When I began my MFA program at Illinois State University, I was required to take a course in Curriculum and Instruction, though I had already been teaching college for five years. While I took a great deal away from that class, one offhand remark made by the instructor has particularly stuck with me: “On the day they drop them off, parents are trusting that we will take care of their babies.” At the time, it seemed an odd remark to make to a group of students preparing to teach college, but it has helped me to pause and reflect on many occasions when dealing with adolescents. The students with whom I interact every day are all someone’s precious babies.
I started teaching at Morgan Park Academy in 2002, with plans to return to teaching college the following year. Before the semester break, however, I knew that I would stay. One of the factors in making that decision was the potential for my children to attend MPA. At that time, my children did not yet exist, and they wouldn’t for another twelve years. Today, they have just turned two, and are still more than a year away from our preschool program. Even so, my husband and I love to bring them on campus and have them interact with members of the MPA community. While we certainly don’t want to rush them, we look forward to them becoming students here.
As Middle School principal, I often get to meet with interested families as part of the admissions process. As I get to know them, I can confidently tell people why I think MPA would be a great fit for their children. That said, why do I want to send my own babies to Morgan Park Academy?
- They will get to cultivate their sense of curiosity. I delight in finding myself walking next to a preschool class on a nature walk, or a seventh grade science class exploring the types of trees on our beautiful campus. We have Lower School students who participate in the Science Fair and Middle School students who participate in the History Bee by choice – not because they are required. Upper School students choose to continue their World Language study long after they have met the requirements.
- They will be encouraged to be kind and of service to others. From our littlest Warriors to our college-bound seniors, we emphasize the importance of character and community. “The MPA Way” is regularly cited as the benchmark for treatment of our peers. All-School Service days get our students out into the local community and make students aware of others’ life circumstances. Our students don’t just have to imagine what it must be like to live with less; they have seen it up close.
- They will spend their days in a diverse environment. I was fortunate enough to attend a public school system in New York with all kinds of people; the diversity I was exposed to at school definitely shaped my world view. My children were adopted, and they have an ethnic background that is different from both my husband and me. At MPA, they will get to celebrate both their biological heritage and their family heritage, and will get to appreciate a variety of cultures, backgrounds and types of families.
- They will enjoy a wealth of experiences. I have always appreciated that our students get to invent, then reinvent, then reinvent themselves – on and on. MPA students can be athletes and actors; they can be Student Council members and artists. Our students can be academic superstars and still be cool. We aren’t forcing kids to pick the one thing they want to be before experiencing the things they want to try.
- They will get to PLAY. No matter the age, our teachers know that play is of critical importance. From age three to age eighteen, our students go outdoors for recess. They learn course content through games and songs. They participate in dress-up days from Homecoming to Halloween, including wearing their jammies to school – and they see that the adults here participate, too. On Academy Day, students of all ages line up to see who can put Mr. Malcolm in the dunk tank, and he celebrates each victorious pitch.
For now, my husband and I will enjoy our girls being two years old, and all of the silliness and unpredictability that brings. Come the fall of 2017, however, we will be thrilled to have them start their journey at Morgan Park Academy. I trust that my colleagues will take excellent care of my babies.
By Heather Kurut
Mrs. Kurut is Lower & Middle School principal. She also teaches chorus.