REAL School Marin prepared me for high school in many ways. I developed valuable writing skills through a process of writing a draft, making edits one-on-one with a teacher and revising weekly. Eventually, I learned to self-edit, which I now do regularly in high school. I overcame my fear of public speaking through hours of hard work and speech competitions. Taking frequent field trips, we learned about history and art at museums and science at botanical gardens and aquariums. I remember finding Civil War dates on our floor timeline, creating a candy map of Asia and arranging bones of a raccoon to be anatomically correct. Probably the most valuable thing I learned at RSM was how to be a member of a group. Concepts such as “Group first, me second,” and “Everyone holds a piece of the truth,” still come up in my daily life.
-- J.H. Student from 6th through 8th and graduate of RSM
I entered middle school exuberantly and in the 5th and 6th grades, I had no trouble with school at all. However, in 7th grade, I felt as though the public school atmosphere in which I was no longer fit me as a student. The teachers were often combative when I asked them for extra help, and I found the long, drawn-out lecture-style teaching to be unbearable. As my 7th grade year continued, my grades began to fall and I became frustrated. I shadowed REAL School Marin during my 7th grade year, and in under a month I was enrolled. The school was, as I've more recently begun to describe it, the best thing that has happened to me not only academically, but socially as well. Although RSM has an unusual and very informal academic set-up, the classes are rigorous and I felt as though I was held to extraordinarily high standards. The teachers managed to do something for me that no one up to that point had really been able to do: they made learning fun. Whether it was Mark cooking mushrooms at lunch after a short lecture on fungi, or Marilyn showing us "Anne of a Thousand Days" in world history to help us get a better understanding of the social construct during Henry VIII's rule over England, I found myself engrossed in the topics put before me. RSM taught me to love learning.
S.JS. Graduate of RSM plus Gap Year graduate
Every child in California deserves to learn in classrooms like those of REAL School Marin. I have said that dozens of times when explaining REAL School to friends and relatives. The school and its rich curriculum is a life-long gift to the child and to the child's parents. I was a public school teacher in the the Bay Area for thirteen years, eleven of those years in a Marin County middle school. I spent my final two years as a mentor teacher. These three wonderful people, Marilyn, Mark and Margot, are without a doubt in the top rank of the teaching profession. They bring breadth and depth to their subject matter, thoughtfully introduce a variety of experiences beyond the classroom, and help facilitate each child's understanding of himself and others. The students of REAL School Marin will someday realize, if they don't already, how fortunate they have been. Our family will forever be grateful for Mark, Marilyn and Margot, and REAL School Marin.
-- Jim Lammers, 1999 Marin County Teacher of the Year
Dear Mark and Marilyn,
I have to share the conversation that I had with my son R. today, he was so happy and couldn’t stop talking this morning, thus it was difficult to get him out the door!
He said, “I don’t think I’ve let you know enough how grateful I am to be at REAL School. I like it so much. I love my teachers and they like me. They are teaching me so much and preparing me in such good ways for my future. I am so glad to be there it really is the best school and Mark and Marilyn are such good teachers. Thank you so much for letting me go there.” This was followed by the biggest hug I’ve received in ages!
And there’s more….Then he did go on to tell me how cool it was that he was able to hold a rattlesnake. He then proceeded to make sure that his hair looked good because he didn’t want Marilyn sending him to the restroom for his appearance. Where else would this happen? He certainly has never gone over the needed number of words for an essay, but last night he had a hard time not adding even more to his essay about the Washington, D.C. Clearly he enjoyed that trip and I’m sure it had a lasting impact on him.
We cannot believe how willing R. is to work hard and long on his homework, and how badly he wants to succeed. You have a way of meeting him on his level and making him rise up and be accountable. He appreciates that he is spoken to in an intelligent way, as an adult would be spoken to.
My husband and I are so grateful that we found your school and so thankful for all your work with our son. Thank you so very much! We wish we would have found you back in 6th grade. You are very gifted teachers!
-- 8th grade parents
We are Matthew Walker's grandparents and we want to thank you for all you do. The result of the speech tournament is one more example of your dedication, fine basic principles and magical teaching. We observe Matthew rising to your terrific standards and exciting adventures and have watched him grow in so many ways. He is being transformed from a child easily frustrated to one of eagerness to take on new challenges, and [he has] a new appreciation of his own talents. We love your basic precept, "Group first, Me second". Thank you for making such a difference in his life and ours as well.
-- Jean and Doug Walker
My son has thrived at REAL School Marin, going from thinking of himself as a poor learner to seeing himself as one of the strongest students in the class, participating actively in class discussions, doing extra credit work and even winning an award in the San Domenico Speech Tournament... The school has nurtured his natural sense of social responsibility.
-- A. K., an 8th grade parent
Unlike a larger middle school, your son or daughter will not fall through the cracks at REAL School. The group dynamic that evolves with the other students and the teachers enables each person to grow as an individual.
-- L. B., an 8th grade parent
Not to sound too dramatic but this school transformed my son. He likes school! He appreciates learning -- he studies, he writes essays, he competes in speech tournaments (and wins) and he does his homework --- on his own. My son who was moving from grade to grade with little motivation and less enthusiasm is now an excellent student [who was accepted at both Branson and Marin Academy!]
-- G. F., an 8th grade parent
We gave you a disinterested, disengaged boy who hated school and wouldn't get out the door in the morning and you are giving us back a confident, inquisitive young man who is engaged and inspired to take intellectual and academic risks. He wants to do the best he can. That is tangible testimony to you and the school. One hopes that somewhere in one's child's education there is that mythological teacher, the one that becomes the basis of comparison for all others. You are it and not are you just one, but three. You have proven this twice, first with Eli and now Mac.
-- A. and S., 8th grade parents