In Search of More Student Voice & Agency

June 06, 2016 by Bill Ivey

republished with the kind permission of MiddleWeb

Every spring, we ask our middle schoolers to look at each of their courses as well as other areas of their life, think back to September, and reflect on how far they’ve come and what they’d still like to accomplish before the year’s end.

(read more here)

Filed Under: Middle School, MIddleWeb, student voice, Middle Level Education, Education, student agency

Sleeves Rolled Up

May 19, 2016 by Bill Ivey
Yesterday, Kaya Kim ‘17, the new Head of Community Alliance, sent out a diversity survey to the school. Her questions focused on a number of axes of diversity, including race, nationality, gender, and sexuality. She also asked about day/boarding relations. It’s hard to imagine a better way to get started at this brand new job than by taking stock of how different people perceive where the school is on diversity right now. When giving her speech as a candidate for the position, one of Kaya’s focuses was her willingness and ability to listen, and clearly she is putting that skill into play right from the start.

Filed Under: student voice, LGBT Support, anti-racism, social justice, Education, student agency, Community Alliance

Appreciation 2016

May 06, 2016 by Bill Ivey

This year, Seniors have more leadership opportunities than ever. The position of “Student Council President” has been renamed “Head of Student Body,” and we have created a number of other student headships. This means that through the spring, all-school housemeetings are filled with speeches by students hoping to become Head of Student Activities, Head of Athletics, Head of Big and Little Sisters, Head of Service, Head of Community Alliance, Head of Curriculum, and Head of Health and Wellness. Besides meeting in a group with our Dean of Students, Kristen Peterson, who guided the development of this program, they will coordinate with adults in the school who are also responsible for these different areas. For example, the Head of Curriculum will meet regularly with Academic Dean Alex Bogel and also participate in Curriculum Committee meetings, while the Head of Community Alliance will meet regularly with the advisors to the Gay-Straight Alliance and Students of Colour affinity group, and so on.

Filed Under: student voice, Feminism, Education, feminist school, student agency, Teacher Appreciation Week

Road Trip

March 03, 2016 by Bill Ivey

Middle School classes ended today, which simultaneously means that my time instantly becomes much less scheduled and that the next couple of days will be absolutely packed with progress report writing, proofing, and revising, not to mention entering skill assessments. (Break is also packed with missing my students, but I know we all need and deserve the rest, and that we will all be back together soon enough!)

So of course, with all this free time and all this work to accomplish, I decided to… take a road trip to Natick. What could be more logical?!

But I had had a Rock Band rehearsal the night that Jessica Lahey spoke in Western Massachusetts, and I knew she was speaking in Natick, and I wasn’t about to miss her again - particularly as just this morning she had shared out one of the most vulnerable and honest pieces of writing I’ve ever seen. Plus, I had managed to finish the rest of my Rock Band comments this afternoon, and was pretty confident I could handle my Humanities 7 comments tomorrow.

Filed Under: Joann Deak, Education, student agency, Jessica Lahey, Failure, Autonomy

Down the Road

February 21, 2016 by Bill Ivey

Our mission calls us to honor student voice, and it’s a theme woven into the fabric of our school. Voice itself can take many forms. There’s voice as in simply expressing yourself well, whether you are off to the international debate and public speaking championships or making a short presentation in class. There’s voice as in making proposals or putting ideas out there for discussion. There’s voice as in speaking up for what is right. There’s voice as in simply being your authentic self. Among many others.

Filed Under: student voice, Education, Mission Statement, Student support, student agency

Asking the Students

February 12, 2016 by Bill Ivey

It wasn’t until the second year of our middle school that I threw the switch that committed me firmly to a democratic classroom path. The first year, I listened carefully to students’ suggestions and incorporated them into the course, as when I built a unit around A Midsummer Night’s Dream that included a project in scripting and filming a trailer for a movie version, but I retained the ultimate decision-making authority. The second year, I began with the same model, but as I found myself repeatedly bumping up against student resistance, I had to face the reality that I was incorporating student voice but not agency into the class. The first unit students actually designed from the ground up in Humanities 7 had the theme question, “What is music?” and was, from multiple perspectives, the most successful unit so far.

Filed Under: student voice, girls' school, Education, Democratic classroom, student agency