Learning From Our Students
Posted by Dr. Beth Reaves
“Please don’t ever change the love for these beautiful girls.”
“Please don’t change the student to teacher ratio. The close attention from teachers was very beneficial to my learning.”
“Please don’t change the learning curriculum and how we learn.”
~WSG 8th grade students, 5/25/22
I’ve always believed that one of the best ways to understand how a school is doing is to ask the students. Students in the right environment will just tell you what they think! It’s why I’ve always hosted a lunch with our 8th graders shortly before they graduate and move on to high school. It’s been a tradition for me as a school leader and one that I was excited to continue to do at WSG. How our students experience WSG beyond what we, school leadership, say their experiences are, provides context for the ideas we put in place each year. Most importantly though, it is moments like these that ground me in my work here.
I was devastated that the COVID pandemic and remote learning interrupted this plan for the past two years, but I, along with our Head of School and Principal, recently joined our 8th graders for the 8th grade luncheon.
Graduating 8th graders are in a particularly unique position related to their school journey. As they prepare for their transition to high school, their maturity in thinking about their current school becomes more evident. At WSG they’ve been the oldest students in the school for a full year now told by adults in the community to take their place as role models for younger students. They have enough classroom, teaching and learning experiences in school to offer insight. And while they are also excited to go to high school they are also nervous to go to high school. So, WSG continues to be their familiar and safe space after they leave our classrooms. They can share their feelings, their insight, their hopes and dreams for the future and it is all grounded in their own personal perspective of being a student here.
As I threw out questions and they shared their responses, I was delighted to hear them repeat some of what we say are the best parts of WSG:
Small class sizes,
the student/teacher ratio (truly the words from one girl) and
the inclusion of prayer every day
were among the aspects of WSG that they felt we should never change.
Not surprisingly, the “strict” uniform policy, the lunch program (always the lunch program) and the addition of a prom were among the suggestions of changes for the future. But even within these predictable school life criticisms, the girls shared what they would see as a meaningful change.
In discussing why the uniforms feel so restrictive for example, they mentioned a desire for more self-expression in small areas (more earring choices or an option for acrylic nails) and not necessarily a complete revamp of the school uniform. It is exciting to see them at a stage in their maturity where they are able to both express understanding for aspects of WSG while also offering their suggestions for improvement.
When we are all done listening, it is a treasure trove of student feedback for me, allowing us to put words and thoughts beyond the data measurements we use to evaluate our school program. It helps to see if in fact the mission statement that we have on paper really does come alive. I appreciate the suggestions for improvement and feel a sense of pride on behalf of our staff for the positive memories they share. It brings me personal joy to see the pursuit of joyful learning alive and well at WSG.