by Faith Hargrove '24 (written in Humanities 8)
The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) recently shared the article “Seven ways parents and educators can improve kids’ middle school experience” by Phyllis Fagell, the author of Middle School Matters. I immediately clicked on it, and found a series of thoughtful suggestions and examples, each of which in fact does relate well to our own middle school program. Her seven suggestions (in boldface), and a few examples of how they have been playing out in our school:
(with thanks to MiddleWeb for originally publishing this review)
As a teacher in a girls school, I’m acutely aware that my students (girls and non-binary kids alike) often feel trapped between two opposing yet interlocking ideals our culture sets for them – to be their true authentic selves, and to please other people.
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.
Today was our first day of classes, and the beginnings of this year's 2015-2016 Humanities 7 class coming together as a community. As always, we began with Jonathan London's wonderful jazz poem "Hip Cat" with its theme of "Do what you love to do and do it well." These kids, at least some of them, have definitely figured out already that learning is a process, something at which you might steadily improve but also something that involves challenges and roadblocks and stuckness. Equally important, they view that kind of attitude as fundamental to who our school is.
My Humanities 7 class is studying education now. We're continuing with Firegirl by Tony Abbott as a read-aloud book, since much of the action takes place in a school, and the students voted for I Am Malala as a group read. As always, they are researching individually chosen questions as they prepare to write essays and make a presentation, and the questions range from comparing and contrasting different groups or systems of schools (public vs. private, U.K. vs. U.S., mixed gender vs. single gender, etc.) to tracing the evolution of education over time to looking at the relative benefits and importance of a spiritual vs. a traditional education, and more.
On the last of classes in the middle school, I made the following post to Facebook:
Filed Under: Teaching, All-Girls, On Education, Beautifully different, Girls Schools, community, All Girls Education, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, girls' school, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education
written Wednesday evening, Nov. 19, 2014, the night before the last day of Fall Trimester classes in the middle school.
Alfie Kohn is most definitely one of my educational heroes. Controversial as he may be, the controversy often stems from his relentless focus on what research tells us about what is best for students even when it flies in the face of common sense. And anyone who is all about figuring out what is best for students, and who has the courage to follow through on those principles (even if they differ from my own), earns my respect.