Earlier this month I was in the garden observing Tony’s class that was focusing on pruning, both the importance of and technique. The students began work on the nectarine tree, pruning to make it more fruitful. Sitting next to me, one boy listened attentively while practicing on a branch and trying to figure out how to take the shears apart. The engagement of the students in such a beautiful setting was inspiring.
Earlier that week, I visited Bob’s Rock and Blues class. Students were analyzing their performances from the recent concert, using technology to isolate each instrument. Each of the three groups listened to the performance and critiqued not only themselves and each other, but also the group performance as a whole.
Another day, in Aida’s French III Honors class, students were beginning a unit on family with a concentration on its multigenerational aspects, including whether or not the generation gap exists. The vocabulary ranged from nouns for different ages and relationships (baby, mother-in-law) to adjectives describing behavior (demanding—was that for baby or mother-in-law or both?). One student asked why only one word in French applied to both mother-in-law and step mother-in-law whereas in English there are two separate words acknowledging the different relationships. A conversation ensued about the intersections of culture and religion in France. Although changing somewhat, Aida suggested, France has historically had much less divorce than the United States, especially given its roots in Catholicism. All of this was conducted in French (and I’m proud to say that I was able to follow most of the conversation!).
Together, these days capture both the challenge and the richness of a student’s experience at MA. The common denominator is a focus on both knowing and doing. Individual understanding is critical; collaborative work together is essential. Mastery and the process of acquiring it are the goals of each. The engagement of students with their teachers and with each other is dynamic.
With the admissions application deadline past, we are well into the process of selecting and shaping the class of 2016. It’s a daunting but exciting process. While we will lose the wonderful Class of 2012 in a few months, we will gain 100 new students with all of their curiosity and creativity and eagerness. The pool is a strong one, which makes our task even more challenging. Our goal is to enroll students who love to learn and who are willing to work hard while having fun. Many will be scholars, artists, and/or athletes; in addition, they may be gardeners, blues musicians, or French learners. Our recent gifts for financial aid have put us in a strong position to reach our goal.
Given our unusually mild weather, it already feels as if spring is on its way. It’s foreshadowing the new beginnings that are ahead of us: new places visited and skills developed during Minicourse, new collaboration and project during End of Year Projects, new beginnings for the Class of 2012 and welcoming of the Class of 2016. It’s hard to believe we have a little more than three months of school left—but much excitement is ahead!