Let’s be clear: A teen can go to the best academically-rated school in the world, but if that teen is troubled – is anxious, angry and even violent, or has difficulty fitting in or paying attention, then even a first-rate academic setting will make little difference to that teen’s ability to perform well at school and learn.
A parent contemplating the therapeutic boarding school option for his or her troubled teen needs to realize that successful learning – for anyone! – depends on two key elements: a student’s disposition toward learning and the learning environment itself.
Take the learning environment first. A parent might want to ask: will a given school environment be truly conducive to learning? Are the instructors highly knowledgeable, as well as patient, supportive and inspiring?
Second is this line of questioning: Will a given child be able and willing to take advantage of what that school environment offers?
In the case of a troubled teen, the answer usually isn’t obvious. The good news is that therapeutic boarding schools are specially resourced to help children with emotional and behavioral issues find ways to deal with their problems and in the process, remove what may be entrenched obstacles to learning.
There is of course no question that a good education comes down to actually learning and excelling at academics. But one myth needs to be dispelled; it’s that therapeutic boarding schools, designed to provide counseling, guidance and treatment for troubled teens,fall short when it comes to providing a top-flight education.
The truth is quite the contrary. A therapeutic boarding school like the Turning Winds Academic Institute, for instance, will indeed offer an array of treatment services for troubled teens; but it’s also a school – one that’s highly accredited in fact (by the Northwest Accreditation Commission and the National Independent Private Schools Association).
TWAI’s academic mission statement demonstrates its holistic approach: “Live to Learn. Learn to Live”. This school clearly understands that so much of living (when living is constructive, empowering to oneself and to others) involves learning –gaining insight, whether via school, to be sure, or via experience, creative thinking, a capacity for empathy and communication, or an ability to reason effectively.
So it comes as no major surprise that the best therapeutic boarding schools take a holistic approach to the school experience. They recognize that a healthy mind and body are the sine qua non – the essentials without which even the best academic curriculum will be wasted.
Thereforein investigating potential schools for their troubled teen, parents will do well to assess which ones have fine, well-credentialed teachers, but they also need to look for schools offering the professional personnel, facilities and resources that will help a troubled teen work through an array of emotional challenges. Such schools will be equipped to focus on individual student needs and provide all necessary support. The will be equipped to make frequent assessments about a child’s progress – academic and behavioral, including what impediments may be inhibiting that progress. And they must be able to offer students the tools they may need to master those impediments.
When these elements are in place a therapeutic boarding school becomes much more than a place for getting help and treatment. It potentially becomes the site of life-altering personal growth and holistic learning.
Parents researching therapeutic boarding schools are right to be concerned that basic academic needs are met, to wish for assurances that their child will receive the high-school education required for successful enrollment and performance at a good college or university. Good therapeutic boarding schools promote academic excellence, to be sure; the best, like the Turning Winds Academic Institute, deliver on their stated mission to help troubled teens develop into physically healthy and mentally strong, contributing members of society.