Interview with The Sterling Hall School PARENT, Beth-Anne Jones
Highlights from the interview
I think that the school has been very open to having dialogue and working with the boys and myself and my husband to address their individual learning styles. And I think that's what is great about Sterling. They look at the boy and they see them as unique, that they all belong. They all belong there, and they try to make sure that everyone feels included and that they are valued. And we go right back to those character traits about feeling like that. They matter.
I would characterize Jack as a pretty well rounded kid. He's got some interest in sports and academics, but I would say that overall he's just pretty happy go-lucky and loves being around other people. That's an interesting question. I would say before he went to Sterling Hall, I would characterize him as a reluctant learner, somebody that was shy and in the classroom hesitant to raise his hand and engage in discussions, perhaps one that would fly under the radar because he was quiet. And then when he got to Sterling Hall in grade five, it was like somebody turned on a light switch for him and he became engaged and an active learner where he was keen to be at school wanted to be there, really engaging with his teachers. He created strong bonds with all of the teachers at the school, the coaches, and then it all flourished from there. Like his academics went soaring and his commitment to school likewise. And then I would consider him to be a very different learner, somebody who was active and curious and engaged. And now I see him in grade nine, and he just continues to evolve. And it's exciting. It's exciting to see him on this new path.
Yes, most definitely. I would say that they tapped into him and then they got to know him as a boy and got to know him as a learner and got to know him as really just an individual and took that time to foster his interests and encourage growth. And without that, I don't think Jack would be the boy he is today. I think at Sterling Hall, he had an opportunity to take risks and try new things and explore new hobbies. For example, he took up knitting, which at Sterling Hall is called fibre arts, and he still talks about that today. He was challenged to try new pursuits outdoors, different sports that he maybe wouldn't have tried before, including different things in education.
Like poetry and examining poetry and looking at our world in a critical way and considering things from different lenses, all of those things, the school really encouraged Jack to do, and I see that now he benefited from ways that I think 100% that came from the school and the educators. And I see him being a very different boy than he was before he got to Sterling Hall.
We were looking for a school that was centric on individual learners, that was creative, that was willing to think outside the box, that was willing to take risks, that had a very strong emotional component. It was really important to me that the boys be at a school that, if it was an all boys school, was very aware that boys have an emotional capacity as well, that it wasn't just hyper masculine and all about push, push, push, and win at all costs. And when I walked into Sterling Hall, it was a warm environment that felt safe and that felt welcoming, and it had a strong community.
And I loved the character development program and the character traits and focusing on how to be a really good person and how to grow as an individual. And I also just loved the attention to the academics and the individual. So I was really looking for my youngest son, who at that time was going into grade one.
And then when we went through the halls, my husband and I, we looked at each other like, how can we provide this opportunity to just one of our boys and not all of them? And after a lot of consideration and thinking about it, we decided to apply for all of our boys. And thankfully there was room and Jack was able to attend in grade five.
And if you feel that you matter and you feel that you belong and you feel a connection to your school, then you show up as a learner. And when you show up as a learner, that's where the magic happens. And that's when the staff and the educators are able to do their job. But if you don't feel that you belong and you don't feel that you're connected and you don't feel that you're cared for, it's really hard to show up as a learner and show up and be curious. It's hard to be curious as a learner and put yourself out there and be vulnerable if you don't feel safe. And to me, Sterling Hall does an exceptional job of creating a safe learning environment, and their teachers go above and beyond doing that.
I would say my youngest son, Will, has completely thrived in the extracurriculars, in particular the cross country running and the sports and the house program. He loves all of that in the early morning clubs. One of his favourite clubs was the Mindfulness Club. He loved getting up really early, getting to school, and doing that mindful meditation, which I learned a lot from him through that which was really great. And he's made such connections with his teachers and his peer group. He is so excited to go to school and be with his crew, with his group.
And I love that. I love seeing how excited he is to walk out the door. My middle son, Sam, I think, is continually challenged academically to think and to think outside the box and to be creative. And he's constantly being challenged to push, to push more. And the school sees that he's capable of more, and they push him and they push him, and I love that. And I think Sam loves it, too. He probably doesn't love it every day.
It's probably not what he would say is his favourite part, but I think he also loves the sense of independence that they give the boys, especially as they move through the divisions into the intermediate years. There's a lot more independence given to the boys, a lot more emphasis on leadership and development opportunities. And my middle son being someone who is naturally a little bit more independent, he's thriving in that environment, and I love it too. It's like giving him a little bit more space and a little bit more rope. I think it's important in those early years to have that. And then Jack, I think it would be hard pressed for him to think about something he didn't love about Sterling Hall.
The whole experience was so enriching for him. But I would say for sure, if he had to boil it down, it would be the connection to the teachers. He felt a really strong bond to his teachers as well as he had some incredible extracurricular opportunities, like the service learning trip to Ecuador. He still talks about it and he still talks about how that changed his viewpoint on so many things.
I think for me, what I love about it is the principal often talks about how they're building these boys for a future that doesn't exist. So yes, the future doesn't exist. These jobs don't exist yet. Who knows what jobs the boys will be doing in 30 years? Those jobs don't exist. Jobs today don't exist, but no one even thought about them. When I was a kid, they were just fanciful. They were imaginary. Like, who would have thought I would see the person I was talking to, like video telephones when I was ten years old? It's crazy nonsense.
But that's what I think is so special about, it's when you take all that away, those academic building blocks that I think the school is wonderful at, when you boil it all down, it's about creating a boy that's confident, that's inquisitive that's kind, that's compassionate, that's caring, that's most of all not afraid to be vulnerable. And that's really special, right? Not afraid to take risks and listen to others and be empathetic. And that's the stuff that I think when you boil it all down, at the end of the day, the spelling, the reading, the writing, that's all going to be there wherever you go to school, you're going to run into that because these are all amazing educational institutions. But Sterling, this, I think, is special. They always call it the secret sauce. And I think it's true. I think it's a really special thing.
I like that they're learning to be good people. And I think when you couple that with what they're getting at home and our values at home, and then they're getting it at school, it's book ended. And I think that that's really important. I like that. I also love the parent community. I think it's just wonderful to feel a connection with a group of like minded parents.
I would say that they align. They try their best to live up to what they put on paper, and when they fall short, they own up to it. And that's part of the learning process, too. And that is part of character development, is taking that hard look at yourself and saying this is where we can do better, and this is where we need to do better. And the school's quite open about that and open about where they want to continue to grow and where they see themselves moving in the future. And that's all I think you can really ask for.
I would say how kind everybody was and how welcoming everyone was. The parent community, I think, is exceptional in that it was embracing, and we just had a wonderful experience being welcomed into the community. When we first arrived, we had a parent buddy who welcomed us into the fold, and she made us feel like we belonged right from the get go, right from I believe it was June. She called us and made us feel like we belonged at the school. And her son and Jack are off to their next school together, which is really nice. It's nice to see that they're still continuing their relationship.
There's a lot of communication between the faculty and the parents or the staff and the parents. There is regular email communication. They encourage you to call. And I love that the school, when it's not copied, you're welcome to come into the school and be in the hallways and be part of that fabric. On Friday mornings, they have assemblies where parents and grandparents are invited to come and watch and be part of the assembly and the community that way, as well as there's several events throughout the year, parent building activities and PA events. I love that I love that that's an opportunity for parents to be involved and for the boys to see that building a community goes beyond just them. If you want that community to be built, it has to be built by everyone, not just the teachers, not just the boys, but the parents, too.
Our sons have had really great experiences with the boys at the school. It's been welcoming. They've had great friendships, they've met all sorts of different boys, and they've had wonderful relationships building from those first few years, and they're continuing and growing as the years go on. And here we are. Jack's now moved into grade nine, and he still has some of those really close friends that he met in grade five, which is nice to see. I would imagine that there's probably conflict amongst the boys as that's pretty common with kids and with growing and part of maturing. But I also think that the school tries their best to facilitate good conflict resolution skills because conflict is part of life and we can't always run away from conflict. We have to learn how to solve conflict and we have to be healthy about it. So personally, we haven't experienced anything that is out of the ordinary, like pretty standard kid conflict stuff.
And I've always been really happy with how the schools facilitated the boys in solving their own problems and what kind of extracurricular opportunities are available to the students. There’s everything from your traditional sports to your clubs. And the clubs range from baking and cooking and knitting and mindfulness to, as they get a little bit older, personal finance club. So there's a wide range there that appeals to kids who are quite arty or who maybe want to explore the arts. There's a drama club and they put on a performance at the end of the year to kids who are quite sporty. And then there's this. Even within the sporty realm, there's competitive sports to just house League and wanting to play and have fun more of general interest. So I like that. I like to give them a nice breath.
I've had lots of wonderful memories at this school. Oh, Jeez. It's hard to pick just one. I think my favourite time of the year at the school is the Terry Fox run. It's Founders Day, and they incorporate that with Terry Fox, and it's just really special to see alumni come out, family members come out, caregivers come out grandparents, staff, returning staff. Everyone comes to the field and they congregate, and we run as a community and it feels great. It's nice to see everybody and be out there and celebrate the start of a new school year as well as an amazing Canadian hero.
I believe there was the rocket launch that the boys did that I thought was good. That was interesting. I don't remember doing anything like that when I was that young and in school, which they were really into. Nothing comes to mind off the top of my head, because typically I find everything that they're doing quite interesting and interdisciplinary, which I really like. I like to see the crossover. So nothing comes to mind off the top of my head.
And I think if I'm being truthful, I think because the school is constantly taking stock of how we can improve and how we can make it better. So the whole time I've been there, there's been an evolution, like things are constantly moving and changing and it hasn't felt stale. Nothing's ever felt stale or old. I'm sure there are things that come up during the year that I kind of take back and think about it. But I also feel very comfortable going and speaking to the teachers or to the administration about any concerns that do come up that I do have. And I always feel very respected and having those conversations. So in terms of something significant or big that concerns me.
One thing. I'd love to mention that some people may look and see when they're looking at schools and doing the comparison, because I know quite well what that's like, as we search for school for my elder son for grade nine, Sterling Hall does only go to grade eight and so I know that some parents sometimes have a bit of reservation about putting their son at school for a school that only does go to grade eight when there's other schools that go all the way to grade twelve. One thing that I would say about Sterling Hall, that they do very well is have a strong development program for the intermediate years. I think it's quite special to have that six, seven and eight years where those boys can be sort of leaders of the school top dogs and have these amazing leadership opportunities where they're matched with mentors and advisors that are in the faculty and the staff and encourage them to take on leadership roles within the school. And every boy in grade eight is assigned a leadership role. So every single boy has a responsibility at the school where the younger boys look up to them.
And I think that is quite special and unique. I don't know if that happens anywhere else, but I love that and I love that they have that opportunity to be the leaders and to have these younger kids looking up to them and have a sense of responsibility and also then take agency of their own future, of where do they want to go to high school? What are they looking for in that next experience? Because there's a lot of change, personal change and growth and how they want to, I guess, in maybe their educational experience or what kind of learner they are, how they learn best.
And there's a lot of growth that happens between grade five and grade eight. There's a lot of growth that happens even between grade seven and grade eight. So when they make that application for grade nine, a school that they may be looking at in grade five could be very different when it comes to high school. And I thought that Sterling did an exceptional job at helping my family to navigate that transition from grade eight to grade nine and helping us identify some of our son's strengths and where they felt he would be most successful in his next chapter.
So overall, you feel like they were in great hands and they were prepared to take on the next step of their educational experience in terms of going into high school.
I would absolutely recommend it to them. But just like anything, I think you need to follow what is best for your son and for your family. It's a big decision. It's a big commitment. Sterling Hall is a destination school, so you have to keep that in mind. It's a lot of driving. There are families that come from all over the city and some outside the city. So you've got to keep that in mind when you're thinking about social engagements and kids having especially younger kids having play dates, is that something that you see for your family? It's a big commitment all around, right?
If you're making that jump from public school to private school, it's a big jump financially. It's a big jump time wise. It's a big commitment. It was a big commitment to make that transition from public school to Sterling Hall. In terms of the work commitment, it was very different. The days were much more structured. It was a lot more demanding on the boys but they ended up thriving and they loved it but it might not be the right fit for your family.
So I would definitely encourage anyone who's thinking of applying to any independent school or private school to do your research. To think about what works best for your son, what kind of learner he is, where you think he would love he or she would love to be every day and wake up and can't wait to be there because when you are making that time investment and that financial investment you want them to love every minute that they're there? Yeah, that would be my advice. Take your time and really look and look around.