Wednesday, October 2, 2013

School Visit: The Forman School

Yesterday was one of those perfect fall days we in the Northeast seem to spend all summer waiting for. Luckily for me, I got to spend it driving to and exploring The Forman School, a co-educational boarding and day school in Connecticut. Forman serves students with learning differences in grades 9-12+. 

The Forman campus is intentionally designed to resemble a small New England town, and there is a real sense of community among the students I had the chance to meet. They clearly thrive on the rich esprit de corps on campus; students have a dress code, actively participate in sports, and have a rich extracurricular life on campus.

I had the opportunity to meet with Head of School Adam Man and Associate Head of School Helen Waldron, along with Kelly Caldwell Miller, the school's psychologist. We discussed how Forman was actively connected to the field of Mind, Brain, and Education in that they were constantly seeking new ways to integrate evolving knowledge with academic experience. They noted that the Forman leadership has made it their mission to focus primarily on college-bound students with language based learning differences and ADHD.

My tour of the campus included a new, state-of-the-art science building. The student dorms all have resident faculty members and most of the faculty live on campus. The goal is to create a community in which students can build their independence with the care and supervision of adults.

Images courtesy The Forman School
A highlight of my visit was a lunch with students, all of whom spoke frankly to me about their learning differences. They were reflective, self-aware, and had strong self-esteem, and were mindful of both their challenges and their strengths. A newer student pointed out that although he had not been at Forman very long, he felt totally included in every aspect of the school.

Adam Man described a rich transition program for students preparing for college, focusing not just on academics, but on building the skills students will need in college and the wider world. This transition curriculum includes such skills as how to self-advocate, how to manage in large lectures (a big difference for students who have had the benefit of classes averaging eight students while at Forman), and how to obtain accommodations in college. Man noted that although Forman has a one-year post-graduate program, most of the students who attend are from other schools, where they did not get the kind of preparation for college that Forman provides its own students.

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