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  • Writer's pictureTrey Adams

Gaining new perspective

The Classes of 2023 and 2025 visited first grade this week. Sherri Burgess P'25,'27 and Joe Braun P'26 escorted their respective English classes to Lisa Skeeters '81,P'20 to observe the class of 2034 in action. The upper school students were asked to quietly watch and listen in the first grade classroom without disturbing Mrs. Skeeters' lesson. "The experience was about perspective," shared Mrs. Burgess.

The sophomore class is reflecting on their summer reading, John Knowles A Separate Peace. "As an adult, the narrator goes back to his school and talks about how different everything feels," stated Mr. Braun. In discussion, the upper school students shared how small the furniture and room felt even though it had loomed so large when they were six years old.

The seniors are studying Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in both AP English Literature and the semester-long course Literature and Film. "We create a mental image of the world of a story but a director can visualize something very different on a screen," explained Mrs. Burgess. "Consider how the lower school classroom feels now versus how it felt for you back then. How does it feel to you? How might it feel to a current first grade student?" Both teachers require students maintain writing journals to capture thoughts about themes, topics, and experiences.

Learning is much more than just content knowledge. Test scores are measurements of the "hard skills" associated with academic pursuit. Independent schools like SA have the capacity to emphasize "soft skills" as equally important. Soft skills can be harder to measure but are evident in how a student interacts with the learning community. Mrs. Burgess and Mr. Braun have laid the groundwork for empathy. Students used memory of their own experience to connect to the experience of someone else. Empathy is an important skill for collaboration, and it is a great tool for navigation of the emotional ups-and-downs that accompany interpersonal relationships.

One of the goals of the new middle and upper school advisory program is to help students develop the "soft skills" of school. The groups are vertical (multi-grade) rather than horizontal (single-grade) and intentionally designed to bring together different perspectives around common experiences--like friendships and relationships, self-awareness and self-advocacy, honor and integrity, and community and citizenship.

I joined a dozen or more families at Marine Corps Base Quantico this weekend to see our varsity football team in their season opener. (I-95 through northern Virginia provided me a new perspective on my commute from Franklin to Courtland every morning.) While Coach Cole Heiderich may argue that there is much to do and to be learned over the coming weeks, watching eight of our young men function as a single unit for a common purpose is inspiring. Make plans to attend this week's first home game on Thursday night at 6:00 p.m. against Virginia Episcopal School.

Finally, here are some other items to consider:

  • Regarding school schedule and calendar, we will have a half-day on Friday, dismissal at 12:00 p.m., with no lunch served. No school on Monday. Happy Labor Day!

  • Regarding new preschool and lower school families, our New Parent Coffee with the Head of School has been moved to Friday, September 9. An invitation is forthcoming.

  • Regarding PTO Parent Night, please join us this Wednesday evening to visit your child(ren)'s teacher(s) and classroom(s) and to learn about engagement opportunities. Register here.

  • Regarding middle and upper school, the Drop/Add period ends Wednesday, August 31. All schedules will be finalized as of Friday, September 2.

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