Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Staying True to the Mission at Deck House, or, Size Matters...

The Deck House School’s maximum enrollment is 12; always has been, always will be.   Not 12 per class, not 12 per grade, but 12 in the school.  This unique fact gets a lot of attention when people first learn about us.  For many it’s hard to imagine a residential high school operating on the scale of a large family offering so many of the trappings of a larger school.
For us, it is simply a way to continue the vision of our founder Ned Hall.  Ned always envisioned Deck House operating simultaneously both as family and as school. He literally opened his home to those first boys, and he saw a future for the school where teachers were more like mentors than pure educators, and where, most importantly to him, the school gathered as a family around the dinner table each evening.  
Certainly, operating a school the size of this place has its challenges. Not having the capacity to hire cooking or cleaning staff means you will find our entire community as part of the weekly rotation for meals and cleaning. These times where staff and students are working together towards a common goal are some of the most powerful teaching moments we have. We all know that in a school of hundreds it is possible for students to hide without having a significant impact on the functioning of the community; quite often students at these larger schools feel lost or unheard. In our school when one person, staff or student alike, doesn’t do their job the entire community feels it. This is a powerful lesson for many of our boys.
Often times one of the biggest concerns of a student joining us is related to its size. With only a dozen classmates, our potential students worry: Will anyone like me? Will I be able to find a friend? Of course in a large school finding a friend is often a matter of finding a similar group; sports guys find the sports guys, theater guys find the arts crowd. Unfortunately, those without strong group affiliation -often Deck House type students - feel lost. In a school of our size there really is only one group: the school. Our boys learn that they can be themselves and not only survive, but thrive.
Is The Deck House School for everyone? Certainly not, but for the young man who has become lost in a larger, less supportive setting we offer an alternative in which they can find their way. Just like Ned used to do, every night we sit together at the dining room for dinner.  It's around that table, without realizing it, that these guys are carrying on the informal mission of the School; that this is a family, and in the Deck House family everyone matters.