Many middle schools are all about stress. Willow is all about stretch.

This year of pandemic learning has had a strong impact on middle school students in particular. Middle schoolers are at a very significant stage where textbook pre-adolescence and adolescence struggles are at the forefront of their everyday lives. For many students, these challenges were exacerbated this year due to virtual or hybrid learning. 

Whether your child is learning in person or virtually, there’s a big difference between growth-inspiring STRETCH and confidence-depleting STRESS. Scroll through the slideshow, or download the infographic, to learn some of the key differences.


Curriculum and lessons are designed for extrinsic motivation; the primary motivator is for students to earn a grade or privilege and/or avoid punishment.

Curriculum and lessons are designed
for the intrinsic motivation; the primary motivator is to engage students, set goals, and develop lifelong skills.


Learning is passive. Students mostly
receive and internalize information
from a teacher or other resource.

Learning is active. Students are
agents of their own learning.


Homework is overwhelming;
middle school teachers determine assignments in isolation and the length of assignments is often unpredictable.

Homework is reasonable;
middle school teachers
coordinate assignments to avoid
overloading students.


Assessment is narrowly defined; student progress is mostly measured in test scores and graded worksheets or assignments.

Assessment is comprehensive; students demonstrate understanding through project-based assignments, class discussions, and occasional tests. Teachers get to know each student and individually track his or her progress according to their personal development and goals. Teachers may also use a rubric, so students have a clear understanding of how they are assessed.


School culture values achievement
of students above all else.

School culture values character
of students as much as achievement.


Recess is rare or non-existent; every moment of the school day is structured and students
have little to no free time.

Unstructured time is built into the school day for recess, socialization, working one-on-one with teachers, or just downtime between classes to reboot.


Students feel the pressure to
“NOT make a mistake!”

Students feel secure to
“LEARN from your mistakes.”

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Middle school (Grades 6-8) at Willow is all about stretching students’ intellect, and their capacity to work hard, challenge themselves, and take worthwhile risks. Willow’s many distinctions — experiential education, Virtues program, Unrivaled School Culture, and the natural leadership middle schoolers assume in an Age 3-Grade 8 school — equips students with the skills to persevere, work through problems and even manage stressful situations in high school and beyond.

Let’s Start a Conversation

Please submit the form below and our Director of Admissions Lisa VanderVeen will connect with you.

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Request our Parent’s Guide to Executive Functioning in middle school. We will email it to you immediately.

Director of Admissions Lisa VanderVeen is here to help! Contact her at (908) 470-9500, ext. 1100 or via email.

Apply Fall 2023