Roundtable Q&A Discussion About Hawthorn School (2020)
Hawthorn School alumni, current students, and parents shared their insights on the school’s culture, values, strengths, and weaknesses. Hear what Gwen, Marnee, Steve, Liz had to say about the school.
Highlights from the Q&A discussion
Gwen — alum
Gwen graduated from Hawthorn School in 2018, she now attends Carleton University in Ottawa for Journalism. As one of the few students in her grade interested in the arts, she felt that the school went to great lengths to accommodate her and facilitate her academic needs. In addition to supporting her academically, Hawthorn School offered Gwen support mentally and emotionally, which was important to her as a boarding student that did not always have access to her family. She enjoyed the tight-knit community, and feels that she has made friends that will last a lifetime.
- “During my time at [Hawthorn School], it was definitely the community [that I appreciated most]. There were so many positive things about [Hawthorn School], but the most positive thing from my perspective, was the community and the friendships that I formed there. I lived away from home. I chose to go to Hawthorne and be away from my family, who are in Montreal. So community and relationships were very important to me. I found that at [Hawthorn School], the friendships that I had were very meaningful, and I have not found anything like that since leaving.”
- “[Hawthorn School] is a faith-based school. To me that was incredible, because I had the opportunity to grow in my personal faith, and grow in my walk with the Lord, which I otherwise probably wouldn't have had [otherwise].”
- “[Some]thing that I think differentiates [Hawthorn School] from other schools is the relationship, and the one-on-one attention you get with your teachers. I think that was because the class sizes were small, so teachers were able to really zone in on where growth was needed. They helped me grow in a way that I don't think I would have had the opportunity to grow otherwise.”
- “Three words that I would choose [to describe Hawthorn School] would be encouraging, faithful, and ambitious. … I talk about Hawthorne as a positive most of the time.”
- “What I found as a [Hawthorn School] student was teachers went the extra mile again and again.”
- “I was struggling with some mental health issues in my last year at [Hawthorn School]. It was a real struggle. My economics teacher lent me a special lamp that I could use during her classes, and it had a positive impact on my mental health, and on my whole life. I won’t forget that. … The teachers care so much, and they notice things.”
- “Now that I'm in my second year of university, I feel so comfortable. I feel like I'm leaps and bounds ahead of some of my classmates, which I owe completely to [Hawthorn School]. While I might not have had the opportunity to take a sociology course in Grade 12, I did really well in sociology [in university], because [Hawthorn School] gave me so many excellent research tools, and study tools and they just set me up for success.”
- “I was overly prepared [by Hawthorn School for university]. … As a liberal arts student, my Grade 12 year Hawthorn [School] was harder than my first year of university.”
Marnee — current parent
Marnee enrolled her only daughter at Hawthorn School in March of 2020. This means that her experience at the school so far has been completely remote. She is thankful that the school has welcomed her family into the community, despite the unusual circumstances of online education. She believes the school is a warm and nurturing environment for her daughter to grow and learn within. She also appreciates that the school teaches content through a Catholic inspired lens, which is shaping her daughter into a conscious and kind young woman.
- “We wanted to find an environment where [my daughter would] thrive. We had been doing some research, and when we did the broader research, before school visits and whatnot … we had already aligned with [Hawthorn School] from a character development [perspective]. [Hawthorn School] develops the whole child, they look at our girls and support their development as active people that are engaged in life. Certainly, the Catholic-inspired component was important to us [too].”
- “One of the girls in one of the [Hawthorn School website] videos said it felt like a family. [My daughter] lit up and she said, ‘I want to go to the [school] that called itself ‘the family.’’ We've been in the building all of four weeks. … And that has played out already. ... The sense of belonging and an environment that has the desire to care for these girls, and to take an interest in them in a way that they feel safe. And, where the family feels safe, so that was the draw.”
- “I didn't have a plan B [school]. [Hawthorn School] was plan A and B [for my daughters’ education]. In what ways was the school what we expected, and how is it not? What has been the surprise? The surprise is how quickly the [other students] have accepted [my daughter]. Her sense and her experience that is coming home to me at the end of the day is somebody who is buoyant, lit up, and already feels a sense of belonging in her classroom [at Hawthorn School]. So, that's pretty rapid. If you think of it being the new girl, if you think of never having been in the building, in this awkward online experience, that's been really marvelous. How quickly that has transpired has been a surprise and delight.”
- “[Hawthorn School] is a loving, safe space to grow. [Our daughter] is an only child. [She is] our one and only, and that's good and bad. That means like you're always being corrected. … It's hard growing up. There's so many lessons to learn. … [There is a] mentorship program [at Hawthorn School]. Me and my husband with just [one child] at home, having another resource [for our daughter] that's not mom and dad is strategically very powerful for us.”
- “There's bumps and bruises that go along with learning, guaranteed, but it feels safe to do that at [Hawthorn School]. [Our daughter] recognizes that there's a stretch, but she is not frightened by it. It is an exciting place for a parent to watch.”
- “We got in the car one day after school and [my daughter] said, ‘mom, it's like everyone [at Hawthorn School] is the same, but not the same. Like puzzle pieces, where everyone is different, but we all go together.’ She said ‘at my old school, I felt like a puzzle piece, but everybody else was blocks.’ She was recognizing the experience of what it feels like to feel more at home, or more in an environment that feels like herself.”
- “Three words [to describe Hawthorn School are] kind, wise, and patient.”
- “[The] values of [Hawthorn School] are the sense of community, of needing one another, and being in something together. ... There's a sense of community there. [Hawthorn School] is nurturing and helps students excel.”
- “With the connection I've made with wonderful [Hawthorn School] families, I recognize something. ... That we're parents who are prepared to have other people contribute to our children. … There's an allowing, and there's a vulnerability there. There's giving up. There's a sharing. [That is] remarkable, because there's other wonderful people to learn from, and I mean more than just academically, I don't think as a parent I ever competed to try to be the teacher, and certainly during lockdown it was clear I am not an elementary school teacher.”
- “There's a community [at Hawthorn School] that was set out at the beginning, and that was really important and special to us."
Steve — current parent
Steve and his wife Liz have been a part of the Hawthorn School community since 2002. They have three daughters who have graduated from Hawthorn School, and they have three daughters that still attend in Grades 3, 5, and 10. He feels that the school has created a warm, caring, familial atmosphere that caters to each of his children’s unique skills and interests. He believes that the school has taught his children how to be a good friend, how to be loyal, and to have a strong work ethic.
- “We had a lot of experience with interactions with the school, and people at the school. The beautiful thing is, despite people having been at the school less or more time, everybody captures that idea of the warmth, care, and the familial atmosphere that gets transmitted in spades.”
- “The impact of [Hawthorn School] on the younger ones has been the idea that there's another group of people that are in your corner. We've had the experience of homeschooling our kids, sending them to the public school system, and sending them to private schools. … The experience that we had in [Hawthorn School] with all the staff, the teachers, the mentoring and the administration, has always been one of being very much on the same page. … We're very careful as parents with whom we want our children to spend time with, and be formed by.”
- “I don't ever remember our kids ever having feedback that would suggest anything but that everybody was pulling them in the same direction, or wanting to pull in the same direction at [Hawthorn School]. I think that's something that you can never underestimate, the impact that it has on the kids when there's that consistency. We notice it as parents when it's not there. Sometimes the experience at [Hawthorn School] can be a little bit quieter, in the sense that we sometimes take it for granted that the pulling in the same direction is there.”
- “We can never underestimate the power that [consistency] has on kids, in solidifying their knowledge about what the truth is … or how to be loyal, or how to be a good friend, and things like that. These are very difficult to kind of teach in a classroom, but with that consistency, and that character development, and that focus at [Hawthorn School], it really comes out in the end.”
- “We definitely would say [Hawthorn School is] familial. I think the other word that I would use is truthful. They're not going to shy away from telling you the truth, even if it's difficult. Sometimes, let's face it, the most difficult time to tell somebody the truth is when it's not that easy. [Hawthorn School] is kind. ... You can't get anywhere without kindness and patience.”
- “I think during the pandemic life that we're all living, it shines out even more, the extra effort that you see from the teachers and the staff at [Hawthorn School], all the extra work that goes in the background that nobody ever sees, to keep the kids safe, and focused on what's important, without having to worry too much about all the peripheral things that adults worry about. I think those things speak a lot to the value that they expose at the school, and that the other families. … We're all there caring about the kids in a way that is helping them have the best experience, and best chance of success possible. Whether that be academically [or otherwise].”
- “Last year, pre-COVID, the girls won the volleyball tournament. ... I thought to myself about the group of girls that was on that team, and the coaches, and what efforts went into it. Considering the size of [Hawthorn School] ... the grit that the [sports] teams show … and the resilience that the girls show speaks volumes to the different values that are exposed by the girls themselves, who take on that idea from the school, and the people that they see as examples around [Hawthorn School].”
Liz — current parent
Liz and her husband Steve have been a part of the Hawthorn School community since 2002. They have three daughters who have graduated from Hawthorn School, and they have three daughters that still attend in Grades 3, 5, and 10. She believes that the school is like one big family and was the natural choice for all of her daughters’ education. She appreciates the all-girls component of Hawthorn School, which helps her girls stay focused in the classroom. She believes that the school is shaping their character and teaching them how to think for themselves.
- “Because [Hawthorn School] was founded by families, this idea of family was a big part of the school. Naturally, that was the place for us to be.”
- “I was around [my husband’s] family when his sisters were students at [Hawthorn School], and they shared a lot with me. ... I asked them a lot, ‘what was your experience like as a student, from your perspective?’ As they got older, they all said that no matter what things that they may not have liked ... had they not been at [Hawthorn School], they wouldn't be who they are today. It really shaped who they were, and that had a big impact on our decision.”
- “[Hawthorn School] has really given [my children] the ability to think for themselves, and not just be a follower. It has shaped who they are, their character. One of the big features of [Hawthorn School] is the character formation that they get. You see from Grade 8, the growth to Grade 10, versus the growth to Grade 12. We had the experience of one of our daughters giving a thesis. Being able to listen to that from all the girls in her class, and see how they have really become really young women that could change the world.”
- “In the end, it turned out [my kids are] still very fond of the [Hawthorn School], and the friends that they've made. I think that one of the biggest things that they would say is that the friends that they've made at [Hawthorn School] are their lifelong friends. Even in university, they're still meeting up and they're still in touch, and it's great that they support each other.”
- “One of the big things in terms of the teachers is the administration at [Hawthorn School] really knowing the children for who they are. That really goes a long way to be able to work with them. To have that other person that it's not you telling them, but they're hearing it from somebody else. I think the biggest thing is [Hawthorn School is] like a family, and you try to care for the people that are in your family. So in this sense, I think everybody pulls together to really, as a whole, take care of your child, which I don't think you can find anywhere else. It's a pretty unique thing to [Hawthorn School].”
- “I really see the value in single-sex education for the girls. … Not having so many distractions, and to really develop who they are. That was a really important component of [Hawthorn School]. We did have our kids in the regular coed school and it was not good.”