Alumni Spotlight: Garrett Finch

From the May 8, 2015 edition of The Post


Below is a letter from Tammy Jones to Mirani Smith, Early Childhood Director.

Garrett will graduate with the IB in June and his predicted grades are quite high. He received an offer from all five schools to which he applied (conditional upon his final IB scores), but it looks like his first choice is the University of Edinburgh in Scotland where he will pursue a Humanities degree with a focus in History. He plays basketball and rugby, where he was the captain of both teams for two years as well as MVP for, well, I think every year he played. He spent one spring break volunteering in a children’s hospital in Rabat where he was the designated translator (French) for our group! And he spent a week building houses in Romania for Habitat for Humanity in the dead of winter last year. He speaks French and German really well. He has handled the pressure of the IB program so well. He spends time with his friends and his family, is adamant about healthy eating habits (thank you Post Oak!) and religious about exercise.

I looked up the definition of Montessori education and came across this: “The Montessori method of teaching aims for the fullest possible development of the whole child, ultimately preparing him for life’s many rich experiences.” That has certainly proved to be the case with Garrett. First, the move to Geneva, which was so hard on him. He cried for weeks every night and David and I wondered if we had made a huge mistake. Even after several months, we weren’t at all certain that he could manage the mandatory class trip and his teacher reserved a room for me to be nearby just in case. She also broke the “no phone calls” rules to allow him to call me after he arrived. He was still much the little guy who would stand in your classroom doorway every morning waiting on you to come and guide him in. But, he survived the trip and the move. The transition to Germany was easier and he has just absolutely thrived here—class trips every year, sporting events in other countries several times a year, traveling to Abu Dhabi as a sophomore to deliver a speech on Afghanistan girls and the drug trade, leading our family’s volunteer effort in a children’s hospital in Rabat.... He has been fortunate to already have had many rich life experiences and I credit Post Oak for preparing him—this shy, anxious, insecure, wound way too tight child—to embrace those experiences as they come. I often remember a moment I’m sure John Long has forgotten, when I had to come to school to tell Garrett about a change of plans and he didn’t handle change well, to say the least. I don’t remember the specifics, but I remember John squatting down on Garrett’s level and saying in his ever so calm Montessori voice something to the effect of: Garrett, sometimes things just don’t go as planned and it is OK not to like it when that happens, but then you have to move on and accept that it has happened. I’m sure John was more eloquent, but that moment still resonates with me.

Oh, Mirani, you would be so proud. He has really blossomed into a good guy. So confident. And so kind. He is the first to take up for the underdog. To talk to and include those not part of the popular crowd. To immediately stop anything thing that smacks of picking on the little guy on his sports teams. Just does not happen on his watch. And he is a real leader not just on his basketball and rugby teams, but among his peers at school, too. So many of these traits, I trace directly back to the Montessori classroom where no one was allowed to be teased as weird or to be left out. Where differences were applauded and explored. Those values resonate especially in an international school.

I think attending Post Oak instilled in Garrett a love, literally, a love of learning. A sincere intellectual curiosity. I have conversations with him now about history and politics and philosophy and am astounded at the depth of his reasoning—especially for a jock :) And with this comes the desire to take the harder path, choose the challenging subjects, try for the more difficult problems.... And he has not always “succeeded.” But, because success in Montessori school is more about effort and process, I think he sees lack of success a bit differently. For example, Math is really hard for him but he declined to take the easier IB math course and, even though it will most likely be his lowest score, we are so proud of him for “gutting” it out, putting his head down and doing his best, knowing that the result will not be a top mark, but happy with his effort and with what he has learned. I think one of the best things Post Oak did for him was to prepare him to “fail” and to get back up because getting up, trying again, going a different route, learning from the experience are valued so much more than the result (like I need to tell you about Montessori!) Thank you for indulging my stream of consciousness. I am quite nostalgic these days and make no pretense of objectivity.

I hope you are well and happy. Please give our very best regards to all our old friends at Post Oak.