Guiding Principles and ThemesWaynflete's advising curriculum addresses the specific needs of children along the entire fifteen-year age range of the school. Designed to facilitate strong connections between students and advisors, small advising groups focus on developmentally appropriate topics that touch on self-awareness, community membership, and stewardship. The strength of this curriculum relies on the bond established between the advisor and the student.
In the Middle School, students are divided into grade-level advising teams of four to five teachers from different disciplines. The advisors serve as homeroom teachers and advocate for individual students. The advisor is the key contact concerning their advisees within the school and is the liaison between the school and the family. The advising curriculum addresses issues important to Middle School students through speakers, activities, discussion groups, and special programs. Conferences between parents and advisors are held twice a year. Comments and grades are given four times a year.
We believe that we learn best when we feel known. Starting with LEAP Week and extending throughout the year, advisors take the lead in building community and rapport amongst their advisees and the grade level as a whole.
We begin the year with LEAP (Learn-Explore-Appreciate-Play) Week. Students spend the four-day week getting to know each other and their advisors. Each team is guided by the four tenets of the week, which encapsulate our core values as a Middle School. We seek to learn about each other, explore a common theme, build community together, connect in ways that allow us to appreciate our community, and play amidst the beautiful landscape in Southern Maine.
Advisors plan the week to allow for focus, fluidity and a balance of thematic and academic foci. All grade levels anticipate the start of classes on the following Monday by reviewing schedules, walking to classes and finding their “schedule buddy,” and discussing the start of school. Students also explore a common theme as a way of connecting with one another and beginning together. We embrace the familiar and celebrate the new during this week. Each grade level welcomes new members, and our goal is to build cohesiveness over the course of the week. Our entry week, coupled with the first quarter of the year, provides many opportunities to build relationship and context.
We suspend regular classes four times a year for all or part of a school day to allow grade levels to spend time together focused on a specific topic such as conflict resolution, study of a curricular lens, or an all-day field trip to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (a complement to our sixth-grade History course).
While each grade level focuses on community as a central theme, it is especially important for our newest members of the Middle School. Our goal is to ensure that all students feel comfortable and begin to feel known by their advisors and teachers during LEAP Week.
The theme of community extends throughout the year, and advisors use the weekly advising period to introduce students to all of the key aspects of Middle School—from our co-curricular Activities and Performing Arts Workshop programs to role plays and discussion about how to use one’s free periods. Other topics include nutrition, forming healthy relationships, dialogue skills, navigating social media, planning for (and anticipating) the first Middle School Dance in late October, organizing the all-School Thanksgiving Food Drive, and team-building activities with Upper School students.
As the “middle of the middle,” the seventh grade is a time of self-discovery, skill-building, and greater independence. Team sports begin and students earn quarterly grades for the first time at the school. It is a time of change and challenge. Advisors focus directly on the shifts that students are going through, such as organization and communication with one’s teachers, balancing school work and other activities, building digital literacy skills, navigating changing relationships with peers and teachers, and meeting the challenge of high expectations.
The entire seventh grade spends time in Head Start classrooms from November to May. From learning about Head Start and pitching in, students experience the joy (and challenges) of keeping three-year-olds occupied. It’s clearly a mutually reciprocal experience, as seventh graders learn how to be present for younger children and serve as role models. The grade raises money for the program through a bowl-a-thon each February.
Students often describe the start of seventh grade as a critical transition—one in which they need compassion, support, and tools. Consequently, this becomes the focus of the program. We want our students to end the year with a greater sense of confidence, self-compassion, voice, and agency.
As the second bookend to one’s Middle School experience, eighth grade is a time of continued self-discovery. With the support of their advisors and teachers, students take on greater responsibility for their work and advocate for their needs.
Many of our eighth-grade advisors teach half of their course load in the Upper School, which provides a bridge between the two divisions. Starting in mid-November, students meet with Upper School students, teachers, and administrators to learn more about the program. In February and March, students work on ninth-grade schedules and their four-year plan as they begin to imagine what’s ahead. Advising topics also include an annual donation drive to support recently resettled immigrants in Southern Maine, ongoing focus on the eighth-grade musical (a Performing Arts and advising venture), and dialogue skills. During the last week of the academic year, we honor each eighth-grade student individually at a Middle School assembly, noting their particular strengths and contributions.
We work closely with our all-School Director of Student Affairs, Health Coordinator, and School Counselor in developing the advising program curriculum. The School also provides training such as Mental Health First Aid, the Stanley King Counseling Institute, and other opportunities for faculty members to hone their skills.