Why a Boys' School
At Town, boys experience an education that is designed specifically for them. They discover new facets of their identities, develop enduring relationships, and are continuously given opportunities to lead, learn, and grow through the support of a loving and joyful community.
Town School celebrates boys and boyhood and strives to help each boy fulfill his greatest potential. As a boys’ school, Town intentionally designs experiences that encourage each student to create an expansive personal definition of boyhood and manhood. Our hallways are filled with laughter, expressions of close friendships, helpful acts and curious and imaginative minds. At Town, we work to mitigate unhealthy societal messages and develop boys who embody the qualities of joy, respect, integrity, curiosity and a sense of belonging, and who possess an innate belief in their natural goodness.
As a boys’ school, we have the crucial responsibility to work with students on broadening, rather than constraining, boys’ identities. As Rosalind Wiseman, author of Masterminds and Wingmen, has expressed, “all too often schools are the place boys learn that the overall culture they will grow up in restricts their creativity and makes it as difficult as possible to come into their masculinity in healthy ways.” Boys at Town are encouraged to embrace their creativity and their emotions. Our Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum, through both dedicated lessons and an approach that is woven throughout the school, helps our students build an understanding of their feelings and a toolkit for navigating conflict with strategies that retain and even strengthen relationships. Through SEL lessons, boys develop comfort with taking risks and experiencing failure. Across academics, the arts and athletics, success is celebrated and failure is considered a profound opportunity for learning and growth. Alongside our SEL curriculum is a program designed to teach our boys about healthy decision-making skills and self-awareness about their own development. This includes a sexuality education program aligned with national standards and active, age-appropriate discussions about consent that begin in kindergarten with developing an understanding of respecting personal space and continues through Upper School. Parents are invited into these important conversations through parent and parent-son workshops.
Our administration, faculty and staff design curricula, activities and programs that emphasize key skills, needs and outlets for boys at every juncture in their learning journey. Curricula at all grade levels highlight many different perspectives, including female voices. In addition, the classroom experience integrates gamesmanship and healthy competition in a collaborative environment, provides many opportunities for movement, and supports the development of executive functioning skills. Leveraging the fact that relationships are vital to a positive and successful learning environment for boys, Town promotes strong and durable relationships between boys and their classmates, boys and their teachers, and among faculty and staff. The men and women who comprise our faculty bring a diverse range of perspectives, experiences and teaching methods to their relationships with the boys. Town’s administration, faculty and staff serve as teachers, coaches and advisors – such that the Athletic Director is also a Computer Science teacher and the Head of School is also a soccer coach – furthering students’ understanding of the range of roles that one can play in a community and ingraining the belief that identities are broad and multi-faceted.
Town’s program ensures that each boy experiences a range of curricular challenges and provides an opportunity for him to discover new strengths. Being a boys’ school enables us to create experiences that thoughtfully and intentionally contribute to boys’ well-roundedness. Our state-of-the-art Dolby Family Center for the Performing Arts, which opened its doors in spring 2018, gives us the opportunity to develop a performing arts curriculum that matches the high levels of excellence in our visual arts program. Through service learning activities and global education, boys expand their understanding of the world and their capacity to contribute positively. Town’s outdoor education curriculum commences in the 5th grade and takes boys on annual overnight trips to wilderness destinations throughout California, as close to home as the Marin Headlands and as far afield as Yosemite.
Boys are encouraged to become leaders at every stage of their Town School education, including developing close relationships with students from other grades. Dr. Michael Thompson, author and child psychologist, posits that ideally “every boy would take care of children at some point in his own boyhood… [many boys are] not asked to take care of other people. They’re just asked to do their stuff and compete and be a good student and be socially attractive, but not to take care.” Through the Families Program, boys across the grades set a positive example for and nurture younger students. Upper School students are responsible for guiding their “buddies” in younger grades through various school events and activities. Eighth graders regularly visit the kindergarten classrooms for reading, play and mentorship, and they sit together at all school assemblies. A partnership between the 7th grade and the Dr. William L. Cobb Elementary School provides boys with an opportunity to read and play with, and serve as role models for, boys and girls in kindergarten.
Town boys are also given daily avenues to exercise autonomy over their decisions within developmentally appropriate bounds. This opportunity for choice is manifested from the classroom to the art room to the lunchroom, where boys select their lunch from a variety of healthy options in the cafeteria each day. In the lower grades, boys might decide which book to read next in their small reading groups or select an activity station during learning choice time. In Upper School, boys have opportunities to pursue an individual research focus that connects to a broader unit of study in, for instance, math or the leadership elective. In the eighth grade Capstone Project each student selects a topic that interests him and, with support, designs a semester-long independent study culminating with presentations to the community. Recent examples of Capstone Projects have included The Mission: A Changing Neighborhood, Introduction to the Cherokee Language, Designing a Golf Club and Is Desalination an Option in San Francisco. The many opportunities that boys have to make choices both inside and outside of the classroom help to spark their curiosity and allow them to pursue individual paths that are of interest to them within Town’s broader educational framework.
In his book Man Up: Reimagining Modern Manhood, poet and author Carlos Andrés Gómez expresses his hope “that we might allow men to be more interested not so much in being but in becoming. Let us each embrace the full range of who we might be, instead of that constrained definition imposed from outside ourselves.” At Town, boys experience an education that is designed specifically for them. They discover new facets of their identities, develop enduring relationships, and are continuously given opportunities to lead, learn and grow through the support of a loving and joyful community.
Town School has been a member of the International Boys’ School Coalition since 1995, and Head of School Lorri Hamilton Durbin serves on the IBSC Board of Trustees.