The Gregory School has intentionally worked to align our vision of an exceptional learning environment with every aspect required to achieve a well-run organization; fiscal responsibility, maximization of time and resources, safe and clean facilities, programmatic innovation, and continued growth and development for faculty, staff and students. A key ingredient in this recipe is giving faculty and students agency.
Agency: ……2: the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power : operation. 3: a person or thing through which power is exerted or an end is achieved: instrumentality. Retrieved December 1, 2017, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/agency
Our faculty members model, on a daily basis, the importance of understanding problems and identifying appropriate solutions. They encourage and guide students in a number of ways. A recent study from The New Teacher Center (2015) found that schools that empowered teachers to be leaders not only had better-performing students, but that their students performed at least 10 percentage points higher in both mathematics and English language arts proficiency state assessments. (Teaching as Leadership: ISM Research, I&P Vol.38 No. 13.). Two examples easily come to mind at TGS that depict this approach.
First, the development of our Student Writing Center was initiated, implemented and refined through exceptional teacher leadership and creativity. The issues that it addresses are multifold. The Writing Center develops leadership and empathy in the upper classmen tutors, it provides opportunities for students to practice self-advocacy and perseverance, it stresses the importance of multiple revisions and constructive feedback, and it builds on the strong reputation TGS has for producing exceptional writers. Our graduates are accepted and successful in the most prestigious universities in the world and are later recruited heavily by future employers.
Second, the scope and sequence of our math curriculum was redesigned this year based on the assessed math performance and placement of the 307 students enrolled in the school. Why? Teachers identified that the existing sequence didn’t match the identified instructional needs of our students. If the “right fit” wasn’t discovered until weeks into the school year, the result would be oversized/undersized classes or tough choices regarding schedule changes and the inability for students to keep all of their desired class choices. The new design has led to an earlier and more customized approach to meeting the learning needs of students, while challenging each of them appropriately. Our math department faculty initiated the idea, designed the sequence, and implemented the plan beautifully.
Just this past week, our middle school student council met with Mr. Ron Bowen, Director of Facilities at TGS. The topic? How can we improve the condition of our middle school facilities? Students prepared, in advance, a Google doc listing the areas of concern, the reasons why each item was a problem, and an accompanying compilation of proposed solutions (my favorite part). While the students were meeting, one 7th grader pulled out a pad of paper and shared that he had been testing and monitoring the pH levels of the water in one of the drinking fountains and went on to tell Mr. Bowen about his recommended solution. What a beautiful example of student agency! The students will be working with Mr. Bowen and Ms. Patton to implement their ideas and collaborating with other school staff to ensure the improvements are completed.
It’s an exciting time to be both an educator and student at TGS. The synergy being created through our 6 C’s and the collaborative work in and across our learning spaces is truly indicative of #thegregoryschooldifference.
Thank you for being a part of and supporting this important work!