With Thanksgiving approaching, more than 90% of our seniors have already applied to college. They would not have the support they need in this process were it not for our faculty, whose role in the college process is not often fully explained. It is one for which we in the college office feel great gratitude, as should our students and parents. Let me explain why.
In addition to their primary responsibilities as instructors in different subjects, our teachers are academic advisors who also guide students in extracurricular activities, both on and off campus. During Covid, on top of maintaining and developing their expertise in their fields, they have had to learn a variety of new technologies to provide the best in virtual and hybrid instruction. These same teachers have been responsible for additional levels of supervision, especially in adhering to health protocols, ensuring students maintain social distance, wear masks, and – last year – wipe down desks and tables before leaving class. They have also had more to do than ever before monitoring the mental health of our students who, in some cases, have borne especially heavy burdens of concern for family members and restrictions on their social lives due to the pandemic – all on top of the usual strains of pursuing excellence in the classroom, school, and larger community, while also hoping to have some of the fun of being teenagers.
As we all know, the past 18 months have been a time like none that we have ever experienced. In that context, and while dealing with their own personal lives outside of school, our teachers are also asked by seniors to write recommendations in support of their college applications. If they are going to be of real value, these letters take great time and care, and they fall unequally on some teachers more than others. For these extra efforts, our faculty deserve our gratitude.
To explain a bit further in practical terms, my wonderful Co-Director Sarah Honan and I go into every admissions cycle knowing that we will write counselor letters for each senior. They are built into our job descriptions, and we do our very best to write unique, comprehensive letters. It’s a good thing Ms. Honan and I were both English majors, because we compose dozens of letters each summer. The faculty, however, write their letters above and beyond their other responsibilities. Anyone who teaches in Upper School may be asked; those who teach juniors are asked the most. For college admissions officers to trust that these letters are fully candid, they are confidential and reviewed by one or two readers at any given college. In short, with apologies to Winston Churchill, rarely have so many written so much to be read by so few.
Those of us who have been paid to write for publication enjoy attracting a sizable audience. When I contributed to Forbes.com, I was paid based upon how many views my posts garnered. Faculty, for their extra effort writing for our seniors, receive no additional compensation. They are writing above and beyond their pay. Students are not entitled to a particular teacher’s support. They need to earn it before they ask. And, especially at Thanksgiving, they should feel gratitude and say at least a simple thank you to the faculty who are completing this extra task for them.