by Dr. Heather Tracy, Ed.M., Ed.D., Executive Director at New Summit Academy & The Bridge – Costa Rica
During the admissions process at therapeutic boarding schools, there is no shortage of educational symptoms listed: Grades declined. Skipped classes. Suspended. Fell into a negative peer group at school. Bullied. Whatever the case may be, what happens at school is often framed as a symptom of a deeper clinical issue that is the true reason for seeking treatment. What is often not highlighted is just how integrated an adolescent’s educational and personal development experiences actually are. The up side to all of this is that education does not solely serve to alert us to symptoms needing clinical attention, but
rather educational experiences can be important facilitators of healing and growth as well.
What could be more therapeutic than...
- An experience with a teacher who takes the extra time to help you understand concepts or find a solution to a problem?
- A long-term project (you previously would not have finished) stamped with a grade you thought you could not achieve?
- An organizational system that finally works for you to stay on top of your homework and long-term projects?
- A curriculum that makes you feel respected as a learner who does not want to be babysat with busywork geared towards content memorization for a test?
- A schedule that recognizes and incorporates any human’s holistic needs for exercise, arts, socializing, and introspection?
- An extracurricular activity that values more than competition and winning?
- A homework study session driven by you and your peers rather than mom, dad, or hired tutors?
- A school where emotional and physical safety is not just preached but actually practiced?
- An individualized education plan that is not 20 pages of standardized prescribed accommodations written by people who barely know you but rather a unique, thoughtful attempt to engage your unique interests, talents, and strengths in ways that give you ownership and engagement in improving your areas of weakness?
- A teacher who believes enough in your capabilities to continue to challenge you by gradually removing scaffolding once you’ve mastered certain skills – just to show you that you are more than a diagnosis?
- A graduation ceremony that does not rank students according to GPA but rather celebrates each unique journey taken to reach a podium dressed in cap and gown?
Each and every one of these examples is representative of how New Summit Academy is not just filling up students’ days with scores on tests and credits on transcripts. NSA's teachers and administrators work tirelessly to create “therapeutic” educational experiences for our students. We do this believing that someday soon other schools will catch on to the idea that therapeutic education is not just healing what has “gone wrong” for our students; instead, it is what education is meant to be at its core – an experience that facilitates learning about ourselves, each other, and the world around us so that we might meaningfully contribute in our own unique and positive way.