The teaching faculty at EF Academy New York come from very diverse backgrounds and bring a wealth of knowledge to share with our students. Please meet Wendy Bradley, Deputy Head of School at EF Academy New York.
Tell us a bit about your background. What led you into the boarding school world?
I was sort of born into the boarding school world, and I often joke and say it’s in my blood! I grew up as a “faculty brat” in Maine. My parents were boarding school people; my mom was an admissions director and associate, and my dad was a biology and math teacher and director of athletics. I attended boarding high school, and have called 11 school campuses my home over the past 35 years. While I won’t divulge my age, this is a significant portion of my life…well over half! I’ve been a teacher, coach, dorm parent, activities director, dean of students, and assistant head of school – both domestically and abroad in Jordan and China. I believe in the power of a great boarding school to transform the lives of young people, and hope that at EF we can be looked back upon as a place that instilled community, independence, cooperation, love of learning, and connection.
How does the EF Academy residential experience differ from other kinds of boarding schools?
EF is the largest school I’ve worked in, and that makes it different. I think this brings challenge and opportunity. The challenge is to connect and feel connected. We’ve created new faculty residential positions and are trying to do more activities on campus by making a “big school feel small” such as celebrations, dorm functions, leadership development, things that bring us together.
We also have fewer parent interactions and this is one of my greatest challenges personally. I love meeting parents. It helps me understand kids. I love seeing kids interact with their parents. Is a boy kind and loving with his mom and dad? Is a girl outspoken like her mother? It’s interesting, it makes us human. I also love seeing students with their siblings – it says so much. We’re lucky to have some brothers and sisters here on campus, but I do really miss meeting families. I love to tell parents stories about their kids. I recently discovered that one of the girls on my hallway in West is connected to one of my old students from 30 years ago! Her mom and my old student are good friends…so of course we sent a selfie to her mom and my old student!
What are some key factors that really elevate a school’s on-campus experience?
Student leadership and traditions can certainly enhance a school community, and these factors truly improve connection and relationships. We need more traditions here at EF. We need ceremony and feeling part of something. We need glue. We need to feel stuck together by tradition. We started the HOUSE system (Go VILLAGE!) as a way to, across all grade levels, connect kids by doing fun things and being silly with them. We also need to realize that small events on campus can also be positive, it doesn’t always have to be 650 kids…it could be 45 kids who had an awesome experience together doing something simple one night. I can’t wait for the students to meet Robert Channing, a mentalist who will be coming to campus in March! That event is for everyone, and if students don’t go see his show they will miss out on an amazing opportunity. I’ve seen his show 4 times and it keeps me up at night, during one show he called on me in the audience and asked me to explain why September 21st was so important to me… it’s my oldest son’s birthdate! How could he know that? These events add to our sense of community awe!
What are some ways you think students can make the most of their experience living on campus?
Students need to get involved and build relationships. They need to request activities, they need to voice their concerns and excitement for this community! They need to be joiners, and do-ers. They need to try things out. During the teenage years students should explore who they are and try as many things as possible…try painting, try acting, play a sport, join a club, demand to be seen and heard, raise your voice, and make this place feel like your home away from home.
What is one thing you think all boarding students should know?
Students should know that the adults who work here at EF truly care about them as people. We have high hopes for them to thrive as developing adults, and that we do not expect them to be perfect at all times. We do this work because we care about young people, and have high expectations for them to each reach their unique potential!
What is one of your favorite parts of working at EF Academy?
I love that I can laugh at work, in the dorm with students and around campus with my colleagues. If I can’t laugh, then it’s not worth doing!
Anything else you’d like to share:
In term one we had 280 students who had 5 As or more and/or had missed two or fewer classes. This is nearly half our students doing what I call their “day job.” I believe that parents send their children here to learn, and this measure of success tells me that most of our kids show up every day, ready to fulfill their families’ dream of an education. I’m humbled by this level of effort, and it encourages me to make the most of my time here at EF as well.
Think you’d feel right at home at EF Academy? With campuses in Oxford, Torbay and New York, we pride ourselves on helping students grow into successful, global citizens.