November 2021

The Eagle Scholars Program

The Case Against "Smart"

What does "smart" mean, really? Within the context of formal education, it seems to indicate some variation on the phrase "good at school." But when we break it down, does that mean you're a good reader? A good writer? A Math whiz? A test-taking machine?

Oxford's etymology:

"... related to the verb, the original sense (late Old English) being ‘causing sharp pain’; from this arose ‘keen, brisk’, whence the current senses of ‘mentally sharp’ and ‘neat in a brisk, sharp style’."

"Causing sharp pain" resonated, as I recall as a child my mother saying "Don't get smart with me, young man," which often came a few hours after a well-meaning teacher directed a "Nice job on that test, Rory! You're a smart little guy!"

So when we talk about a smart student, what do we actually mean? They process information quickly? They're creative? Their insights in class discussions are more sophisticated than their peers'? And then what if none of this translates to good grades? Then bring on the cliche: "He's so smart; if only he applied himself!" And what does that mean for the kid who works incredibly hard, but is not as "bright." Do we label her as "successful" even though "she wasn't that smart"?

And once you're labeled a smart kid, watch out. Any behavior deemed "not smart" yields double punishment. "Hey, why'd you do that? You're supposed to be one of the smart kids." As if that label exempts you from being human. Worse yet, there's the entitlement for kids who've been told how smart they are their entire lives. Any criticism comes as an affront to their identity and can spin them into a cycle of self-doubt. I know this all too well as a "smart" kid myself and the coordinator of a program of, you guessed it, "smart" kids.

In many areas of my life, I'm not smart at all. I have a Master's degree, but I've got a grill that's been sitting unfixed on my deck for two years. I barely know how to use a leaf blower. And anything with pipes or wires is totally off-limits.

If you were to add up all of my "smarts,'' Master's and all, I would probably be pretty average, as would most PhDs. Even a medical doctor is plenty "smart," but if you've ever had one with poor bedside manner, you know many lack social intelligence.

Meanwhile, one of my students, Devin, buys and sells car parts and builds engines from scratch. Who's smarter, Devin or the doctor? Depends on if you need a new heart or a new engine.

The "smart" label probably causes more harm than good, especially when we're dealing with adolescents who are hyperfocused on where they fit among their peers. So let's replace the "smart" label with something else, although I'm not sure what. Any ideas?

Sorry, I'd help - if only I were smart enough.

High School


For one-on-one support with the essay or your college search in general, sign up for a lunch meeting here. Directions to my office:

FAFSA + CSS PROFILE - These two forms are critical to your financial aid process. All schools require the FAFSA; the CSS PROFILE is only required by some schools and scholarships. Submission windows opened on October 1st.

Letters of recommendation and transcripts must be requested through Naviance.


For one-on-one support, sign up for a lunch meeting here. Details forthcoming about mandatory seminar meetings! Directions to my office:


For one-on-one support, sign up for a lunch meeting here. Check Flex Time manager for invites to Seminar meetings. Directions to my office:


For one-on-one support, sign up for a lunch meeting here. Check Flex Time manager for invites to Seminar meetings. Directions to my office:

Middle School

Eagle Scholars Study Sessions are back!

Sessions are tentatively scheduled for about the following Mondays in November and December: 11/15/21, 11/22/21, 11/29/21, 12/6/21, 12/13/21, 12/20/21


What: Eagle Study Sessions, and opportunity to work on assignments with other scholars, ask for assistance while working.

Time: 3:10-4:10, no bus transportation, parent/guardian must commit to picking up at 4:10 or giving permission to walk home.

Location: 5C, Mrs. Wilson's Room

Sign Up Required Prior to Each Session: Look for an email from Mrs. Wilson the Friday prior to each study session. Students must be signed up via theGoogle form in order to attend. Study sessions are limited to the first 25 students, and the Google form will be available when emailed each Friday prior to a session until 4 pm on Sunday.

*Note* This models the homework clinic available on Mondays and Thursdays. If this session fills or you prefer to have your child attend 2 days a week, you are welcome to sign up for that instead.



100% of proceeds go toward Eagle Scholars college education. Awards will be presented at Honors Night. This year we have set an ambitious goal to raise $34,000 so that each graduate receives at least $1,000. (1000 people x $34 donation per person)

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” --Albert Einstein


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A diverse community of leaders engaged in rigorous coursework and broad-based enrichment