What Makes MICDS Different – Student Perspective

At the MICDS Virtual Open House on Saturday, October 17, Cal Barton ’21 spoke to prospective families about his experience at our School. Here are his remarks.

Good morning. My name is Cal Barton, and I am a senior here at MICDS. I came here just a few years ago, starting at MICDS as a freshman having moved from a similar private school in Florida.

From the start, MICDS was a warm and welcoming place. The summer before my first year, I was put in touch with a few classmates and an elder peer mentor, with whom I still keep in touch. I was shown around campus weeks before my first day–and by the time the school year started, I already felt like I was a part of the MICDS community.

My middle school in Florida was particularly cliquish–you had your friends you’d eat with, and everyone else was a stranger, sitting at some distant table with their own group. I was shocked to see that this establishment was nonexistent at MICDS. Not long into my first year, I had been able to connect with enough people that I felt welcome to sit anywhere. As a freshman, I had friends who were juniors and seniors–an idea that baffled my parents, who told me that this was not typical at their school growing up. And even now, years into my MICDS career, the school has remained that warm and welcoming place. I feel comfortable striking up a conversation with anyone in my grade–even if I’ve never been in class with them. I consider everyone I see in the halls to be a friend.

This warm atmosphere reverberates beyond the student world. At MICDS, faculty members are mentors in class–but outside class, they’re friends. It’s standard fare for teachers to cheer for students on the field and support them on the stage. Earlier this fall, I received an email from my former history teacher, Ms. Federman. She was inviting me, and her other former students, to hop on an early morning Zoom call to catch up. Ms. Federman, myself, and about 10 other students talked about everything from biking, to the election, to making sourdough for over half an hour before school.

Now, perhaps this is a stretch, but I truly believe that this signature MICDS warmth is rooted in our classrooms. In every class, the driving force is diversity of thought–there is always more than one perspective. In an English paper, you may have to defend contradictory arguments; in Math, you learn different ways of getting to the answer so that your toolbox is locked and loaded for test day. This philosophy–that when there is one way to think about something, there must always be another–is what defines the educational experience at MICDS. 

I’m sitting in Olson Hall right now, in Dr. Roth’s classroom, the site of my sophomore year U.S. History class. Half the time in that U.S. History class, Dr. Roth would sit back and let us, the students, talk freely about what we thought of the subject matter. Someone would pose a thought or a hypothetical, and the group would work around the idea, chipping away until we walked out of the class with a clearer vision of, say, the War of 1812. The next day, Dr. Roth would teach us about the gaps we had missed in our discussion. This way of learning defines practically every class at MICDS: in Beasley, the Middle School, and the Upper School. In opening up to different thoughts, we can better understand–and challenge–our own. 

MICDS is a place defined by this belief: If students are given a wide range of opportunities, they will follow their personal interests to the fullest extent and, with school support, lead lives of purpose and service. When I graduate, I will join an international group of alumni who lead lives full of purpose, service, and, of course, Ram Pride. 

Look, I’m going through a school search process too in looking at colleges. I know, as a prospective student, there’s a lot of filler and repetition. I play a college information session bingo game and win every time. It can be tough to get to what makes a school different, so I’ll give it to you straight: Here, you can dream up who you want to be, and MICDS will equip you with the tools you need to get there.

Today, all of us here at MICDS are excited to share why we love this place. By the end, you just might love it, too.