Throughout life, most people hear William Edward Hickson’s famous phrase, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” but few schools embrace the idea of learning from failure quite like Roland Park Country School. The idea spans from the Lower School (where resilience happens to be the word of the month for November) through the Middle School and Upper School, and even beyond when RPCS graduates leave for college and subsequently join the workforce.
This year, Roland Park Country School is embracing Four-Dimensional Education as the framework around which its curricula is based. This organizing framework of competencies students need for this century and beyond is based upon a compilation of synthesis of existing research and best practices. It combines not just what students need to know (Knowledge Dimension) but also what they can do with what they know (Skills Dimension), how they behave in the world (Character Dimension) and how they can adapt (Meta-Learning Dimension). The idea of growth mindset is a very important concept in this framework. This idea encourages students to embrace challenges, and to persist in the face of setbacks. Four-Dimensional Learning includes a focus on the character of students, which is how students behave and engage with the world, and “can be defined as a set of qualities that allow one to overcome obstacles,” according to Assistant Head of School Carla Spawn-van Berkum.
RPCS is using the combination of resilience and growth mindset to help faculty “deliberately, comprehensively, systematically and demonstrably develop” these skills in students to help them succeed, according to Spawn-van Berkum.
The recently remodeled Innovation Space at RPCS is an exploratory space where students can discover their passions and build upon their interests. It feels intrinsically different than a classroom, allowing creative thinking, problem-solving and active learning. The Innovation Space is a hint of how the educational experience is evolving and supporting growth mindset and resiliency. It gives RPCS students a space to work and try out ideas. Sometimes they’ll succeed, but they’ll also fail. And that’s okay. Director of Information and Innovation Joe LePain states: “I consider it a success when I hear students say to one another, ‘we failed but that’s okay. What went wrong and how can we move forward next time?’ Being able to fail in a safe environment with the support of your peers and teachers makes it a little less scary. It will always be my goal to build back up a student’s confidence so she will try again and again. It is with this support that she will eventually become the change-maker that the future needs.”
The combination of resiliency and growth mindset helps carry students forward into college, easing what can be a tumultuous transition. Berit Ginsberg, RPCS Class of 2017, is currently a freshman at Northwestern University studying communications. Berit credits her time at Roland Park Country School with giving her the ability to persist through challenges and view them as learning opportunities, never failures. “I know I made plenty of mistakes in my high school career, and these were some of my most influential character-building moments,” she says. “I never had any doubts, however, that my teachers would be standing right there ready to help…[my teachers] worked with me to improve my skills, and they were the loudest to cheer when I succeeded.”
The ability to persist through challenges extends beyond the classroom for Berit, who states: “Resiliency is hugely important in college. I am not always going to receive 100% on assignments. I am not going to nail every interview. I am not going to become best friends with every person I meet. But Roland Park Country School has instilled a confidence in me and I have faith that I can face and overcome any challenge the next four years throws at me.”
An RPCS education can also help girls feel prepared to make the jump from their familiar community to a college campus. Olivia Cohen, Class of 2018, said one of the most powerful things about an RPCS education is, “[Our teachers] don’t to teach us what to think, but rather how to think and how to apply our thinking to real world issues so that we are prepared to ignite change and make a difference.”
Olivia has been at Roland Park Country School for 13 years, and she knows that resilience starts in the Lower School. Resilience may be the word of the month right now, but its presence is always felt. “In the Lower School there is a mobile that hangs with important words for us to know, and one of them is resilience,” says Olivia. “Since kindergarten I have been taught the meaning and importance of resilience through experience. At Roland Park Country School I have learned that nothing happens with just one try, and you have to be committed if you want to succeed.”
Roland Park Country School’s commitment to cultivating curiosity and resilience in its students can be found in all facets of school life and is designed to carry students forward into the world confidently.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of our school partner profile series. To learn more about Roland Park Country School, please visit their profile in our independent school directory.