Doves adorn the staircase to the middle school, twirling gently in the air currents, still exuding the active hope for peace expressed by the students who made them and arranged them. At the top of the staircase sits a totem pole, made by the class of 2019 back when they were seventh graders, expressing who they were at the time and thus, in many ways, who they are now. I walk into the middle school lobby, where soon enough kids will start to flood in, flopping on the chair and couch, half sitting on each other’s laps as they chatter about any- and everything that crosses their minds. I walk into my room, past the Black Lives Matter, Girl Power, and LGBT Safe space signs on the door, and arrange the blue beanbags in a half circle. Soon, kids will half-walk, half-run into the room and either drop their backpacks on their beanbag of choice, whirl, and return to the lobby, or drop down to relax and hang out with their friends as they arrive.
Humanities 7 is, by design, a democratic classroom. I provide the overall structure - independent writing, independent reading, and unit work, plus the skill list on which we focus - and they make all the decisions about what they write independently, what they read independently, and what the theme questions and individual (personally chosen) Focus Questions are for each unit.
Written and delivered by Jacqueline (Jax) Morgan '19, the Head-Elect of the Student Body.
Every day, when I walk into my classroom, I’m thinking “Who are these kids, what do they need in general, and what does it look like they need today?” To my thinking, good pedagogy is quite simply that which enables me to know the answers to those questions and fulfill those needs.
The Association of Middle Level Education (AMLE) has been on the cutting edge of middle school practice since it was founded in 1973 as the National Middle School Association, ten years after William Alexander pioneered the middle school concept. In this context, “middle school concept” refers not just to a generic school for young adolescents but rather to a specific set of values and principles that may or may not govern a given school’s program. These are laid out and explained in AMLE’s “This We Believe,” originally published in 1983 and now in its fourth edition. Not as many middle schools are based on the middle school concept as one might wish. Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School is one of the happy exceptions.
AMLE hosted their annual conference in Philadelphia from Nov. 6-8, and I was able to attend the third day, squeezing out a visit between two nights of rock band rehearsals.
written and delivered by Julia Thayer '18, Head-Elect of Student Body
1,578,240 minutes. That is how much time has passed since I was sitting in a chair at my eighth grade moving up ceremony. I remember the way I felt that morning as I hopped out of bed much earlier than I needed to, motivated by the thought of becoming an upper schooler. I remember walking past Lower Mary Burnham to get to the Capen Room and thinking, “after today, this will no longer be my hallway.” I remember too, the way my stomach dropped when I thought about the fact that I would have both grades and exams next year. But the most vivid memory of all was of Bill reading a poem composed of a sentence from every one of my classmates that summarized their middle school experience at Stoneleigh Burnham.
by Annabel Holmes '22
We're all so complex.
And it confuses me when people allow for one moment, or mistake or event or even an instance of something tragic or unusual, to define them entirely as a whole.
We're not made up of the things we've said, or done; nor are we made up of the aspects we dislike about ourselves. We're not what others, or ourselves see us as, think of us as, or define us as; we're not the mistakes that we've made, the things that we've done in the past, or the stuff that we've screwed up or shattered to pieces with our own hands and actions. We're not any of those things, our thoughts don't define us, and neither does what we say.
“This generation coming up – unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic – I’ve seen you in every corner of the country." - Barack Obama
Sunday night, I found myself hanging out in our gym - not with basketball players, but with some of the kids in my Humanities 7 class. Some of them had asked me if I could come in Sunday night so they could prepare for the Convention on Girls’ and Women’s Rights they were hosting on Monday, and of course! I knew, though, that until some of the folks in Maintenance and I laid the tarp the next morning, there was only so much they could do. Turned out, mostly, they just wanted to be together. The kids who came spent a lot of time on the stage practicing the dance numbers and gymnastics routines they planned to perform as a break in the day. They spun and tumbled and struck a pose, smiling throughout, laughing at the end.
(title based on a quote by Graham Hays)
As of today, two teams share the record for the longest win streak in college basketball - the UConn women’s team of 2008-2010, and the current team. They have tied and are poised to break this record in a year they were supposed to be, by UConn standards anyway, weaker than usual. After winning four championships in four years, Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck had left for the WNBA as the top three draft choices. This was supposed to be UConn’s rebuilding year. Under those circumstances, you’d think UConn’s players would be feeling acute pressure. “But the Huskies were smiling too soon -- [Katie] Samuelson grinning from ear to ear even before the ball was tipped -- for the joy to be the product of the play. The joy had to be the source.” (Graham Hays)
My friend Christina Torres, on her blog and via Twitter, has shared her 2017 resolutions for her classroom. Being a positive, growth-oriented person, she role models how best to acknowledge past improvements and use them as an opportunity to seek to do even better. She also invited as many teachers as possible to do the same, and of course, I couldn’t resist!