REVIEW OF The Linden School BY parent, Roseanne Carrara
- Date of Review
March 09, 2018
Gr. 6 - 9
(5) Student Experience
My daughter came to Linden from an overcrowded Toronto Catholic District School Board classroom where, as a strong student, she was never expected to challenge herself, and as a beginnger athlete, she was never invited to join a team. We'd originally been looking for options for grades 7-12, and had gotten a head start by visiting the Our Kids Expo and by taking a few tours of the schools which piqued her interest there. After an engaging evening tour and info session, which included Linden faculty, staff, and a well-spoken high school student who described her experince of learning to "challenge herself and take more risks," she decided she wanted to take the plunge a year early and applied for grade six. And, I'm so glad she did. The Linden experience, in both elementary, middle grades, and now high school, has been one of a kind. The small classes enable teachers to tailor their lessons to student strengths and allow students to identify and hone their passions. Students call their teachers and staff by their first names. And, they are welcome to ask difficult questions not only of their peers but also of their mentors. A selective overall enrollement of about 120 students in the school allows for a lot of interaction between grade levels. My daughter seems to know the name, face, and interests of every Linden girl. Since the girls have "families" from across the school, she has chances to interact with the early learners, elementary students, and university-bound students at weekly all-school events, as well as during Linden's fall "Week Without Walls" and spring "Spirit Week." You see the comraderie in full effect at both the annual Linden Science and Technology Fair and the Social Justice Data Fair, where the girls present their projects to their peers and welcome feedback from one another. My daughter has certainly felt empowered to excel in english, science, history, and math at Linden. And, the strings program, challenging art classes, and the new CERES lab balance out the core academics with ways of thinking "outside of the box." Our biggest Linden "surprise" has been the amazing sports program. My daughter actually loves gym! She's learned to play all sorts of sports she'd never dreamed she'd get to try. And the no-cuts policy on the teams, matched with the small class size, leads the girls to encourage each other to sign up and to take as many risks on the playing field as they do in coding class.
(5) School Leadership
The school's principal, Janice Gladstone, is a passionate leader. Over the past few years, she's helped to expand Linden's community engagement by planning co-operative events with other Independent schools in Toronto and Internationally. For instance, the girls took part in a sexual harrassment panel at Royal St. George's College in 2016. After her recent two-week fellowship at the Klingenstein Centre Heads of School Program at Columbia University, Janice came back to Linden with even more ideas for how to get the girls talking to other community activists and social leaders. At Linden, Janice is the first to praise teacher and student success and to engage with parents. She's always ready and wiling to listen to a parent's concerns and to solicit their input towards the vision of the school. And, she will drop whatever she is doing to share a moment with a student, whether to praise an early learner on her crayon portrait of a woman in science or, in confidence, to listen to a high school student's concerns about her early-acceptance into University. She'll even put herself out there by participating in the school's annual Music Night. The school also has a great communications system. The Linden Loop email keeps parents informed of upcoming events as well as exciting alumni news. The early learning blog on the school website always brings a smile. And it's really easy to access the calendars on the Linden website so that I can add my daughter's sporting events, science fairs, and arts events to all of our family's devices in a flash.
I am very happy with the quality of instruction at Linden. The teachers at Linden are passionate about what they teach. And, most importantly, they challenge the girls to challenge themselves. For example, my daughter loves how Tulay consistently invites the girls to check out news sources in their geography classes and how Mel encourages her Latin students to write blogs in the voices of famous classical figures. The girls have been building and programming robotic hands in Beth's CERES lab. And my daughter has come home from Martha's math class proud of having conquered "slopes." What makes Linden special is the way in which students and teachers view learning as a cooperative effort. When we visited the school, the first thing one of the students mentioned was that if she wasn't happy with a teacher's approach to a subject, the parameters of an assignment, or a teacher's feedback on her work, she felt comfortable enough and even welcome to "ask why and how." In only a few years at Linden, my daughter has already taken responsibility for making the most of her education. I'm awed by her ability to speak her truth.
My daughter has just completed her course selection for grade ten, so I'm well equipped to say that while Linden is a small school, its academics are mighty. Of course, the concern at the high school level is: with such a small number of girls in each cohort, will my daughter be able to take the specialist courses or electives she'd like to take? I'm happy to say that the principal, Janice, aided by Nasrin Matini, math maven and scheduler extaordinaire, go above and beyond in making sure that if there is an interest of one, that interest will be supported. And, of course, the academics, thmeselves, are rigorous. I am impressed by how many of my daughter's courses, from grade six onward, have included an independent study project. Last year, in English class, my daughter tackled Angie Thomas' novel, The Hate U Give, and inspired many of her classmates to pick up the book and to have a deeper discussion. And, Linden's support of girls in math and science is legendary. This rigorous approach is not only part of the core porgram. It extends to the arts and other electives. My daughter is really looking forward to her independent art project, which has a demanding rubric. The art teacher, Brie, always has an incredibly impressive course outline to disseminate to parents in the fall, incorporating art history, technique, and new media, including an online portfolio. I am consistely impressed by the Science Fair and Social Justice Data Fair. Some years, the projects for these fairs are co-operative. For example, the grade 8's form groups to build and program robots for Science Fair. And, these cooperative projects are always energizing for the girls. The Social Justice projects, whether independent projects or class-wide think tanks have always been inspiring. Of course, you have to remember, this is where it all started. Linden supported "social justice" as part of its curriculum decades before it became a hot topic for girls schools in the city and internationally. Social Justice has always been a Linden passion.
Linden has a wealth of extracurricular opportunities for the girls. The no-cuts sports program fosters a real sense of community and learning among the students. I've seen my daughter play three different sports in a term. Linden Nation is strong! And, clubs are at the heart of Linden's lunch and after-school scene. Girls are encouraged to create their own clubs as a way of pursuing their interests, from the long lived Chess Club to the new Book Club. The Guitar Club, Strings Club, and Band are always super active. And the annual play, put on by the Drama club and performed in a gorgeous theatre at UofT, is not to be missed. The high school girls enjoy the Ontario Classics Conference. And the grade 12 service trip is always Linden legend.
The student body at Linden is diverse. Since the school is small, the girls all know each other by name. It's amazing to see the early learners and elementary girls paired up with the older girls as reading buddies and in art class. The all-school events encourage girls to make friends with students from different grades and to support each other outside of the classroom. Since the girls are encouraged to develop their passions and to voice their own opinions, they know how to speak up for themselves and for their classmates. If they have differences of opinion, they are encouraged to talk things out and to strategize as a group. The classroom is a place for inquiry, a place to make mistakes and to learn from them.
(5) School Life
My daughter really enjoys going to the Linden school. She likes being part of a small, girl-centred community. She's inspired as much by the confidence of the grade twelves as she is by the bubbly eagerness of the early learners. She's confident and proud of what she learns. As a grade nine, she already seems prepared to ask difficult questions and to stick around until she gets some answers. I'm impressed by the way in which the girls advocate for themselves and for one another. My daughter is incredibly engaged in the sports (Linden Nation!), music, and drama at the school. She's involved in the local and international community via school projects and public service. And, she says she's made life-long friends. All of the people in her class, she says, are "already leaders." And, she can't see herself going anywhere else.
As a parent, I enjoy being part of the Linden community. "Linden people" tend to be well-rounded and socially responsible parents who are thoughtful advocates for their childrens' best interests. Parents are encouraged to bring their best to the school via volunteer work, guest-teaching classes, mentoring students, and contributing to LInden's strategic and academic planning. I really like being a "willing listener" at Linden's Science and Technology Fair, listening to a student's summary of their research project and results and asking questions about the "next steps" in the project. Socially, parents of a single grade-level sometimes also get together for an evening out or family potluck, which is a good way to get to know the people in the community. I've also met a lot of great parents at the winter Festival of Lights and the spring Music Nights and Art Shows. This isn't a community where parents compare their kids to one another and compete. At the year end Celebration to Greet the Summer, you'll find everyone cheering each grade twelve on as she makes her speech and tells us where she's headed.
(5) School Location
The Yonge and St. Clair neighbourhood in Toronto is host to a group of diverse independent schools (one large, one small, and one religious) as well as several public schools. Since there are a number of students in the area, there are a number of student-friendly businesses. And, the community is well aware that there are young people around. People look out for each other. The Linden School is also close to public transit, which is great for the girls who travel from different parts of the city. And, the older girls look out for the younger girls when travelling home. There is also a large local park for extra sports practices and picnics. The girls make use of a gym up the street for basketball games, practices, and overflow sporting events. The well-travelled leafy ravine provides a place for nature hikes and science and photography projects. The rooftop playground at Linden, with its safe home for honeybees, is a highlight.
Our admission experience at Linden was very comfortable - and it was certainly a factor in our daughter's accepting the school. We really enjoyed the warmth and friendliness of Linden students at the Our Kids Expo, which made us want to explore the school further. At the Information Night we attended at the school, we met the principal, the admissions counsellor, several teachers, a cheerful Linden grandparent, and a really well-informed Linden student who was a true inspiration. We had a school tour then and again on the day of my daughter's school-day visit. The student led tours of the school are a really lovely experience. And my daughter felt welcomed by them. An interview and academic test followed. Our daughter was assured that the academic test was more a measure of where she would be placed than a requisite hurdle, which helped her feel calm. Jean Geary, the admissions counsellor, is an amazing asset to Linden. She is warm and knowledgable about student life. And, as a parent of a former Linden student, she has an insider's perspective as well as an administrator's. I've also seen the new "Welcome packets" which Linden now gives to girls on offer day. And, they're pretty fantastic. Among the contents are tickets to the school's spring events, such as Art Show, the school play, and Music Night. So, girls can really feel welcomed to Linden several months before they enter school.