Educational Philosophy & The Liberal Arts



LEARNING is Waterford School’s reason for being, its passion, its whole point. Our students learn how to learn, how to be self-reflective within the process of learning, how to develop a robust repertoire of learning strategies, and how to deploy those strategies flexibly across a broad range of subject matter, including the arts, the humanities, the sciences, and a variety of physical activities. In the process, students gain a self-competence that will sustain a lifetime of learning.

LEARNING at Waterford is enhanced by the recognition of responsibility. Our students value strong expectations that emphasize work, self-discipline, and dependability. As they practice personal accountability within the school context, they realize that learning is inherently communal and connected: that they and their teachers are in it together. Though we as individuals can become accomplished as our own teachers, learning necessarily occurs in the context of other persons, their ideas and voices, historical and contemporary. Learning is therefore invariably indebted.

LEARNING at Waterford is inescapably moral, in the broadest sense of that term. Our students come to recognize that all learning bears on living and ultimately on how best to live. They embrace the natural imperative to learn, but they also recognize a deep responsibility to share their learning with others in hope that they will be lifted thereby, their lives made richer and more fulfilled. There is no end to learning nor is it itself an end. Rather, learning is the means by which we all aspire to the nobility of the well-lived life.


A liberal arts education teaches students to adapt and thrive in a world of rapid change. It cultivates robust general intelligence by resisting premature specialization, requiring instead sustained study in classical academic disciplines along with focused work in the arts and physical education. Teachers in the liberal arts challenge students with discussion, writing, and problem solving activities to internalize their learning. Students master the essential skills of lifelong learning: they know how to acquire information, how to assess information, and how to act on their plans and insights. Ultimately, the experience of a liberal arts education compels students to embrace their responsibilities as citizens in a complex world.


The cornerstone of Waterford’s program is a rigorous world-class liberal arts education that stimulates intellect, ignites passion, and shapes character. It is in the spirit and realization of this mission that we share the Waterford Portrait—an articulation of the core values and the intellectual and social-emotional competencies that define Waterford students during their educational journey with us and in preparation for the lives of meaning and purpose that they’ll lead beyond graduation.

These competencies define excellence of mind and character, and the portrait serves as a guide for Waterford faculty in their examination and definition of our curriculum and instructional practice. The portrait directs teachers as they pursue educational excellence, whether in the classroom or the studio, on the playing field or the stage.

Waterford graduates  stand ready to flourish in college and beyond, as they continue pursuing lives of meaning and purpose.Through the portrait and its virtues and skills, we define what it means to learn for the sake of learning, to strive for excellence, to care for one another, and to be responsible and contribute as valuable members of our school community.


  • Exploration
  • Inquiry
  • Literacy
  • Numeracy


  • Critical Thinking
  • Synthesis of Ideas
  • Deductive and Inductive Reasoning
  • Quantitative and Qualitative Data Analysis


  • Written and Oral Communication
  • Problem Solving
  • Adaptability
  • Organization and time management
  • Collaboration
  • Ethical Decision Making
  • Civic Engagement

More on Waterford School’s Vision, Mission & Core Values and Strategic Plan