The Masters School - Review #3

The Masters School
5

About the Author:

College Enrolled Middlebury College
Home Town, State (Country) Ossining, NY
Years Attended Boarding School 4
Activities During Boarding School While at Masters, I was Class President from 9th grade through 11th grade, and subsequently I was elected Co-Chair of Community Government for my senior year. In addition I played on the Varsity Soccer team from 10th to 12th grade, I was President of "Touring Talent" -- a performance troupe that visits a local nursing home monthly, Co-Chair of Special Olympics my junior year, and I was heavily involved in theater, a member of Phoenix (the honorary drama society), and I played in the grand winter music productions all my four years.

Reflections and Advice:

1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
One unique aspect of the Masters School for which I was personally very grateful was our Morning Meeting. This was a gathering of the entire upper school and faculty in the theater, three times weekly. The meeting was organized and run by the two co-chairs of Community Government, and it was essentially an open forum for announcements, speeches, and presentations of any kind. Each Morning Meeting was unique, almost an organism in and of itself, forever shifting in spirit and tone to match that particular day's agenda. Morning Meeting is a showcase arena, where news is made and unveiled for all to see: clubs promoting events, musicians showcasing talents, teams inciting energy for big games. The mood has ranged from sheer electricity and hilarity on days such as Halloween, to ceremonial on days honoring faculty, to solemnly illuminating on days designated for Community Service presentations or talks on global issues. I have heard deafening silence and raucous cheers. Morning Meeting is truly the place where the soul of the school swells with itself; the buzz of the day is established when all gather to hear it.
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
It is very difficult for me to visualize where I might be if it had not been for Masters. I know that I have been lucky in my experience there; I was able to realize my goal of becoming co-chair, a goal I have had since I arrived at Masters as a 6th grader in the middle school. Fortune favors the bold, and I would keep that maxim in mind for anyone who is considering applying. Masters offers students the opportunity to really devote themselves. Some students keep a safer distance, perhaps not forging the kind of bond that I keep with the school. Some students pick one area and by the time they are a senior, they are president of this or the face of that. Some students try and do everything and go a little crazy by the time fall of senior year comes around. But this one would find I think at any number of independent schools. I am most thankful for the opportunity to dive into things I felt were important to me, whether it be a particular project in English or a performance on stage. Looking back now, I can't fathom how many days I woke up exhausted, angsty, moody, frustrated. But there will always be those days - don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I was just glad to have spent those days in Dobbs.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
If I could have done something differently, I think it would have been to reach out to more of my classmates. The weeks leading up to graduation are bizarre and surreal: I loved everyone and I didn't really know why, and then just like that it was over and done with. Like many people, I was very happy with my friends and did not feel the need to make more at the time, but now I kind of wish I had. But that's a small point really; there's not much I would have done differently. I'm happy with the run I had.
4.) What did you like most about your school?
What I liked most about Masters... a very difficult question indeed. I have always romanticized high school and my high school experience to a certain degree, almost recreationally, so I think I am most happy for the little intangibles that jump-started my romantic juices. For all the characters I went to school with, for all the times I stopped to talk with the janitors long after most students had gone home, for all my time spent during breaks and free periods sitting around with the same people trying to finish the same assignment before the same class... to me, that's the good stuff. Masters is a little bubble, something I quickly learned when I entered college. But I'm thankful for that bubble, and for all the good people I met along the way.
5.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
Get into the habit of picking up your dishes in the dining hall. Just do it.

Academics:

1.) Describe the academics at your school - what did you like most about it?
The academics at Masters have always been challenging, varied and in some places the subjects almost disarmingly penetrating. For the sake of an overview, the freshman class essentially begins in the same place. There is more leniency in terms of placing up in the departments of Math and Science, but for the most part and especially regarding humantities, 9th graders are all working on the same material. I like this aspect of the academic approach -- I find that at such an early age, disregarding the variety of levels of proficiency, it was nice to have everybody mixed up. The teachers are sensitive to the disparity that may exist in some classes, and by the end of sophomore year, it is understood that the students have a solid foundation in the areas of critical thinking and thought-structuring. By junior and senior year, a certain shuffling occurs as students begin to make use of the variety of classes offered my the departments. Whether one chooses to pursue an AP-laden track or not, it is important to know that everyone has a chance to choose the curriculum he or she is best suited for. From elective classes in music and media studies to students taking several histories or science courses at a time, I have seen dozens of combinations, and for the most part, interest in the course is your ticket in. For me, I had certain classes in my senior year that were very competitive (whether we liked to admit it or not), especially my AP English class. In no other class did I find the Harkness method of teaching more emphatic. To succeed academically at Masters, you've got to know how to talk, to express yourself coherently. It is a skill I was grateful to have in college, where 15-person seminars tend to scare some folks. In terms of the block schedule, I am a fan. Long block classes allow teachers to really settle in and go at the material, and on the other side of the coin, you can't beat a double free period.

Athletics:

1.) Describe the athletics at your school - what did you like most about it?
Athletics have not always been our strong suit, but more and more since I graduated especially, importance has been placed in our team sports. There is definitely a distinctive culture to the sports teams, just as there is for music and theater. It is a choice that students make to care about athletics: plenty of people do, but not everyone, and that's ok. I myself was a great fan of sport in all seasons. Basketball and volleyball in the winter had fantastic energy, and I always enjoyed watching my boys on the baseball team play in the spring. I had a fantastic time playing soccer, and as much as I may have grumbled hiking up from the train station for preseason training while all my other friends were still in the mode of summer vacation, I can look back and say that preseason was one of my favorite parts of playing a fall sport. We ran, it was hot, but we got close, and by the end of the season the bus rides were some of my fondest memories.

Art, Music, and Theatre:

1.) Describe the arts program at your school - what did you like most about it?
Visual arts is probably the quietest division of the arts at Masters, and one that I am least familiar with. One thing I do know though is that there were always people diligently sketching or painting or who knows what in the art room, which has superb resources, and whose art was proudly displayed all along the outside walls of the theater. There are so many music opportunities on campus -- from playing onstage at Morning Meeting on Musical Monday, to sets at coffeehouses, to theory classes and composition workshops. The a cappella groups at Masters rehearsed diligently, and the jazz band was always my favorite to listen to at the biannual concerts in the theater. There are music lessons all day in the music building, and the faculty are so well versed in their field that it is a pleasure to share in their experience. My memories of music though always come back to strumming a guitar during free periods in the alcove in the music building. I became oddly acquainted over time through a series of eyebrow gestures and whispered thank-yous, as I would often sneak in to the room to grab a guitar. Theater has long been important to arts at Masters. I went from a starry-eyed freshman onstage in the musical to performing regular skits for Phoenix at Morning Meeting, as well as several student-run productions. Theater was absolutely a highlight of mine at Masters, and its popularity continues to grow. The musical has a boisterous ensemble every year, and the shows are packed. I have countless memories of pacing backstage and in dressing rooms, of coming to day-long rehearsals, and of just walking around in the silence of the theater. Students are certainly passionate.

Extracurricular Opportunities:

1.) Describe the extracurriculars offered at your school - what did you like most about it?
Co-curriculars, as they are called, are a critical component of the experience at Masters. While the majority of students are involved in either team sports or theater after school, there is a wide selection of activities, especially in community service, music, and visual arts. Students with commitments outside of school, for dance, other rehearsals, individual sports and the like were able to opt-out of certain extracurriculars, but for the most part, the students were occupied with something after school, and those on campus after it all finished would congregate in the dining hall for dinner following the afternoon's proceedings. I was very happy to always be able to do what I liked to do after school.

Dorm Life:

1.) Describe the dorm life in your school - what did you like most about it?
I was never a boarding student at Masters so I may not be able to comment, but I did spend several nights in the dorm on various occasions. It was always a good time, and I could see that by living with one another, students became very close. I did go on several dorm trips, to concerts for example, and I could see that the school through the student activities department provided ample access to the outside world for students on weekends.

Dining:

1.) Describe the dining arrangements at your school.
The dining hall at Masters will always hold a place in my heart. Lunch runs roughly from 11am to 1pm, and while on Mondays and Fridays there were times when it was a bit of a wait on line, one learns to make adjustments and to find time to sit down and eat. I will say that I learned to eat rather quickly at Masters, unintentionally perhaps, because I was not alone in sometimes needing a few of those precious lunchtime minutes to finish up an assignment for the afternoon blocks. Students are generally fond of the food at Masters. Everyone has favorites, and the options are much like the ones I find in my college dining hall. The dining hall goes all out for certain special occasions (look for the cornbread on MLK day), and the dining hall staff is a valued piece of the community.

Social and Town Life:

1.) Describe the school's town and surrounding area.
Dobbs Ferry is a town. A small town, and one that I would trust a boarder to describe better than I can in terms of access to students. Several points of interest: Stop and Shop is right down the hill, and runs are frequently made. The pizza in town is good, as well as several other restaurant stops. The train station is about a ten to twelve minute walk, which is very convenient for access to New York City. I have sprinted down from the gym parking lot carrying soccer equipment in about five minutes, so it can be done.
2.) Describe the social life at your school - what did you like most about it?
High school is an awkward time, let's not make any mistake about it. I know that I progressed radically from my freshman year to the time I graduated. The social fabric of the Masters School is very complex and very rich, and to truly experience it, one must live it. Hang around Masters hall during break. Pop into the SAC during lunch to see who's got next on the ping-pong table. Down in the basement you will always find someone sitting in the Day Student Lounge (DSL, for short), and the McKnight room by the library is always a classic destination for free period meandering. Socially, high school I have found to be what you make of it. There are people everyone knows, there are people who stay under the radar. There are visible cliques, and there are people who bounce around exploring all demographics. Given that each class numbers around 100 students, you'll be surprised to know just how much you know about people by the time graduation comes around. While people are on the whole accessible on their own, many connections are made through classes and co-curriculars, and everyone is able to find friends who share interests.

Daily Schedule:

Weekday
7:15 AMTrain from Croton to Dobbs Ferry.
8:00 AMGet up on stage, do the meeting.
8:30 AMFree first period, DSL, finish up PolySci work.
9:15 AMPolySci class, don't forget to grab a newspaper.
12:30 AMSkip to lunch (not literally, you can walk), chicken patties, classic.
2:15 PMLast period Stats class, always a good time.
3:00 PMMill about Masters hall, check the Phoenix board.
5:30 PMGet out of rehearsal, try and find a ride to the train.
8:00 PMProbably should get around to doing some work.
1:00 AMCRASH.
Weekend
11:30 AMWake up sometime around then.
2:00 PMIf I'm doing any work at this point I'll be glad come Sunday night.
8:00 PMHead over to my friend's house, play some video games etc.
12:00 PMGet back, brace myself for the onslaught of work I've left myself.

Alumni Reviews
  Review School

  • Review Description
  • The Masters School Alumni #1
    Class of 2009
    5 Stars   3/10/2010
    Brown University
    The Masters School can be quickly distinguished from other schools by the style of teaching that takes place. After a quick tour of classes, one will notice that there are no desks. Instead, each classroom. . .
  • The Masters School Alumni #2
    Class of 2008
    5 Stars   3/10/2010
    Boston University
    The Masters School prides itself on using the Harkness method of teaching. Rather than sit at individual desks, students face each other around a large table. This style prompts discussion and keeps each. . .
  • The Masters School Alumni #3
    Class of 2008
    5 Stars   3/10/2010
    Middlebury College
    One unique aspect of the Masters School for which I was personally very grateful was our Morning Meeting. This was a gathering of the entire upper school and faculty in the theater, three times weekly. . .
  • The Masters School Alumni #4
    Class of 2006
    5 Stars   3/10/2010
    Bentley University
    The Masters School's teaching technique uses Harkness tables in the classroom to promote classroom discussions which teaches the students not only listen to others opinions but also create coherent and concise ways to express their. . .
  • The Masters School Alumni #5
    Class of 2005
    5 Stars   12/1/2005
    Columbia University
    Masters is unique because of its wonderful relationship between students and faculty. Because many faculty members live on campus as dorm parents or faculty in residence, teachers and students are apart of the same community. . .
  • Show more reviews (3 reviews)
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