Small wonder

Walking into the faculty workroom on Monday, I was delighted to find a couple of people I know from the lower school (kindergarten through fifth grade) working there.  It’s unusual to see them at our end of campus, but with the camp programs shifted to our building, I wasn’t altogether surprised.  I plopped down on the couch and we had some chat, and various people came in and out, and then I came and went several times, as I usually do, putting my lunch in the fridge and getting water and coffee, before I saw the IT folks come in with more computers and it dawned on me that the workroom was actually becoming the temporary lower school office and I was waltzing in and out like I owned the place. I apologized for trespassing and they apologized for taking over the room, and once again I wonder why we never seem to get the memo about this sort of thing.  However, they urged me to keep using the room as needed, which I’ll probably do, just with more consideration.  It’s got the kitchen with the fridge and coffee supplies, and houses the main photocopier for the floor.  The whole thing has a fairly provisional, camping-out kind of vibe, so I’m taking them at their word that they don’t mind my traipsing in and out.

I’m actually quite thrilled that they’re there, because one of the things that kept coming up during our search for a new head of school was a sense that each division is too much its own “silo” (another bit of management jargon, but expressive) and, especially, that the lower divisions can feel disregarded by the upper ones.  A K-12 school is kind of a funny animal, in that some of our students have been here since kindergarten, but others have joined in waves, mostly at the major entry points of sixth and ninth grade.  Their SA experiences can be quite different in character and tone–depending on lots of things, of course, but in part depending on whether this is the only school they’ve ever known.  The Snork Maiden left a beloved elementary school to enter SA in middle school, and that definitely colored her view of the place for a few years.  For other kids, it’s the place where they invented a teenage identity as new ninth graders.   With so many disparate experiences, we can’t really treat upper school as the culmination of an experience that began in kindergarten, since for 75% or more of any given graduating class, it’s not.

Also, to be honest, we don’t have or create many opportunities for collaboration among staff in the different divisions.  There are some people who teach in both middle and upper school, but most people are very much devoted to one division, and there’s a definite divide between middle/upper and K-5.  I have been meaning, since I became chair, to learn more about how we teach “language arts” in the lower grades, but as yet not much has come of this vague intention.  So I’m looking at this office and camp situation as a chance for some casual positive contact with some of my lower school colleagues.  One of them is a former middle-school English teacher, the one we hired Miranda to replace in sixth grade when he became assistant head of the lower school.  Another was, until recently, a fourth-grade teacher, and we served together on the search committee for the new head of school and got to know each other quite well.  She’s going to be away with her husband at his university’s overseas program in Germany in the fall, so I hope we can have lunch a few times before she leaves.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. One of the few things I enjoyed about being the acting department head last year was getting to know more about the English program in the middle school. Like your school, our middle and upper schools are silos. Next year, for the first time, a middle school teacher is going to be a department head (not my department), and it will be very interesting to see how that plays out, since our middle school is often seen as an afterthought to the upper school.

    Reply

  2. […] is probably our last chance for a long chat before we both peel off for separate trips, and she is on leave in the fall, so we might not really see each other again until January.  Then I’m stopping […]

    Reply

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