The Middle School is a joyful and vibrant community where students and their teachers are excited to come to school. When you walk into the aptly named Hope Building, you can feel the buzz of energy and vitality. The Middle School’s philosophy and approach are designed to bring out the best in young adolescents by using an approach that is both simple and sophisticated. The simple part, really a goal, is that we strive to know our students because we believe in the close correlation between how well a student is known and how well a student learns. Also, at a more human level, middle schoolers simply want to be understood. The sophisticated part, really a recognition of our rapidly changing times, is that the definition of a “classroom” is evolving. Today’s classrooms are now centers of collaboration, design, imagination, and production. In other words, the Middle School is a place where students are supported and challenged in an environment that both honors the individual and nurtures the community.
Knowing Students Well: The organization and temperament of the Middle School faculty assure that we get to know our students. Advisors meet with their advisor groups daily and often more than once a day. Because much of each day with their students in class, advisor periods, field trips including overnight retreats, lunch, and recess, advisors can learn much about their advisees’ individual, social, and academic lives. The advisors are organized into grade-level faculty teams and meet weekly to discuss, among other things, the academic and social-emotional progress of the students. To make the connections between school and home both seamless and more individualized, advisors serve as the main point of contact for almost all communication.
Besides getting to know students well, teachers also design rich, innovative curricula and programs that tap into the students’ natural curiosity, need to learn something relevant, and desire to direct their own learning. A Wheeler Middle School classroom is often productively noisy as students wrestle with a problem or design a solution. Often there are more questions than answers and more talk time for students than there is for teachers. Sometimes we employ technology; other times we don’t. Sometimes we read contemporary authors; other times the classics. And, sometimes the students’ classroom is a theater like Trinity Rep, a multi-dimensional Providence neighborhood (Cityside for Gr. 8 coming Fall 2019), the Wheeler Farm (see Farm Program
), a gallery at the Rhode Island School of Design or a lab at Brown University.
Engaging the World: As we invest in our commitment to learning from the rich and complex history and current state of our community and world, and our campus becomes permeable and expansive, two programs modernize Mary C. Wheeler’s vision of a town and country school and bookend the Middle School experience: the Farm Program and the Cityside Program. Both programs take advantage of Wheeler’s urban and rural campuses to provide hands-on, experiential opportunities that inspire, challenge, and motivate middle schoolers to learn deeply. Combined with the vigorous foundation of habits of mind, thought, and heart that we foster in our daily classroom instruction, each student moves on to Upper School with an intellectual foundation for upper-level scholarship, adventures, and achievements.
Young Un, Head of Middle School