Interview with Westmont Montessori School Alum, Hannah Smith
Highlights from the interview
We have a community like morning meeting every day where one of the things we can do is just share with each other, like something that happened last night or on our weekend or something that's been on our mind. And I've really appreciated having kind of that supportive group of people. I really love to learn, and I feel like at Westmont I'm not just doing things like for a mark or I'm not just doing things so that I can pass the test and forget about it. I feel like I really remember the things that I learned and the teachers do a really good job of trying to get us into applied scenarios and a lot of hands on stuff as well, which is a lot more engaging than just sitting in a desk all day. It's really kind of instilled of love of learning and not only knowing things, but also the process of coming to know those things.
I feel like there's more of an emphasis on community, but I also feel like at the same time, the student self advocation or selfadvocacy and independence is also highly encouraged and it makes for a really unique balance. Definitely like the staff and the teachers and the faculty really encourage that as well, and you kind of get support with that instead of having to figure out how to do that kind of thing on your own. Getting like a little bit of like not super hardcore involvement, but like a little push from your teachers can really help propel you.
I would say. I think that they would probably be trustworthy and the school is quite academically rigorous, I will say, so they'd probably be quite driven. I don't know if responsible. Responsible is probably a good word, actually. Like someone who holds themselves accountable for what they're doing, and another one would be just someone who's really curious and they would probably be very like outdoorsy and like hands on and that sort of sense, like not only what they're learning, but with that attitude as well.
The kids just really understand each other and maybe not like everything about each other, like everyone's deepest, darkest secrets. I don't mean anything like that, but something that I've noticed with the Westmont students is like it's really just okay to be whoever you are. And I think that we do a really good job of a lot of that community comes from just acknowledgement of each other and just acceptance without any conditions.
The focus on whole person education seems to not only be a Montessori value but a big Westmont value as well. I think we not only do, like the main curricular subject, but we have things like middle school. There's like personal reflection, which is they're given, like a list of question prompts. They're all journaling prompts, and the goal is kind of to understand yourself a little bit better, which I think is good, especially for that developmental level. In a high school, we get Montessori self construction, which changes from grade to grade.
There's a grade nine course on personal and social responsibility and that sort of thing. And there's not only a focus on you as a learner and you as an academic person, but how you kind of fit into this world. And I think that if I hadn't had that, I would not be as confident or know myself as well as I do today. And honestly, I'm still learning a lot of this stuff. I don't think it's ever going to end.
I think that fact that Westmont values like the students as people and not just as kind of like reflections of their school is really meaningful.
From what I've seen throughout my experience, the kids who kind of choose to stay, especially for later years, are definitely a little bit more unique and just really benefit from that kind of blanket acceptance. Obviously, there is still a lot of diversity, something that holds up the school.
It was really nice to have a group of people who believed in me and saw the best in me. I've struggled with anxiety for a lot of my life, and that kind of results in sometimes, like, a lot of self doubt. And that's been really meaningful that I've been able to have that kind of support. I think that has slowly built my confidence over the years, and I've done things that I didn't think I would be able to do at different points in my school.
As the first graduate, I've been a guinea pig, so to speak, in a lot of scenarios. So I feel like with the high school program that they're launching next year for fall of 2022, it's going to start being a lot more consistent. The school program has undergone a lot of changes as I've been in high school, because the first year that the school actually had a high school program, I was in grade nine. So I kind of been with it all the way, and I think I really would have benefited from something a little bit more consistent. It hasn't been super detrimental.
Like any school that's academically rigorous, the workload can be stressful and the teachers are really great as long as you talk to them about that. In my experience, they've been kind of good at helping you kind of manage your work, and they're really considerate about, if anything's going on, your personal life as well. But you do have to go into it knowing that it is accidentally rigorous and depending on how serious you are about it, like that stress can take a can't take a toll on you. And I think my perspective change because I kind of used to brush those things under the rug and pretend they didn't exist. Whereas now I'm like, this is just a part of the whole school as it is, and we can't have these other really great aspects without having some caveat to them.
It's definitely like teaching them not only what to learn, but how to learn, and it doesn't really matter what post secondary or career they choose to go into after high school when they have those basic skills of learning. Another reason I would recommend it is again, I love to emphasize the community aspect here, especially if your child kind of struggles with finding their group or the community that they really fit into at another school. It's kind of a built in to the program here at Westmont.
So if you have a child who struggles with sitting all day or maybe their learning style is a little bit different than what their previous school offered, Westmont can be super accommodating with that.
I would say don't be afraid to. I mean, obviously it can be very daunting, but you're going to enjoy yourself the most if you just stay as true to yourself as possible. And I know that part of being a teenager is not knowing who you are at all and trying to figure that out, but I've never felt like I've had to change parts of who I am to be around my classmates. And you can trust people and obviously express your identity on your own terms. It is quite an accepting space and also be prepared for the academics to be.