Out of the Mouths of Students

In November, our parents engaged in stimulating discussions about what Parish at 50 might look like (in 2022).  As part of our movement to Reimagine Parish, to lead the way in shaping the school experience to prepare modern learners for the complex, interconnected world they will lead and serve, we felt it important to engage our students.  They, too, welcomed the exercise with complete enthusiasm!USreimagines_DSC5969

Tremendous energy was evident as 40 Upper School students joined me for an hour in January to discuss the skills required for tomorrow’s world, what they would preserve in Parish at 50, and how they would reimagine the school experience.

Here are some of the highlights of the session:

Skills They Envisioned Needing in the Future:

  • Communication (oral, digital, and face to face)
  • Using technology in a balanced and safe way, but leveraging its power to get things done efficiently/creatively (programming was referenced as a particular skill some students valued)
  • “real world skills” (managing money; raising kids; interviewing, etc.)
  • Global awareness (broadly encompassing respect for diversity & getting out of the “private school bubble”)
  • Analytical thinking – ability to think creatively, quickly, critically

USreimagines_DSC6003

Things They Wished To Preserve About Parish:

  • Connection of students to teachers (mentioned by all five groups)
  • Diversity/inclusiveness (mentioned by 3 of 5 groups)
  • Free blocks to work, refresh, and connect during the day
  • Many elements of program too numerous to enumerate all  (traditions like Blue Shirt and Legacy; school spirit through athletics and arts; communal spaces; chapel; Math Lab; Flex; AB schedule; PAWS Store)

Things They Would Like to See in the Reimagined Parish of 2022

Learning Schedule

  • Later start time
  • More personalized schedules around ability or interest (including a “high school major”); move on when you are ready to move
  • Expand the year to spread out the intensity of courses (e.g. 3 course in a module or schedule instead of 6, but continue learning through the summer or 6 weeks on 3 weeks off and no summer)
  • Half day of more “traditional” classes; half day for deep interest exploration; internships; real world applications
  • 6 week modules of intensive study with an advisor – deep and rich to prepare for college volume – in a reduced set of topics followed by a term of a more “traditional” courses
  • Athletic and arts practices built into the day’s schedule

Learning Content

  • More real world applications (internships; professionals in field brought to campus; skyping international students; math classes built off of real-world careers, like architecture; more “field trips” to see real world application of content; courses in life-skills such as financial management)
  • Foreign language taught to application in real world
  • History and English or political science taught together (subjects connected)
  • Courses in animation

Learning Spaces

  • More comfortable and warm learning environments (circular tables, moveable furniture; comfortable chairs/bean bags; more color in rooms;
  • Small study rooms (like the LINK labs for students to use)
  • Whiteboard walls
  • Funny Stuff
    • More facial hair
    • Puppy room (stress relief)
    • PAWS ICEE machine

USreimagines_DSC6008

What impressed me the most?

First, that many of the ideas our students articulated parallel almost to the word thoughts expressed by faculty and affirmed by parents in similar exercises earlier this year.  I find this alignment extremely exciting, especially when one takes into account that parents and students do not spend as much time canvassing the latest research on educational trends.  To me, our parents and students offer an authentic voice on what the world of today demands and affords in terms of new opportunities.

Second, the leadership challenge and opportunity lies in turning these ideas and this vision into a reality.  Daunting, indeed! Today, none of us can predict entirely what tomorrow’s reimagined reality will look like.  But what I am certain about is that this community and our team have the gumption and ability to get it done!

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