Let’s face it. The middle school years can be tough.
Kids are learning to interact with each other and learning how to be independent in a world that can sometimes be scary. As parents, we want what is best for our kids. We want to create a village around them to help them grow. We want to help them build a sense of autonomy. We want to help them develop character.
Young men that attend the Boys Latin School of Maryland are taught using the school’s Values Based Education model. The curriculum is carefully and thoughtfully created with the understanding that educators are not just teaching young men academically, they are also helping to shape the social and emotional lives of the newest contributors to society.
The middle school thoughtfully prepares their students to take active roles in their own lives and lives of others.
“Our school is a family-like atmosphere,” said middle school science teacher, Susan Brown. “Our boys see each other as brothers. When one student is struggling- say with their own health or the health or loss of a parent, watching the community surround them, visit with them, take care of them- it can bring you to tears. Compassion for others is evident both in and out of the classroom each day.”
In the middle school’s advisory program, teachers and staff members work closely with their students to tackle difficult subjects in a caring environment. They work together to examine different points of view, relate to what’s happening in their lives, ask the big questions, and brainstorm ways to make things better in the future.
Those discussions and explorations don’t just happen in the classroom. They are a cornerstone of the BL experience and extend to community-wide events. On “One Love Day, the high school’s One Love Club (associated with the One Love Foundation) joins the middle schoolers to teach and learn about building healthy relationships. Middle schoolers also take part in volunteer experiences with Sarah’s Hope Family Shelter, and each 8th grade advisory travels to Beans and Bread twice a year serving lunch to those less fortunate. All are designed to help students achieve a greater understanding of the world around them, and their part in that world.
Teachers have an opportunity to meet with their advisory students on a near-daily basis, offering a unique opportunity to really get to know their students.
“My goal, as well as the goal of other teachers, is to treat our students with respect and compassion so that they can get frequent reminders of what it means to be a kind and positive member of society,” said Gillian Vernon, middle school English Teacher.
In Ms. Vernon’s English classroom, literature offers a unique platform for discussion. Books like “Lord of the Flies” and “The Outsiders” are a key part of her curriculum and help students look at the world from a different lens. In small groups, students discuss why these may be hard to read and Ms. Vernon provides supplemental activities that help students empathize with the characters. For example, when reading “The Outsiders,” students also delve into the realities of food insecurity. They are each given different sums of money to buy their groceries for the week and as a class, they make comparisons to the text and discuss relationships.
“By teaching these texts, students gain the exposure they need to explore their own value systems. Literature and the humanities lend themselves well to conversations about character and empathy,” she explained. “It’s wonderful to see students reacting emotionally and energetically to the actions of fictional characters.”
Middle school mathematics & science teacher Phil Sheehey works closely with his sixth grade math students to not only teach basic math concepts, but also on ways to be successful. “I worked in a corporate environment for a number of years before coming to teaching. I learned a lot about achievement and ways to be successful that were easily applied to the classroom. I work with my students to use Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success to learn about personal achievement and ways to be their best selves,” said Mr. Sheehey.
Mr. Sheehey sees himself as both a coach and teacher, whose job is not only to work with students in the classroom, but throughout all of the years they are at Boys’ Latin.
“I get to know them and learn from them,” said Mr. Sheehey. “With the small class sizes and nurturing environment, I watch students grow through the years. Some are scattered, intimated and afraid to speak out when they begin, but watching our students support each other and encourage each other to take risks; watching others react with positive statements and work together to solve problems. THAT is what it’s all about.”
This article is sponsored by The Boys’ Latin School of Maryland as part of our Cool School Partners series. Read more about Boys’ Latin in our Independent Schools Directory or call them at10-377-5192, ext. 1137. Photos provided by Boys’ Latin.