The core values of the Middle School experience extend across the entire program at Waynflete. Here are some of the values we emphasize through our work as teachers, advisors, tutors, and coaches:
Compassion and empathy—Learning to care for others and show support for individual experiences is a core value in our Middle School. Even if we don’t understand or cannot relate to another’s experience in life, we can show compassion and concern. Examples of compassion in Middle School include our Golden Compass curriculum (an entry point to the role that values of respect and community inform one’s experience in school) to work that our Help Haiti, Student Government, and World Wildlife groups take on to extend the reach of our care beyond our campus and into the wider world.
Respect—The premise of respect informs all that we do: respect for self, respect for others, and respect for the program and the wider community. Through listening exercises in advising to discussions and debates in the classroom, our students practice and hone their abilities to care for themselves and their peers. In the process, they build understanding and awareness. Our “W Safe Place” signs are a visible illustration and reminder of the value of respect.
Authenticity—Respecting one’s self and others also involves being yourself. We take pride in our authenticity and expect students to share their own work and ideas throughout their experience at the school. As community members, we take responsibility for creating a community in which all members feel safe and comfortable expressing their true selves.
Interdependence—Sometimes it is easier to say “I didn’t make this mess, so I won’t clean it up.” While that may be factually true, as community members we depend upon each other to pitch in and look out for the whole versus focusing on the individual. This extends to seeking support when we need additional understanding, or helping a peer with an issue that concerns them. Our advisors work with students to support the idea of interdependence—that we are all links within the community and that our connections are made stronger by our connection to others.
Imagination and levity: The word “imagination” appears in our mission statement, and we value this aspect of living and creating. Finding the humor and, at times, creative absurdity in what we read and experience allows us to see its levity. We value a certain lightheartedness—the impulse and willingness to laugh at oneself and appreciate the humor of a joke, a squirrel refusing to leave the Sanctuary at lunch time (determined to enjoy tasty morsels!), or a superhero costume competition.
Learning by doing: Our program is hands-on and experiential at its core, underscoring the fundamental aspect of learning by doing. Neurologists and educators have long held that by doing something, you understand it on a deeper level—be it the quadratic equation or memorizing a soliloquy. When our students work with preschoolers at the Portland Head Start program, for example, they experience the joy and challenge of keeping three-year-olds happy and occupied. Grounded in close relationships and rapport with one another, experience is our greatest teacher. We cultivate empathy, respect, and compassion by working together and focusing on lived experience.