Disclaimer :: The Oakridge School sponsored this post and gave its admissions director Amy Wilson an opportunity to describe the positive impact educators have made on her life.
Eighty-six thousand and four hundred minutes.
That’s the minimum time most American kids (preschool through grade 12) spend at school each year, not including extracurricular activities or homework. That doesn’t count the hours that you, their parents, think, wonder, and worry about your children while they’re away. Thinking about school, driving to school, attending school, waiting in the carpool line, and helping with homework can all be time-consuming tasks.
Many people say time is their most precious resource. Most parents say that their children are the most precious things in their lives. It stands to reason that school is where you invest what is most important to you. So I ask: What kind of investment does your school make in you and your child? Do the teachers and administrators nurture strong relationships? Do they understand their impact?
As a new teacher, I didn’t.
In my first year of teaching, I received a beautiful, kind, and incredibly generous note from the mother of a fourth-grade student. She thanked me for being a positive influence in her daughter’s life and — here comes the scary part — because I spent more waking hours with her daughter than she did.
I became a teacher because I wanted to invest in children’s lives. I was ready to nurture their intellectual and emotional growth. What I didn’t quite understand, until I read that card, was the depth of my responsibility and my impact on both child and family. This mom told me that I was a topic of dinnertime conversations, that my way of doing long division was the only “right” way do to it in their house (even though the parents had learned it differently), and that she, the mom, didn’t have to worry about playground drama because I was there to coach her daughter through it.
The gravity of teaching these children weighed on my mind and heart. I bore the responsibility for noticing the small things. For loving them through the triumphs and challenges. For communicating honestly with their parents about all I observed, and in a way that championed each child. My job was to spark a lifelong love of learning, to encourage creativity, and to inspire confidence, tenacity, and self-advocacy. I was teaching these bright minds to share and think beyond themselves, while reminding them of their worth and of the importance of self-care.
My own life experience was limited (as a 22 year old at the time), but I had one huge advantage: an amazing foundation that I formed at The Oakridge School. My education was solid, but I also had an army of people who believed in me. The voices of wise leaders, master teachers, and skilled coaches constantly replayed in my mind. When I faced a challenge in the classroom, they spoke through me. When I needed to dig deep and have hard conversation, they pushed and supported me. I was never alone. I had wonderful role models at my alma mater.
I knew that the investment of my teachers had changed me. They really knew me — warts and all — and cared deeply for me anyway. As a teenager, I cried and celebrated with them, and, when I grew up, they were there again. In college, they allowed me to shadow them in their classrooms and hone my craft. When I got married, they attended my wedding. And when I had children of my own, they celebrated with me. Some of them now teach my children.
Schools are supposed to invest like that in students. They are supposed to prepare children for academic challenges, but, if we’re honest, don’t we want more? Yes, we all want the metrics by which we judge schools to be top-notch: college placement; impressive opportunities for students to seek their full potential in academics, arts, and athletics; and intentionally placed innovation and entrepreneurial opportunities. Don’t we also want the people who are with our children the majority of their waking hours to really know them and partner with us to support them?
That is what my husband and I wanted.
So, 20 years after my high school graduation, our children became Oakridge Owls. We knew they would be seen and loved for exactly who they are. They would be pushed and nurtured. And their experiences would be individualized because the adults who spent more than 86,400 minutes a year with them would know them well. Direct lessons — on soft skills, public speaking, servant leadership, mutual respect, problem-solving, self-awareness, and finding joy in pursuing passions — help our boys excel and grow into young men of whom we are exceedingly proud. Our boys know they are supported and are being seen not only for who they are, but also for who they can become. They are taught important life lessons by people who really know and care about them.
If you crave strong partnerships with the educators who spend more waking hours with your children than you do, please call me. I have the distinct privilege of getting to welcome new families to Oakridge as its director of admissions, and I want to learn more about your family and how we can partner to make the most of your child’s educational experience.
Amy Wilson is a graduate of The Oakridge School and holds a B.A. in English, an elementary education certification, and a Master of Liberal Arts, all from Southern Methodist University. She has taught lower school, served as a technology integration specialist, and worked in special events, alumni, and donor relations. Currently, Amy has the honor of welcoming new families in her role as director of admissions at The Oakridge School. She and her husband couldn’t be more grateful that their two boys are Oakridge Owls.
The Oakridge School
5900 West Pioneer Parkway
Arlington, Texas 76013
817.451.4994 (Amy Wilson extension 2708)