An Inside Look at Private Schools

A Code of Honor and Tradition

Bowden Hall at Cheshire Academy: Code of Honor
Cheshire Academy

As both a graduate and someone who has dedicated the vast majority of my professional career to private schools, I have been privy to some of the inner workings of these storied institutions. What makes them tick, and why do so many families choose to invest in sending their children to them? Let's look at some of the codes of honor that are upheld and incredible traditions that take place at private schools.

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Traditions of Honor

Most private schools have some form of a Code of Honor that provides a framework for students to embrace a moral and responsible way of life. At Chatham Hall, students have an Honor Code that at the core of the school's identity. The values of respect and honor include something unqiue, the concept of "white flag," meaning if it's not yours, it's off limits. A simple yet profound approach to developing a community of trust. The school highly values truth and honesty and encourages its students to be responsible and upstanding citizens. 

At Cheshire Academy, where I work now, we have The Eight Pillars of Bowden, an homage to Bowden Hall, the oldest school house still in continuous use in the state of Connecticut. Erected in 1796, today the brick building houses several administrative departments, including the Head of School, Business Office, Development Office, and my own Strategic Marketing & Communications team. A defining characteristic of the building is the eight pillar porch, which provided the inspiration for The Eight Pillars of Bowden: Responsibility, Respect, Caring, Community, Civility, Morality, Fairness, and Trustworthiness. 

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Traditions of Legacy

As a student at Wilbraham & Monson Academy in Massachusetts, I got my first taste of private school traditions. I remember walking around campus and admiring the hundreds of carved stones that lined the brick walls throughout campus. These personalized stones each represented a graduate from Wilbraham & Monson Academy, and I longed for the day that I would finally place my own brick and leave my legacy behind at the school.

I remember getting the pamphlets about carving opportunities. Past bricks were carved by the students themselves, but in the more modern times, students began sending their bricks out to be carved professionally. A few of my fellow students opted to carve their own, but I left my brick in the trusty hands of professionals. I chose a simple design that listed only my name and years of attendance at the school. It's an amazing site to walk the campus and see the many stones representing students at an institution that dates back to 1804.

As a faculty member at Chatham Hall, I vividly remember standing in the dark on the gorgeous sprawling campus of the all-girls school in Southern Virginia, waiting for one of their beloved traditions to begin. As the cicadas chirped in the distance and the crowd hushed, I remember feeling a chill go down my spine. I was standing here watching a centuries-old ceremony. I felt like I was given access to the inner circle of a secret society, and in a way, I was. Not everyone gets to witness these sacred traditions.   

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Traditions of Unity

A little-known fact about Cheshire Academy is that the formal dress code that the students wear dates back to the Civil War. In 1862, Reverend Sanford Horton served as the headmaster and established the Academy as a military boarding school for boys. Students came from both sides of the war, Union and Confederate, and as a way to unite the two sides, a blue and gray cadet military uniform was instituted. While the students today may not wear the exact same uniform as was worn in the 1800s, their formal dress code still consists of the blue and gray colors that pay tribute to a momentous time in our country's history. 

Private schools embrace their codes of honor and traditions, many of which date back hundreds of years. While they may not always make sense to outsiders, these traditions are what make each private school unique and create lasting bonds for graduates, no matter what their ages.