Just One Word

Posted by Dr. Beth Reaves

I had lunch yesterday with our eighth-grade class, who will be “graduating” this year from WSG and moving on to high school. During our lunch, I asked them to create and draw one word that they’d like to leave the school as a representation of their time here. They each created a small piece of art that when viewed together makes a collage of their experiences and lessons learned at WSG.

I love that these words so accurately capture the middle school experience! Reordering and combining the words gives an insightful image of these girls and of middle school in general. Some of the words reflect the skills needed to grow and succeed academically and emotionally: continue, hustle, motivation, perseverance, and persistence. Others capture the nuances of navigating friendships and interpersonal relationships: loyalty, sisterhood, and forgiveness. There’s also descriptors of our students’ bright personalities – star, creativity, and hustle – and of the angst that is so common at their age – limits, control, and forgiveness. Our students’ words look to the future – leadership, graduate, and star – and offer some important life advice that even adults can appreciate – breathe.

I think that part of what I love about working with middle school students is witnessing their growth over the years, and by the eighth grade, recognizing that they are on the brink of adulthood. I love that we can learn so much from them and that their experiences in middle school will provide some early life-long lessons for them.

During our lunch, I also asked the girls to reflect on their school experiences at WSG – what should never change about the school? what suggestions do they have for improvement? The girls expressed an appreciation for their deep relationships with their teachers and the opportunities they have as eighth graders to lead activities and clubs for younger students. They also noted how special the WSG community is and its importance to their experience as a whole.

While some of their suggestions for change are unsurprising coming from middle school students (none of them like the uniforms or lunch), some students demonstrated deeper and more mature critical thinking. There was a suggestion to ensure that consequences are logical to the infraction, a request for more physical activities in the after-school program, and a desire to shift the schedule to accommodate different learning styles.

As with every meaningful experience with our students, I will take their words to heart and include their suggestions in our planning for next school year. After all, our students have the most important voices in the school – they are WSG’s future, and we will always look to them for insight and inspiration, even if it is in just one word.