An Educator's View

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The following is the first in a series of blog posts reflecting on the promotion of IVA's first 8th grade class ...

By Danielle Montiel, Program Administrator

“We’re all so close…I can’t believe it’s ending and we won’t be all together next year,” said an 8th grader during our Advisory meeting. Similar sentiments followed: “Remember when we didn’t even know each other’s names?” “I can’t believe we actually founded a school.”

Yes, 8th graders, you have a left a mark on our young school. Not just a mark, but a legacy. You inspired our weekly Virtues Ceremony, you test-drove our first year of Advisory, you inaugurated Virtueen, you completed dozens of POWS and participated in (hundreds?) of thinking routines … and you found a mascot!

And I’ve watched you, and eight of you more closely (my advisees), journey through this process of high school choice.  Along the high school choice way, I’ve noticed how IVA has left its mark on you.

As you explored your options, your refined educational palate told you what to look for. You came back from shadow days saying, “I liked when I saw students actually engaged in the learning, but I didn’t like a teacher talking at or down to students.” You know authentic engagement! You have an appetite for an educational culture that puts you at the center of the learning. You know what it looks like and feels like to think deeply.

As you evaluated your options, your knowledge of your mind and self guided you. You know you’re strong in math and sciences, but you couldn’t do life without art. You know what you’re curious about. And, you know how to process your decisions. You can access what’s behind your fear or apathy or closed-mindedness and move toward growth and clarity.

Finally, as you prepare to leave IVA, you’re “grieving” well. You’re reflecting on your experience and thinking about how you’ll carry a sense of educational community with you. You’ve developed a sort of “learning empathy,” a way of coming alongside a classmate and venturing into unknown territory and communicating about your limits, mistakes, and progress. You will be a gift to your new educational community, wherever that is.

I can’t reflect on the importance of this moment with 8th graders without feeling a deep sense of appreciation for their parents. Parents, you took a risk! You were autonomous and courageous, especially during a time when you are in the position of “managing education” like never before.

And I can’t help but look forward to opportunities ahead. I’m excited that a team of visionaries and innovators is developing a place where a group of 9th students will experience the bonding, risk-taking, and personal growth in the process of founding a high school. And when they graduate, they will process their college choice with valuable self-knowledge and decision-making skills -- just one way to experience learning and living well.