REVIEW OF The Country Day School BY parent, Jennifer Sanderson
- Date of Review
November 02, 2021
Gr. SK - 12
(5) Student Experience
Both of our children went to The Country Day School from Kindergarten through to graduation. They are very proud to be part of the "lifers" club. They loved all aspects of school life. What they appreciated most was the informed, thoughtful and inspired mentorship that they received from their teachers at every level - junior school, middle school and senior school. They were also pleased with the unique course offerings and they truly valued the extensive and varied extra-curricular program that allowed them to fully explore their talents and interests without sacrificing new passions they might discover along the way. They were free to discover who they hoped and wished to become without fear of judgment. They felt incredibly prepared for the rigour of the university programs that they pursued.
(5) School Leadership
The school leadership and administration are uncompromising about putting the student experience front and center. They are forward-looking, proactive, and strive to hire the very best professionals to work alongside our children. They guide without meddling, envision without prescribing, and tend to matters of governance in a manner that frees the teachers and students to learn, collaborate and discover. Students are treated with equity and respect while being held accountable for their actions. Respect begets respect, thus, when the administration communicates with the parents and students, they listen and respond positively.
The teachers at The Country Day school are experts in their field and embody the ideal of being a "warm demander" - meaning they set expectations high, hold students accountable, but in a way that leaves them feeling seen, appreciated and respected. The workload is challenging but fair, approached and structured in a manner that allowed both of our children to be successful both while in school and then on into their university careers. The passionate teachers were skilled at relating to our children while exposing them to ideas, materials and interests that they might never have appreciated otherwise, leading to a knowledge base and skill set that is well-rounded, balanced and informed. Extra help was always readily available and encourage whenever our children required it. Both our children return to visit the teachers when they can. My son said recently that he felt that all the teachers "set him up for success", and my daughter just wrote to one of her teachers to thank him again for his encouragement and commitment over the years. As parents, there is no greater joy than to know that our children were in the care of such remarkable teachers all these years.
Both of our children have gone on to be very successful in university - our son in the humanities and our daughter in engineering. The school celebrates the success of the whole student and recognizes that academic subject areas do not inhabit silos, but instead inform each other. The great scientists are artistic and imaginative in their thinking. The most engaging artists are rooted in the realities of the life experience. While challenging, the academic program at The Country Day School also strives for a balanced experience that allows time for extra-curricular passions, mental health and wellness. For example, our daughter received the knowledge to succeed in a demanding engineering program, but it was her involvement in the visual and theatre arts and robotics that has separated her from her engineering peers and secured her a dream job in California upon graduation. Her success was a direct result of the rigorous yet balanced approach that she was exposed to at Country Day.
The extracurricular program at The Country Day School is varied and engaging, allowing a place for all to find their passion or for all to find many passions. Throughout three terms, students are encouraged to participate in as many different activities as possible. Both our son and daughter participated in theatre, the Duke of Ed program, band, robotics, student council, coffee houses and sports teams (Rugby, Ultimate Frisbee, Softball, Basketball, Soccer) over their time at Country Day. Whether performing a concert in an Italian square during a music trip to Italy or performing for a residential school survivor in a theatrical production they helped to devise called Ahead by a Century or canoe tripping in Temagami, the impact of their extra-curricular experiences was tangible and far-reaching, both on themselves and on the community.
There are approximately 760 students from JK - graduating year. Sections are added to the cohorts from junior to middle and again from middle to senior school. It is a close-knit community that is nurturing and supportive. The school being co-educational was important to our family, as it reflects the complex and rewarding dynamics our children will face beyond their educational experience. The fact that the school citizens range in age from 4 to 18 years also creates many dynamic experiences that one cannot find in other environments. Whether my daughter was watching junior school kids making their way into the acreage behind the school for outdoor education through the window of her middle school science lab, or my son as a senior school student writing and reading stories with second graders, or either of them cheering each other's costumes during a Hallowe'en parade, our son and daughter never lost touch with the joy of learning that they felt when they were younger. Nor did their memories of that older mentor who spent time with them fade when it was their turn to set a positive example for younger students when the time came. The school spirit and kindness of the student body are exemplary.
(5) School Life
Our son and daughter looked forward to school each day because of the relationships they had there with the faculty, their friends and the opportunities that were awaiting them. It also didn't hurt that the food in the dining hall was exceptional. One measure of the special atmosphere at the school is its retention of wonderful teachers, which is second to none. There is a healthy mix of young faculty and those with a breadth of experience that has deep institutional knowledge. The same can be said of the number of students who are "lifers" - students who have remained at the school throughout their educational experience. It is as much a second home as an institution of learning. Our children not only attended the school and became alumni, they are part of its fabric and continue to be appreciated, welcomed and remembered.
Parents are involved in the life of the school on many levels, from taking on the role of a room parent, being the "Snack Banana" for the kindergarten kids to becoming a member of the board of directors. There are social events like grade coffee mornings, the CDS Auction, speaking engagements, theatre productions, debating competitions, sporting events, art exhibits, concerts that can also become part of the parent experience. The advantage of a school like CDS, for students, teachers and parents, is that the door of the administration is always open for constructive suggestions to improve the educational experience for all involved. While welcoming to parents and encouraging involvement, the school also excels at retaining the space my kids needed for their independence to be nurtured.
(5) School Location
One of the huge advantages CDS has over other institutions is the inspiring acreage it is situated on. The outdoors became another classroom for our children, as the educational experience spilled onto the trails and pathways that weave their way through what is affectionately known as "the back 40" - though I believe it is closer to a back 100. Beyond the exceptional outdoor education program, the benefits to wellness and mental health are palpable. To turn off the screen, get outside and reconnect with what it is like to be young, alive and in nature is one of the great joys our children were able to experience daily. In the current climate of media saturation, the impact of that opportunity cannot be overstated. We felt that our children were always safe and nurtured on The Country Day School campus.
(5) University placement and counselling
CDS has a post-secondary counselling specialist who was absolutely indispensable to our children's transition into university life. He came to CDS from being an admissions officer in one of Canada's biggest universities, so he knows the system inside and out. He was sensitive to each of our children's individual needs and successfully guided them to make decisions that have served them both well. They both received offers and scholarships to the universities of their choice. CDS has placed students internationally as well, in a variety of specialized programs. The guidance and university counsellors have the expertise and compassion required that made our children feel listened to, confident and supported during what can be an extremely stressful part of the educational process. They also remain available to our children and other graduates, even after they leave CDS and look forward to post-graduate opportunities.