?” Parents want to know that our emphasis on experiential learning, hands-on classes, and limited use of technology will transfer successfully to high school. They want their adolescents to be prepared for the next step of their education and have all the necessary tools to meet their long term academic goals.
Lots of Options
The truth is AMS students do very well in high school. Whether they continue on to similar boarding schools like Olney or Scattergood, go to college preparatory schools like George School, or return home to their local high school, our student are prepared for success. Our focus on cultivating self awareness and introspection helps them understand how they learn effectively. They are able to advocate for themselves in high school and have the confidence to talk with their teachers about what they need.
They are also able to think critically about what they learn. Our middle schoolers are taught to think about the information they are learning, where it comes from and what are its potential applications. As a result, AMS graduates often demonstrate ownership over their academic life as they continue into high school.
A True Success Story
Micah Galton, who graduated from AMS in 2014, is one of those students. Recently, Micah was accepted into Stanford. As a seventh grader with dyslexia, Micah struggled in school. However, at AMS he found a community that accepted him and taught him to focus on his strengths. He gained the skills and confidence he needed to succeed in high school. Here is his college essay in which he reflects on how AMS helped him:
My eyes cloud, making The Merchant of Venice even harder to read aloud. Another round of snickers ripples through my 10th grade English class. I stagger through my remaining lines, relief washing over me when I finish. I first considered dyslexia a disability, a difference I hated in myself. Only in high school did I learn to harness this difference and turn it into an advantage. Episodes like this one no longer lead to ruthless self-castigation, but instead become insignificant in light of my new-found strengths.
In elementary school, I was worse at reading, handwriting, and spelling than other kids. My fourth grade teacher called my handwriting “Chinese chicken scratch.” One day, I put my head down and sobbed, smearing the red ink of a large zero scrawled across the top of my spelling test. I continued through elementary school repeating the mantra “I am stupid.”
This mantra ceased in seventh grade when I enrolled at the tiny Quaker middle school where my father worked. The school’s focus on outdoor trips, manual labor, and community life fostered my natural problem-solving abilities and leadership skills. The community valued and relied on me; in turn, my talents flourished.
Dyslexia has its benefits. I credit it with my creativity and problem-solving, a perfect combination for entrepreneurship. I’ve tried lots of business ideas over the years. I started one of my favorites after 7th grade: a mini summer camp for neighborhood kids. I used my knack for teaching to enrich the kids’ summer while providing their parents with childcare. We built forts in the woods, dammed the creek, and had water fights. On rainy days, I channelled their exuberance into kite-making. Looking back, the most remarkable thing about my summer camp was that parents trusted a 13-year-old to keep their children safe.
Meanwhile, I learned blacksmithing, progressing from hooks to razor-sharp knives. By ninth grade, the metallurgy teacher asked me to co-teach. I demonstrated how to hammer a glowing steel rod into a spiral. While the smoke curled from a bed of coals, I showed Gareth that he needed a smaller hammer and helped Isaiah when his hook went molten. I loved teaching and I loved my new-found confidence.
I brought this confidence to my rural public high school. I learned that high school teachers care less about how I learn, only caring that I learn. I developed workarounds. Instead of eye-reading textbooks, I listen to them on high speed, taking advantage of my auditory aptitude to understand and retain more than my bleary-eyed compatriots. Instead of writing, I voice-type.
Even with my new confidence, I almost didn’t take AP US History. The essays scared me because of my atrocious handwriting and spelling. In the end, I decided curious peers and stimulating discussion would be worth all the reading and writing. After a year of working with books strewn across the table, my laptop open with a voice-typed document, and my phone spitting out audio of primary-source documents at double speed, I was prepared for the test.
When I couldn’t create a workaround, I turned to hard work. Essays that took my peers an hour to write took me three hours to write and three hours to edit, but by the end of junior year, my hard work paid off. I left the classroom with a grin after making the highest grade on the English final.
Now I can joke about my dyslexia with friends. I was shocked when I learned that a building I thought was called “One Okay Pizza” was actually named “One Oak Plaza.” Dyslexia has taught me that I can usually find an alternative solution, and when I can’t, hard work prevails. Now I not only accept my dyslexia, but embrace it. Dyslexia has tempered my character the way tempering strengthens steel: the contrast between the cold quench of failure and the heat of success has forged my resilience.
Our school year is ending this week. As we say goodbye to our latest round of graduates, we wish them luck on the next step of their academic journey. We are excited for them, but we aren’t worried about them. We know that wherever they go, they are set up for success.
-by Nicholas Maldonado