Deerfield Academy - Review #1
About the Author:
|Years Attended Boarding School:||1994-1997|
|Sports and Activities:||Asian Students Association (president), several theatre productions, student tutoring (Head Tutor), Diversity Task Force, Proctor, Disciplinary Committee|
|Home Town, State:||Los Angeles, CA|
1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
There was a strong emphasis on community, on having everyone get to know one another. This manifested itself in mandatory sit-down meals with other students and faculty (I think I had met all the faculty by the time I was midway through my second year at DA), frequent school meetings, and other little things like a lack of signs on any of the school buildings. The purpose for this was to encourage students to help visitors to campus. Without signs, people would not know where to go, therefore students had to introduce themselves to the visitor and ask if he could help in any way. Unlike other schools, returning students, not new students, arrived on campus first so that they would be settled in and ready to help the new students move in and feel welcome.The sense of community was further enhanced by other rituals like defending the school's gold seal in the gymnasium, hearing stories of old Deerfield characters like Frank Boyden, Tom Ashley, Coach Smith, and many others. There were events like introductions of faculty and new students on the first night of the year, and then on the seniors' last night of school we all shared our thoughts of what our time at Deerfield had meant to us--this would often go late into the night, but the adrenaline would carry us through the graduation exercises of the next day.I loved it all. Perhaps this is due to having come from large public schools before going to Deerfield, where I was just another student out of a few thousand who would come and go, just products on an assembly line. At Deerfield I felt a strong link to all the rest of the Academy that was there when I was, as well as to all that had come before me. As an alum I still care very deeply about my school, and can look back on it as an institution far more fondly than I can look upon my college.
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
There were so many things that happened, but I'll share just one:Perhaps it's just a part of growing up, but at Deerfield I began to learn the art of making the best of things. I am not white, wealthy, athletic or Republican, and I could be quite vocal about my views, which were not always popular among the conservative student body. Despite my academic success and acceptance into the Promised Land dreamt of by prep school students (Cambridge, MA, home of Harvard), I could never have been a poster boy for Deerfield Academy. I was, and to some degree still remain a bit on the outside of the mainstream of Deerfield Academy. This could have been disheartening, and it was for a little while, but I overcame my bitterness and learned to love much about Deerfield, and eventually realized that much of Deerfied loved me back. My time at DA helped me learn that life can often be what we make of it, and what we make of it can be quite enjoyable.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
I would have been more open to new experiences, meeting new people. In my first month or so at school I was so busy being homesick, missing my old friends and my girlfriend that I spent my nights writing letters to people instead of meeting other Deerfield people. I wish I hadn't hung on so tightly to the past, and that I'd embraced Deerfield sooner. As for new experiences, I wish I'd opened myself up to doing more in the arts, taking greater advantage of athletic opportunities, etc. etc. The school had the resources to allow you to do almost anything you could dream of, and I was too timid to try them out.
4.) What would you never want to change about your school?
No matter how they do it, the school should always keep community building in mind. For me this means keeping sit-down meals, telling the stories of old Deerfield, and maintaining its devotion to TRADITION! Some students will complain about tradition, but to me it established a link between the past, present, and future. Sit-downs, class dress, school meetings, Choate Day, defending the seal, Memorial Day services, no signs around campus, an emphasis on courtesy and classiness... Keep it all alive.
5.) What things could be improved about your school?
I'm sure parents will disagree on this as an "improvement", but the dating scene was pretty abysmal there. I really can't imagine how the school could improve it though.
6.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
I would tell a new student to try everything. Don't stay cloistered in your dorm room, don't just stick to one clique, and dabble in different extracurricular activities. Given the resources of the school, as well as the amazing people in its faculty and student body, the sky's the limit at a place like Deerfield.Join the mountaineering club, take up acting or singing, get involved in some kind of political activism, go for long hikes, talk to strangers in the dining hall... Do it all, explore it all.
1.) What did you like best about your schools academics?
I loved the diversity of classes available, and the teachers' willingness to work with students outside the classroom, both for additional help for classes and also for independent projects. As for the diversity of courses, I think there were at least seven languages offered during my senior year, a broad range of history classes covering every continent and many time periods, several art classes, and many electives in various departments. On the point of outside assistance, faculty were very generous about their time and were easily accessible both for help on their classes or for independent projects such as creative writing pieces and some formally sanctioned independent studies that included such things as documentary films, auto repair, organic chemistry, etc.
2.) What did you like least about the academics in your school?
My one complaint is not about Deerfield specifically, but more about the pressures of getting into a "good" college. So many people, myself included, were so busy trying to build up good resumes that we were not able to take in more electives. We had to take the right courses: as much math and science as possible, at least three years but preferably four of foreign languages, etc. etc. This left precious little time for such things as exploring the arts, taking on a new language, or signing on for an independent study.
1.) What did you like best about your schools athletics?
Although I was never the biggest sports fan or greatest athlete, I did love the way they brought the school together, especially around Choate Day. I recall having a lot of fun getting together with the other guys on my dorm corridor, staying up late painting banners in preparation for the big day. In some cases those were the first times I can recall really getting along with some people--we had all found something to serve as common ground, and we ended up becoming friends.Other than that, the facilities were great, and in general (I don't know why though) I did take some pride in the fact that many of the teams were outstanding by New England prep school standards.
2.) What did you like least about the athletics in your school?
It's a sort of trifling thing to complain about, and you can't expect a school to do everything for you BUT I wish there had been more programs for recreational players or novices. Not everyone is a super jock, and not everyone is going to want to get punked by the more athletic kids on the competitive teams, thus several of us stepped away from athletic pursuits as soon as sports stopped being mandatory. Had there been more options available to novices, I think I would have had much more fun with sports.
1.) What did you like best about your schools art program?
There were many options available: music (singing and instrumental), photography, pottery, drawing, painting, and theatre. The facilities were outstanding, the faculty were wonderful and very encouraging to novices. I had never acted before, but the drama teacher (Mr. Reese when I was there) made newcomers feel welcome.Also, for those who didn't succeed in auditions, there were always courses to take.
2.) What did you like least about your schools art program?
Again, you can only ask a school to do so much, so this is a bit of a nitpicky complaint: Deerfield might want to try to find a way to get more people involved in the arts. Given what can already be intense schedule demands, I wouldn't say that more art classes should be made mandatory, but rather that things like weekend electives, something like short-term workshops, might be offered so that more kids can at least dabble in the arts.
1.) What did you like most about the extracurricular activities offered at your school?
There were so many student groups and the school was fairly generous about giving money (through the student council) to help support the groups' activities.
2.) What did you like least about the extracurricular activities offered at your school?
My greatest complaint is not about the activities themselves, but about some of the students who were busy padding resumes.
1.) What was the best thing about dorm life in your school?
I liked the fact that you were almost guaranteed a single bedroom (no roommate!) through your entire time there.There were also the social aspects to the dorms: if the proctors and the faculty residents weren't too strict, it could be like an extended summer camp. All your friends in one place, late nights hanging out, dorm pranks. Lots of fun stuff.
2.) What did you like least about dorm life?
Curfews were pretty ridiculous for freshmen and sophomores: 8:30 pm on the weekdays!!! I think the 10 pm curfews for upperclassmen were reasonable, but in a slightly more fair world, freshmen and sophomores would have a 10 pm curfew, and upperclassmen would have it be at 11 or 12.
1.) What was the best thing about your dining arrangements?
I loved the dining hall. The food was usually pretty good, and there were special occassions when it was absolutely fantastic: all-you-can-eat lobster nights, the beef wellington and baked Alaska for the holiday meal...Some people have complained about the sit-down meals, but I thought they were great for community building. I became good friends with some people that I might not have gotten to know if we hadn't been forced to have meals together. This is true of both students and faculty members. The only thing I might have changed would be the Sunday evening sit-down meal--Sunday nights are often very busy times for students, and we don't want to interrupt our work by having to get dressed up for a meal. They wouldn't have to eliminate it altogether, perhaps they could just get rid of the class dress rule.
2.) What did you like least about your dining arrangements?
Could have had more late night food available. A lot of us didn't have much money and couldn't afford to order pizzas or other delivery food if the meal at dinner was bad.
1.) How welcome did you feel by the other students when you first arrived at the school
Other students were very welcoming. People were eager to help me move my bags in and people would drop by to say hi and introduce themselves.As far as fitting in, it did feel a little bit weird not being wealthy or white, and the sense of feeling like an outsider was exacerbated a bit by not being much of an athlete, but it didn't take too long to find people that I got along very well with. While I never completely got over the sense of being somewhat of an outsider, I found parts of the Deerfield community that I loved, and still feel a very strong attachment to my school.
2.) Describe the level of diversity and integration of students in your school:
While I was at Deerfield I felt that levels of integration were not very high, but since then, I've come to realize that this country is, in general, a very segregated place, and that Deerfield was probably no worse than average. There are racial cliques and there are divisions of students by wealth. For some people, these divisions lead to some degree of bitterness, but few things presented to angst-filled 16-year-olds (I was certainly one at the time) do not lead to bitterness.As for my own experience of diversity and integration, I had many friends of all backgrounds, from different races, countries, socioeconomic levels, and so on. All you had to do was be willing to be open to people. We were all just kids, after all. Even the most die-hard race or class warrior (as I sometimes was) can have fun with other kids.
3.) Describe typical fun activities you did on a weekend:
SLEEP! Sleep was a big thing since I was really bad about time management was often sleep-deprived during the week.Otherwise I'd watch TV, play video or computer games, go to movies, try to go into town. On the rare occasion that I was not being punished for missing classes by being restricted to campus, I'd visit my aunt in Connecticut, sometimes taking a friend or two along with me. That sort of thing happened fairly frequently: kids would go home with a friend for the weekend, off to NY, Boston, and other places.
4.) What was the town like?
The town of Deerfield was awful: there was no town, just a bunch of old houses that had been turned into museums. We had to go to Greenfield (a short cab ride away) for the most basic supermarkets, restaurants, movies, and other shops. Mind you, Greenfield is still a pretty small town, so it provided only the most BASIC sorts of goods and services. For more exotic things you'd need to go to the Holyoke Mall (I think the school provided a bus once a month) or to Northampton (again, one bus a month).
|7:45 AM||Wake up, try to shower|
|8:00 AM||Wopefully make it to first period on time--usually this was math, unfortunately|
|8:45 AM||Second period|
|9:30 AM||3rd period|
|10:15 AM||4th period|
|11:00 AM||5th period|
|12:45 AM||6th period|
|1:30 AM||7th period|
|3:00 PM||Theatre rehearsals, or athletic practices|
|7:30 PM||Either hang out with friends or start studying|
|10:00 PM||Curfew, check in with faculty resident|
|1:00 PM||Wake up, or lie in bed for a few more hours|
|1:30 PM||Lunch, sit in dining hall, talk to people for a few hours|
|3:00 PM||Maybe go into Greenfield for some groceries, maybe watch a movie either for free in the library or in Greenfield|
|5:30 PM||Dinner, sit in dining hall, talk to people for a few hours|
|7:00 PM||Commence wandering around campus somewhat aimlessly, or sit in someone's room playing video games|
|9:00 PM||Check-in, since I was usually being punished for missing classes|
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