The Middle School is a vibrant and dynamic place. Our faculty and students learn and laugh together. In this time of profound growth—and the narrowest age span of Waynflete’s three divisions—students develop self-advocacy and empathy, and in the process broaden their understanding of themselves and the world. Through literary study and investigation in the science laboratory, to learning new languages and mathematical formulas, our students test their own assumptions and extend their thinking.
Each aspect of our program is guided by our mission and its three central tensions: rigor vs. play; depth vs. breadth; and security vs. challenge. Here are a few essential—and differentiating—elements of the Middle School experience: scale, grade-level advising, and skill development.
With just under 150 students, our three-grade Middle School is the smallest division at Waynflete. Students and teachers cross paths regularly throughout the day, which allows for deep connections and rapport. Several of our teachers coach in the division as well. Due to our 6-12 faculty structure, it is possible for a student to work directly with a teacher throughout their Middle and Upper School years.
From weekly assemblies in Franklin Theater to homeroom lunch on Fridays, faculty members seek ongoing connection. Each homeroom organizes at least one assembly throughout the year and all students participate in quarterly Performing Arts sharing days. Students typically contribute to one or more all-Middle School shows in the Gallery space. Teachers seek to bridge classes and disciplines in ways that build understanding and deepen curiosity.
Adolescence is a time of tremendous growth and change. We believe that the relationships between students and teachers provide unique stability at this particular juncture. Throughout the school students are assigned an advisor, but in Middle School this placement changes every year. Our advisors have expertise in their particular grade level of focus and develop close and strong relationships with each of their advisees. Advising teams coordinate and facilitate all grade-level activities and programs and also serve as classroom teachers.
The team component of Middle School is also essential. Our advisors work collaboratively as a 6-8 team, which allows for continuity between grade levels and a cohesive experience for all of our students. Part of what makes the program so dynamic and immediate is that our advisors truly enjoy working together and building the program in tandem.
By the end of their Middle School years, our students have gotten to know at least three different adults in depth, providing a core foundation to build upon on Upper School. These relationships allow students to feel safe and known as individuals.
Study Skills—Learning to Learn
The content of the curriculum in Middle School allows for the development of core study skills: note-taking, drafting and revision, analysis, and laboratory work. Teachers emphasize specific understanding and the importance of learning about issues in depth. Cross-disciplinary work deepens and enhances that knowledge base as students learn what motivates them individually and become familiar with core skills.
We believe strongly in the role of executive function in one’s academic experience. Learning how to organize one’s binder and one’s thoughts are equally important skills. Teachers scaffold assignments in ways that help students break down more complex tasks and focus on each of the component parts. We model assignments and work together during class time, believing that homework provides the opportunity to practice those skills. All of our faculty members make adjustments to curriculum and plans according to the needs of their students.
Examples of specific study skills taught in Middle School include:
- Time management: keeping track of homework assignments through the use of an organizational system that functions best for the student—paper planner, homework sheet, self-designed homework app, planning out long-term projects
- Establishing a hypothesis and then testing it through experimentation and a subsequent written lab report
- Earning the fundamentals of vertical “running” notes in History
- Crafting sentences into a persuasive analytical paragraph and essay
- Completing regular “challenge problems” in Math class and articulating solutions through diagrams, visuals, and written paragraphs
- Public speaking and simulations—from taking on the role of a Supreme Court justice in a History debate to practicing one’s knowledge of food terms through the creation of a restaurant in French class
- Learning apps on the iPad and using them to organize a long-term assignment
Our underlying goal is to help students gain a sense of confidence and clarity through these fundamental study skills, which will guide and ground their work in high school and beyond. We engage students through hands-on activities and opportunities to hone these skills throughout their experience in Middle School.
Free Periods and Student Choice
Each Middle School student has two or three free periods each week. During these periods, students make decisions about how they wish to use their time. Students must remain on campus and may spend time in the Library; get a snack at the Café; play basketball, tetherball, or foursquare; talk with friends in the Forum; or meet with a teacher. Advisors work with students to keep track of how they use their free periods and what lessons they have learned from their decision-making. In a world that can feel over-scheduled and over-programmed, free periods allow for a pause and a chance to decompress and enjoy the beauty of our campus.