Day and Boarding; Grades 6-12

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John Bouton

Male teacher wearing glasses smiling outside."What we do at Pennington is to create a student-centered experience in which each student is known, and treasured for his or her individual gifts. At the same time, we recognize that we are in the business of teaching skills, and so we work to meet our students where they are and to bring them along to where we would like them to be in any given year. We focus on the skills of close reading, the analysis of great literature, on facility and confidence in writing, and on precision in language as ways by which one can become both a better communicator and a better thinker. We have a pretty energetic bunch of teachers and students in a warm environment—I think our students really appreciate the enthusiasm of their teachers and their love of the subject.

In a world in which the only certainty is change, we really believe that teaching students to ask the right questions, to evaluate answers, and to create context—these are the only ways to make sense of the world in which change is ubiquitous and constant. With that in mind, course skills that we teach in English are about self-expression. That, of course, is all about precision and power in writing, and appreciation of artistry in writing, and knowing, as Mark Twain said, that the difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.

Pennington is a family school. When I think about the differences between my own daughters, and I saw both of them thriving here as very different people, that just affirms to me that we are able to serve a wide range of students in a really warm and caring environment. There’s a real authenticity and friendliness about Pennington that comes through in the energy that the students bring to the classes, in the preparation and positive energy that teachers bring to their students, and ultimately, our core value of humility shines through this place more than anything else.

When I reflect back on what high school English in an independent school meant to me, versus the kind of experience my students have, I really feel Pennington is much more like a good, small, liberal arts college, where students have so much opportunity to change the way that they think and to change the way that the environment around them is constructed. There’s so much power in these kids; they have so much energy, and our job is to show them how high they can rise."