Turns out, it’s all of it.

We have an informal ‘tradition’ here at Sage. For the past few years, recent graduates return to campus during their winter breaks. They visit with teachers, re-join a wellness game, and talk with our seniors (often, their former band-mates) about life on the ‘other side’ of Sage School. Participating in these discussions turns out to be a joy every year. Listening to our graduates articulate what they learned, how they transitioned to college and more traditional education, and formulate college ‘survival tips’ for our current seniors is a reminder of what we do at Sage.

Today, however, is also the last day before winter break. The 6/7 are bringing in final projects on their family- artistic and full of pride- as they get to know themselves more deeply. The 8/9 are reviewing and correcting a test on American Revolutions and Rebellion in order to understand the content of these timeperiods but also to help develop a growth mindset about content more generally. The 10/11 are presenting final their own art, drama, and story maps about the American Identity.   The seniors are ‘sweating’ through a final exam on Islam and the Middle East on their way to becoming global citizens and in order to prepare them for more traditional assessments.

The title of this piece comes into play when we consider the combination of the above two paragraphs. It turns out that our students gain from all of the aspects of The Sage curriculum and The Sage experience. It cannot be boiled down to one thing- it is all of it. We have attempted, and failed, many times to find a sound bite that covers what we do. We will, no doubt, try again, but there is a reason that it is harder to do this at Sage than at other schools.

Consider the set of notes listed below. They come from conversations over the past few days with our graduates. As you preview them, you will see references to the importance of self, place, and community (directly from our mission statement), but you will also see the residues of their work in community service, wellness, field studies- and of course, academic preparation.

Our students emerge from their Sage experiences knowing themselves, their strengths and needs, as well as having the ability to articulate all of that and the wherewithal to build the realities they crave. That path isn’t always linear, just like it probably wasn’t for most of us reading this piece. However, it ought to be filled with heart. And, to return to our mission, it ultimately boils down to a mix of their academic, cognitive, social and emotional skills- but not any one of those.

Quotes and paraphrases from recent Sage alum:

  • Sage is more like college than traditional school is.
    • I learned to manage my time, manage large projects, break down big tasks into smaller units, and find my passion. Other people my age don’t have those skills.
  • I can create my own life- I know myself first and foremost, even if I’m not sure of my path forward.
  • I realized that this (Sage School’s approach) is how I want to learn, and now I need to go after that.
  • This school helped us take a wider angle on who we are- Perspective is key.
  • Even when we have no framework, or a new framework, we can find ourselves anew.
  • We can articulate our interests and enthusiasms, and then pursue them.
  • I realized that I had an amazing resume- I just listed all the experiences, projects, service, and activities we did at Sage- and found that I had much to offer my employers.
  • I realized I could, and needed to, set aside time to connect with myself in nature- no matter where I was.
  • I could find those things that excited me, and did them even when I felt bad. I needed those connections to feel healthy.
  • I never thought I was too cool to jump into anything at college, unlike others I met. I met people and explored all sorts of things.
  • I could use college as opportunity to rebrand myself- and be the person I wanted to be.
  • I realized I needed to be physical to do my best work, so I joined the polo team (badminton team, sailing team, etc)
  • Through Sage, you come to realize that the person you are is good.
  • We were always serving something bigger than ourselves at Sage- hold that standard for yourself and those you surround yourself with.
  • Knocking on doors for hunger day helped me realize that even if I talked to one grumpy individual, there were more doors with more people willing to help. Just keep knocking.

Ultimately, it boiled down to this-

  • Find yourself, and then be that person intentionally.

I sit watching kids attack their work today with vigor- from the academic content to wellness to the Secret Santa/Spirit Week fun the seniors have planned. But I also see that which many of them can’t see because they are, appropriately, living their lives as teenagers in this space- I see that their tomorrows are also hopeful and filled with the joyful (and at times, trying) journey of becoming their best selves.

I am in awe and honored to be able to participate in the process.

Happy Holidays to all and to all a good break. (Resting, too, is part of it.)

Chris McAvoy