Why All Boys
An Appreciation For the complexity of boys
Since coeducation is the prevailing model in schools, some families may wonder why Blue Ridge School continues to remain steadfastly all boys. Boys and girls are different; they develop at different rates, have different societal expectations, and generally thrive in different academic settings. We focus on the intellectual, social, and emotional lives of boys and young men by giving them a safe, structured environment to discover who they are. Our teachers recognize the full range of boys’ emotions and vulnerabilities. We promote well-being, develop resilience and empathy, and strive to guide each student to achieving his potential. But nothing is more important than the essential goal of building good character in boys who go on to be community members, co-workers, neighbors, husbands, fathers, and friends.
At Blue Ridge School, boys are given many opportunities to explore their interests. They have a community of support and interested adult mentors to guide them through new experiences. From art and athletics to robotics and the outdoors, our students are encouraged to try new activities and develop their passions.
- Social and emotional development
Learning to live in a community is a big part of the boarding school model. At Blue Ridge, we have a dedicated curriculum that guides boys through different stages of personal growth and social engagement. Our hall parents live in the dorm so our students always have an adult nearby when facing challenges and learning new life skills. Boys can learn by doing as prefects and proctors, leadership roles in the dorm.
- Cultivate creativity
The arts are a constructive way for boys to express themselves, and we encourage them to do so in our visual art studio, theater productions, musical performances, and creative writing. All students are required to complete a fine arts class or activity before graduating, and many boys use that opportunity to explore parts of their personality that may not otherwise get much attention. Many Blue Ridge students learn for the first time that they have considerable artistic skills and that being creative brings them joy and satisfaction.
Boys thrive when they have clearly defined expectations. Blue Ridge School’s daily schedule, dress code, Honor Code, and general rules of conduct give boys goals to achieve, as well as agreed upon boundaries. There is a complete understanding of what is allowed and expected, which limits anxiety and temptation while providing actionable goals.
Boys are spatial and visual learners by nature. They are also hard-wired to learn more easily through action than words. Blue Ridge School keeps boys engaged in the classroom through a method called project-based learning. This method allows students to work on a project or solve a real-world problem over an extended period of time. They present their work in a public presentation, and, as a result, develop a deep understanding of the content, as well as critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication skills.
The tide has turned in schools. For decades educators worked to give girls opportunities to become leaders in the classroom. Girls needed those opportunities and have benefited from them. However, now we are seeing boys miss out on the chance to practice leadership skills among their peers as girls are regularly named to student government positions, taking charge in the classroom, and directing student projects. At Blue Ridge School boys are leaders at more than simply athletics. They fill every student government position, establish clubs, take center stage for performances, and much more.
Blue Ridge School decided years ago that developing good character in boys is just as important as academic and physical growth. So we created a character education curriculum that is fully integrated into our student experience. Using the book Character Strengths and Virtues as a guide, our students gather regularly for schoolwide programs and small group discussions about the many components of character and how to develop it in ourselves.
- Clear expectations to do what is right
Similar to how our daily schedule and established rules of conduct give our students a clear understanding of expectations, our character education curriculum allows our students to consider weighty topics such as gratitude, bravery, forgiveness, spirituality, love – and much more – in a safe and open environment. By considering serious topics under the guidance of adult mentors, our students can ask serious question and engage in meaningful conversations with lessons that last a lifetime.
- Develop empathy and integrity
In addition to the topics in our character education curriculum, our diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice programming helps boys see the world through the eyes of others and to be empathic to a wide variety of life experiences. Blue Ridge School is a welcoming community that aspires to be a home-away-from-home for all of our students from across the country and around the world. As such, our students need to practice recognizing and valuing people of other races, cultures, faiths, orientations, abilities, and more.
The brotherly relationship that grows between our students is real. Like actual brothers, they are competitive yet supportive. They vie for attention and achievement while lifting their classmates higher through academic tutoring, dormitory leadership, athletic competition, and outdoor pursuits. These boys go through a lot together – the highs and the lows. They see one another at their best and at their worst. There is no more genuine bond than one forged between people who have been through an authentic experience together. Those are the bonds of the Blue Ridge School Brotherhood.
We all make mistakes, but many communities react to errors in judgment with swift and severe punishment. Blue Ridge School has rules and expectations but also allows boys to learn from mistakes and to move forward as a constructive member of the community. There are limits, but we see considerable value in the lessons we all learn from the mistakes we inevitably make.