Yesterday, I attended a day-long conference sponsored and hosted by Vermont Academy. The idea was to send teams, or “pods,” from each attending school representing different constituencies, and emerge from the day with a personal action plan to bring back to our school. I attended with four students from our school and Shawn Durrett, our Dean of Faculty and an English teacher.
During advisory lunch on Monday, one of my eighth grade advisees asked why people might not want to arm teachers. The conversation quickly shifted to our school’s policies around lockdowns and other policies meant to help keep kids safe, so we ran out of time before her question was really answered. I told her I hadn’t forgotten the original question, and said maybe we could talk on Wednesday.
by Celine Nader
Here at Stoneleigh-Burnham, our mission statement is both descriptive of what is, and aspirational, considering what we hope will be. We talk about fostering voice, choice, and agency in our students here at SBS — and I feel confident that this is, by and large, quite effective.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.