McCallie School - Review #1

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About the Author:

College Enrolled Davidson College
Home Town, State (Country) Boone, NC
Years Attended Boarding School 4
Activities During Boarding School During my senior year, I was a resident advisor (RA) in Belk dormitory, then McCallie's freshmen dorm. I was also a four-year member of the varsity lacrosse team, serving as team co-captain my senior year. I participated in campus publications during each of my four years and was actively involved in McCallie's Amnesty International chapter as well. During Spring 2003, I started Students Against the War, a group that organized a series of campus-wide dialogues about the United States' involvement in Iraq.

Reflections and Advice:

1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
McCallie is unquestionably one of the finest boarding schools in the nation. It prepares its students to achieve excellence in every arena. Three things in particular distinguish McCallie from other schools. The first thing that struck me about McCallie was the strong sense of community that pervades all aspects of campus life. Students are friendly, good-spirited, and make it a strong part of school culture to treat each other with respect. The camaraderie that students share is really unique. Now that it’s been several years since my graduation from McCallie, I can attest to the fact that McCallie men form lifelong bonds on friendship on Missionary Ridge (where McCallie is located in Chattanooga). Attending McCallie is a chance to meet some truly fine people, and to establish connections with them that will last for a long time. At McCallie, faculty, staff, and administrators share a common passion for what they do. Many of them could easily be teaching or working at the university level, but they choose to teach at McCallie because that’s what they love. They want to give McCallie students the best possible education and they do so by working hard all the time to a learning environment in which every student has the support to know that he’s a valued member of the community, and in which every student is challenged to push his limits. Teachers will do everything they can to guide students along the way, whether they are at the top of the class or need extra help to make the grade. And McCallie’s staff view every aspect of their jobs—not just what happens in the classroom—as a teaching opportunity. McCallie’s sports fields, dining hall, art studios, climbing gym, dormitories—all of these becoming classrooms of one kind or another. Enrolling at McCallie as a boarding student offers the chance to be immersed 24/7 for 4 years in a profoundly rewarding learning environment. It offers opportunities for instruction and mentoring that simply don’t exist at a day school. I remain just as close to some of my teachers at McCallie as I do with my classmates, and I continue to learn from their wisdom years after my graduation. Finally, McCallie constantly impresses on students values of community service, honor, and integrity. All students participate in some kind of meaningful community service during their four years. Many even participate in international service-themed trips, such as those taken by the school’s Habitat for Humanity chapter to build houses around the world. McCallie’s teachers and staff embody the school’s values of “honor, truth, and duty,” and they set a strong example in their daily lives for students to follow. A student-run Senate administers McCallie’s honor code, by which students are bound to refrain from lying, cheating, and stealing, and to report any student who does so. McCallie’s emphasis on personal honor creates an atmosphere of trust, and it also underscores the school’s expectation that students will constantly strive to do their best in all their endeavors.
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
When I arrived at McCallie, I approached my education there in terms of, “what can I get out of this experience?” By the time I was entering my senior year, about to serve as a resident advisor in the school’s freshman dormitory, my perspective had changed. I was asking a different question: “how can I contribute the most to this community?” The best thing that happened to me at McCallie was that shift in perspective. This shift came about because of the constant mentoring I received from teachers, coaches, and other staff, and from the strong sense of community that defines McCallie. I can’t pinpoint a single experience that caused this transformation. Rather, I’d point to many. Part of it came from the advocacy I did with Amnesty International, encouraged by an English teacher who took me and several other students to Amnesty’s Regional Conference in Atlanta one year. Another part of it came in the weight room and in the lacrosse field, where I worked hard for four years, learning what it means to devote all of your energy to achieving a team goal. Still another part of it came from the daily example set by my friends and teachers—incredibly talented people who dedicated themselves to serving the school, whatever their individual gifts were.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
Generally speaking, I have no regrets about my years in high school. I had a resoundingly positive experience in every respect. If I were to do it again, I would have made a point to develop strong relationships with day students, not just my fellow boarders, early on during my time at McCallie. I would have taken more courses in the arts, especially photography, and I would have devoted more time to writing for campus publications such as the Argonaut. I also would have committed myself to one service project, such as Habitat, and worked with it for all four years, rather than choosing different projects at different times. I think continuous, sustained involvement in something like Habitat would have been really rewarding. At the same time, though, I recognize that my time in high school did allow me to explore a lot of different interests—things that I needed to try out one way or another. I’d happily do all four years again, but I think it would be hard for to have had a better experience than I did.
4.) What did you like most about your school?
As mentioned above, the strong friendships that I was able to develop with my peers, my teachers, and my coaches. My classmates are like brothers, and I’ll say that without any apology for sounding hackneyed or trite. It’s the truth. Having attended college with graduates from many other boarding schools, I can say that it’s rare to develop such lasting bonds at high school. Sometimes people speak of McCallie graduates as a “long blue line.” My father, a member of the United States Military Academy’s “long grey line,” can attest that the bonds that McCallie form are just as strong as any friendship that grows out of the service academies. In addition, I’ll offer that the McCallie experience is both affirming and challenging from more than a social standpoint. Teachers recognize that students have all kinds of talents to contribute to the school, whether they’re artistic, athletic, intellectual, pastoral—you name it. All of these are valued equally, and McCallie strives to create an environment in which students can try out all kinds of activities to find out what their passions really are as they get ready to make the next step toward college. Now that I’m about to graduate from a liberal arts college, looking back, I can say that McCallie reminds me very much of a liberal arts education. Curiosity, diversity of thought, and free inquiry are some of McCallie’s top values. McCallie students have a lot of freedom to craft a unique high school experience for themselves, and they have access to unbelievable resources to do this (teachers, facilities, extracurricular opportunties, and so on).
5.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
On my first visit to McCallie, I showed up a skeptic. It was raining, I was tired, and McCallie was the last of a long list of schools that I was visiting. But McCallie won me over in about fifteen minutes. I could tell that it just “fit,” and I have never second-guessed my decision to enroll. My boarding school search began because I wanted to play collegiate lacrosse. The school that I was attending as an 8th grader, and where I would likely have gone to school had I not attended boarding school, did not have a lacrosse team. To be recruited, I knew I had to play for a good high school program. Ultimately, McCallie’s lacrosse program, led by an incredible coach and teacher in Troy Kemp, was just one of the reasons I chose to attend McCallie. Starting on day one of freshman year, I knew I was going to get good athletic exposure and a great education. But McCallie gave me so much more than just that. There was no way I could have envisioned the personal, intellectual, and spiritual growth that I would experience at McCallie. Finally, I’ll mention that it was financially possible for me to attend McCallie because of the Honors Scholarship program, modeled after some of the most prestigious university-level scholarships in the States (e.g. UNC’s Morehead, UVA’s Jefferson). McCallie wants to attract the best students and it’s finding more ways to do that through merit- and needs-based aid programs. Be sure to look into these opportunities.

Academics:

1.) Describe the academics at your school - what did you like most about it?
McCallie’s teachers are, simply put, some of the best. Many of them could teach at universities if they wanted to. Many of them have graduated from some of the strongest graduate programs out there. And they’ll do anything they can to make sure their students are mastering classroom material, and even enjoying it. I liked having access to AP classes in any discipline I wanted to pursue. I liked that teachers were readily available for conversation, both during the academic day and in the dormitories at night, when I wanted to talk about a text we were reading, a problem that was too difficult to solve, or an idea that had fired up my imagination. When I was a senior, several friends and I found ourselves in an unusual situation. The math classes we were ready to take didn’t really exist at McCallie, so a teacher designed them for us. In the fall semester, we began an advanced tutorial. There were six of us in the classroom: one teacher and five students, one of whom was also a teacher but wanted to take some extra math “for fun.” While that class itself was out of the ordinary, it showcased a few things that are the norm at McCallie: teachers’ commitment to their students; an academic environment that’s meant to be engaging, challenging, and suited to each students’ needs; and a quality of instruction that’s as good as anything you could hope to find at a college.

Athletics:

1.) Describe the athletics at your school - what did you like most about it?
As I already noted, lacrosse provided a big reason for me to attend McCallie. I showed up in 9th grade, confident that I was pretty good. By the time I graduated, I was pretty good. I had options to play at several DI and DIII college programs and my team had won the state championship three out my four years. I was successful at athletics in high school because McCallie has outstanding coaches who train young athletes to perform at the highest level they can. McCallie’s playing fields and training facilities are second-to-none. The school’s weight room looks like it belongs in a university gym. The big games draw huge crowds, whether that’s for lacrosse, football, basketball, or wrestling. When it comes time to develop skills after practice, coaches will provide extra help. If you want to be recruited for your sport, they’ll help create opportunities for you, whether that’s by organizing tournaments or getting college programs on the phone for you. There’s a great variety of sports teams that students can choose from. There are also plenty of levels to match different abilities, ranging from varsity competition to intra-murals. Perhaps more than any other aspect of my McCallie education, athletics taught me hard work and self-confidence.

Art, Music, and Theatre:

1.) Describe the arts program at your school - what did you like most about it?
The arts are an integral part of life at McCallie. The student who is a dynamic painter, a photographer with a keen eye, or a great singer is just as respected for his accomplishments as the best athlete is for his. I liked that students are encouraged to try out different arts through a wide variety of elective courses and extracurricular activities. Each year, there are a number of theatrical and musical performances to choose from. Personally, what I liked best was the opportunities to write for different campus publications, including the Argonaut, McCallie’s literary magazine, and the Tornado, our news weekly. Publications such as these gave me the chance to write for fun, balancing out the academic writing I did during the week. Also, I really enjoyed the school’s pottery studio. I didn’t take pottery until my senior spring, but I found out that I loved doing it. And the studio was open at all times during the day, so if my friends and I wanted to throw some clay after lacrosse practice, all we had to do was open up the studio, turn the radio on, and relax until it was time to call it a night.

Extracurricular Opportunities:

1.) Describe the extracurriculars offered at your school - what did you like most about it?
Students at McCallie are required to participate in extracurriculars. This is easy to do because there’s such a huge variety of activities to choose from. Whether it’s debate, publications, the student-run online radio station, politics, or environmental action, there’s something for just about everybody. And if there’s not, then students are encouraged to create a group to do what they’re interested in. Academics, athletics, and extracurriculars are all part of the same holistic education that you get at McCallie. Teachers usually teach class during the day, then coach or advise another student group in the afternoons. Each day offers the chance to learn from the time you get up until you go to sleep.

Dorm Life:

1.) Describe the dorm life in your school - what did you like most about it?
Being a boarding student was one of the most fun times I’ve ever had. It’s rewarding for a lot of other reasons as well, as it offers a lot of independence and the chance to develop really great relationships with peers and dorm faculty. Dorms never felt confining to me. They were a good home-away-from-home for four years. When students want to get away from campus for the weekend—to go home and visit family, or maybe just stay at a day student friend’s house across town—that’s possible to do. Living in a boarding environment makes the transition to living in a college dorm very easy.

Dining:

1.) Describe the dining arrangements at your school.
McCallie has a beautiful dining facility and good food. McCallie’s food is up there with the best cafeteria fare I’ve had at any school or college. Fourth meal, a hearty snack offered after dinner each night during the week, offers the chance to hang out and fuel up after study hall each night. Also, Chattanooga has lots of great restaurants where students can eat on the weekends. Juniors and seniors can eat out during the week too on certain occasions.

Social and Town Life:

1.) Describe the school's town and surrounding area.
Chattanooga is a cool city. It’s got a vibrant downtown with lots of restaurants, several music venues, the Bijou movie theater, Coolidge Park, good shops, and a pedestrian-friendly waterfront. The city has an art scene that’s getting more and more interesting, too. The area around Chattanooga is beautiful. If you like to climb, paddle, cycle, hike, or get outdoors for pretty much any other activity, Chattanooga is a great place to live. It’s close to Nashville, Knoxville, and Atlanta as well.
2.) Describe the social life at your school - what did you like most about it?
Living in a residential community at McCallie, I was always surrounded by friends. This meant that there was always something interesting going on. That’s the There’s a good social life on campus, with frequent events (concerts, performances, the dorm sports tournaments, and so on). It’s also easy to leave campus and explore Chattanooga on the weekends. I never felt as though I was stuck on campus; to the contrary, I felt like boarding school gave me a more diverse social life than I would have found at home. While McCallie is an all guys school, it was always easy for boarding students to meet girls. Having a sister school just across town (Girls Preparatory School), as well students from a lot of other nearby schools to interact with, meant that there were plenty of girls to hang out with. I thought the balance of an all-male classroom during the week and a regular social life on the weekends was ideal for me during high school. When I needed to get work done, I could focus on academics, sports, and everything else I would do during a normal week. On the weekends, I could take a break and have fun with friends on- or off-campus.

Daily Schedule:

Weekday
8:00 AMClassical Greek
9:00 AMEnglish Seminar: Vicious Women and Dangerous Men in Drama and Film
9:45 AMChapel: thrice-weekly speeches and performances
10:15 AMBackwork: clubs meetings (e.g. Amnesty Int'l, publications) or extra help with teachers
10:45 AMHuman Biology
11:45 AMLunch
12:15 AMBioethics Seminar
1:00 PMAP Latin: Ovid and Catulllus
3:00 PMlacrosse practice
6:00 PMdinner, then study hall till 930pm, then lights out around 1130pm
Weekend
9:00 AMwake up and breakfast
10:00 AMhang out in dorm
11:00 AMrecord new episode for show on student radio station
12:00 AMlunch with friends
1:00 PMgo for a run, throw a frisbee outside, or visit friends in town
3:00 PMswim in McCallie's lake
6:00 PMhead downtown with friends for dinner, a baseball game, a movie, or head to a friend's house
11:30 PMreturn to dorm if staying in town
3:00 AMreturn to dorm if returning from a school trip (e.g. concert, sporting event, etc.)
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