exchange program

What to look for in a school: a series

In this short blog series, we'll be helping prospective parents navigate the process of choosing an independent/private school. This week, we'll talk about some general characteristics of a good independent school, and in the coming weeks, we'll focus specifically on how to choose a preschool, lower school, middle school, and high school.  

What are some general characteristics of a good independent school?

  • Accreditation
    Look for a school that is accredited by a regional, national, or international body aligned with the school's philosophy. This guarantees that a school goes through a rigorous self-study and outside evaluations on a regular cycle, ensuring best practices and ongoing growth. Green Meadow is accredited by the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA), the NY State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS), and the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America (WECAN).
  • Curriculum
    Is the school aligned with an particular educational philosophy? A guiding philosophy helps the school stay focused and true to its mission in a world where the educational landscape shifts constantly. Green Meadow is a Waldorf school, founded on a tried-and-true, developmentally appropriate, interdisciplinary philosophy developed in 1919 by Rudolf Steiner and constantly evolving to meet the needs of today's students. Read about Waldorf graduates here to see the outcomes of a Waldorf Education, and stay tuned: a new survey of Waldorf graduates from 1990-2017 was just completed and results will be published in the coming months.
  • Facilities
    Does the school have ample space for students in classrooms and outdoors? Is there good natural light, and beautiful spaces that inspire contemplation and learning? A gym and field for games, sports, creative play, and other movement? Practice rooms for private instrument lessons? An auditorium for concerts and plays? Lab facilities for science classes? A quiet, inviting, well-ordered library? Spaces for students to gather informally? Take a look at Green Meadow's facilities here. You can also see a gallery of classroom photos on each of these pages: preschool, lower school, and high school.
  • History, traditions, and unique programs
    How old is the school? How many teachers and staff have worked there for 10 years or more? Do students stay at the school from preschool through 12th grade? Are there traditions that build a sense of community life and belonging? At Green Meadow, the Rose Ceremony that opens and closes each year, curricular trips including the Third Grade Farm Trip, community events such as the Eighth Grade Talent Show, and unique opportunities including senior projects, senior internships, and our international exchange program are just a few aspects of campus life that excite and engage our students. 
  • Spirit of inquiry
    Do you feel a buzz on campus, an excitement about learning? Are there campus lectures and other cultural events for students and parents? Is there a school newsletter or newspaper that showcases current events, discusses the school's philosophy, and alerts the community to what's happening on campus? Green Meadow has a full annual calendar of community education events, brings speakers to campus frequently for conversations with students, and publishes The Bulletin bimonthly and the Alumni Magazine twice a year, along with an annual yearbook and an annual student-produced literary magazine, The Burning Bush.  
  • Teacher qualifications and engagement
    Are teachers at the school required to be certified beyond state teaching certification? What percentage of teachers are actively engaged in their field outside of school? Do the teachers lead clubs, coach sports, offer office hours for students, or engage in other after-school activities? How accessible are they to parents? At Green Meadow, several of our faculty have advanced degrees, all have received training and/or a degree in Waldorf Education, and they are actively engaged with students and parents through community activities like service learning, outside the school day. 

Meet Our Alumni: Evan Solomon, Class of 2009

GMWS: Can you say a little bit about where you went to college, what you studied, and what you are doing now?

ES: I attended George Washington University in Washington, DC, where I got my Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a concentration in International Business.  My major allowed me to study a number of languages—Spanish, Arabic, and Italian, which is something that I have always enjoyed, while also taking some more standard finance and strategy courses.

Since graduating college in 2013, I’ve been living with in DC with my girlfriend and working as a financial analyst for a commercial real estate company. My work enables me to have plenty of time for personal endeavors, like exploring DC’s neighborhoods and the surrounding region, maintaining a part-time commitment to running and exercise, and learning to make excellent homemade pizzas.

GM: How did Green Meadow prepare you for college and life? What were the best aspects of your time at Green Meadow? What do you think makes Green Meadow most unique or special?

ES: Green Meadow prepared me in a number of ways, but one aspect of my education that tends to reappear at work and in school is critical use of the English language in both speech and writing. Much of the GMWS faculty, not just the English teachers, articulate and synthesize thoughts with uncommon precision and intention. A lot of time is spent on refining communication abilities—of course this comes naturally to some people, but I took it for granted and only realized after some time away from GMWS the immense value of some basic communication skills.

What isn’t unique or special about this school? The highlights for me were all the extracurriculars: my exchange semester in Buenos Aires, hosting exchange students all throughout high school, the class plays, the class trips to Hermit Island, ME and Costa Rica, the senior projects, the opportunity to participate in the Helping Hands ‘Midnight Run’. These were all unique opportunities that were both enjoyable to remember and valuable to this day.

GM: What advice would you give to a parent or student considering GMWS, especially someone who thinks they might want to study in your field?

ES: One of the common objections that I heard when I attended GMWS for high school—the concern that the school is ‘different’, and therefore a risk to attend, because it may limit options after high school. You have to look no further than what current alumni are doing out in the world to see that there is a broad range of post-GMWS lives that can be lived. I’ve heard of, met, and read about (in The Bulletin) former GMWS students working in finance, government, theatre, music, education, fine arts, sports, and law.

Evan Solomon '09

Evan Solomon '09