As the Upper School prepares for the arrival of next year’s 9th grade class, I am excited about the preparations that are going on. In my role as the Dean of 9th and 10th Grade, I work on establishing a smooth transition from Middle School to Upper School for rising 9th graders arriving in August.
At Randolph, deans are student advocates; I work in connection with the 7th and 8th Grade Dean, the 11th and 12th Grade Dean, and all Upper School advisors to promote a positive student experience from a student's arrival through graduation.
From Homecoming Week in January, when 8th graders visit the Garth Campus and attend sample classes, to our “Get Excited about Garth” student and family visit day last week, we have been working to invite new Upper School students and their families over to the Garth Campus as much as possible.
Upper School advisors are assigned to rising 9th graders over the summer and before students arrive we will be preparing to guide them through the transition from Middle School through college admissions in our four-year Upper School advisory program, where the advisor sees the student every day of the Upper School experience and gets to know students throughout their time on Garth. We will enjoy getting to know the new 9th grade class at the 9th grade retreat, held on the first full day of the new school year.
Since this was my first year here at Randolph, I decided to spend a day experiencing life as a Middle School student, to better understand their transition from Middle School culture to life in the Upper School. This was a unique opportunity to view the Randolph experience through the eyes of an 8th grader and reflect upon their preparation to enter Randolph’s culminating experience in the Upper School.
I was impressed with their work and by how easily what is going on in the Middle School prepares them to extend and build upon that work throughout Upper School. While the buildings, schedule, and uniforms of students give external cues of a different experience, both the culture and activities of the Middle School seemed to me a direct progression towards the work done in Upper School.
I was excited to see 8th grade students collaborating, participating in Community Learning, and taking initiative to organize new learning experiences.
In my 8th grade science class the students were building Rube Goldberg machines, extremely complicated and non-traditional devices that use everyday products to perform a simple task in a creative way. Students were combining knowledge of simple machines, a group design process, and re-used materials to demonstrate their understanding of the scientific concepts at play and to exhibit creative solutions to problems.
This reminds me of the kind of thinking we build on in both 9th grade World History and in 9th grade Biology. In World History we work throughout the year in collaborative groups to analyze history from Ancient Greece through the Renaissance and create everything from class debates, to documentaries, to research papers that synthesize and combine complex historical ideas into persuasive arguments about how these societies shape the world today. In Biology, students recently worked in small groups to create public service announcements that combine detailed knowledge about cancer cells and ways of preventing various types of cancer with persuasive thesis writing from English class to raise awareness in the community about cancer. These themes of working together to solve complex problems build throughout the Randolph Upper School experience.
When I visited the 8th grade, they were running a student led canned food drive to benefit Manna House and address local needs outside of the school building. In the Middle School canned food drive, the houses were competing with each other and the House Captains were in charge of collecting and counting all the cans that were contributed by students. These types of opportunities abound in the Upper School experience through the Youth Leadership Council’s involvement in tutoring programs with Village of Promise or their Community Fund Benefit Concert, which gives Upper School students the opportunity to write grants for community impact and seek funding from the YLC. Upper School students also serve many different community organizations on the annual day of service during Homecoming. As a visitor to an Upper School open house recently observed, “My child is participating in extracurricular programs in Middle School, but they are so excited to come to the Upper School with all its various options to participate."
As rising 9th graders arrive on the Upper School campus in August, we will be asking them to think about their school not only as what it is, but also what it could be.
We place a high value on student initiative at Randolph and the Upper School allows the most freedom and opportunity for students to demonstrate this important trait. During my day in the 8th grade, Middle School students had created and were self-instructing in a lunchtime computer coding club. Mr. Holman was the sponsor, and he was guiding them as they used web-based tools to teach themselves how to create simple computer programs.
When these students arrive to the Upper School, one of the first events of the year is the Upper School club fair where students are able to create new clubs and recruit members to work in areas of interest throughout the year. So whether it is Random Acts of Kindness, the Chess Club, the Philosophy Club, or the Gardening Club, students are able to work together to create the types of activities they wish were included in the Upper School experience.
And here, at the end of the year, I would like to invite you to several opportunities where you can learn more about both the entrance into the Upper School and the culmination of the Randolph experience here on the Garth Campus.
This Friday, April 17, we have a lunch for rising-9th grade Randolph parents at the home of rising 9th grade RPA Representative, Julie Hunter. This will be a great opportunity to ask any questions you have regarding a student about to embark on the final leg of the Randolph journey and to register you can email Shawna Schmitz.
On Wednesday, April 29 at 7 p.m., in the Thurber Arts Center, the Office of College Counseling welcomes Lisa Burns, Associate Dean of Admission from Sewanee: The University of the South, to talk about the college admissions process and how to think about this process from the beginning of Upper School onward. This event is open to the community.
Lastly, there are two opportunities to see the work that Randolph seniors have been producing this year at the culmination of their Randolph experience. This week and next, Seniors are presenting their Capstone Projects that demonstrate interdisciplinary academic excellence on topics of interest within Modernism. Click here for a schedule and more information. The Senior Art Expo is a showcase of our students’ artistic work that they and we are most proud of. Come and see this event Tuesday, April 21, 2-3:30 p.m., in the Thurber Arts Center. These events are open to the community.
We would love to see you at any of these events so you can better explore the range of Upper School life and consider how your student can be a part of this community. I look forward to working with the class of 2019 and watching how they grow and contribute to life in the Upper School at Randolph.