One of my favorite things about the latter half of December and the early part of January is the homecoming of our alumnae. Almost every day, we have groups of young alums who return to campus to visit with their former teachers, younger students, and each other. Throughout these visits, the one resounding theme is how well-prepared they are for their life beyond Ellis.
The Holiday Shop is one of my favorite days at Ellis, as it gives our Middle School entrepreneurs the opportunity to share projects that they have worked on for several weeks. As a parent of two former Ellis Entrepreneurs, I remember the weeks leading up to the Holiday Shop as filled with laughter, excitement, doubt, and, sometimes, tears.
Why is it important for our students to learn about themselves, their neighbors, and their communities? Ms. Rigsby and Ms. Prepelka share how grade 7 students are looking both inward and outward as part of the Global Pittsburgh Project.
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
This quote from Anne Frank started a recent fourth grade team meeting. Immediately students connected the message and began to think of how they can help make the world a better place—as they are today. One student exclaimed, “I have lots of things that I don’t really need that I can share with others.” As in all grades, fourth grade students regularly put their good intentions into action through service learning projects, and like one fourth grade student said, many of us have more than we need and we can share to help others.
One of the things I most appreciate about my job at Ellis is the curiosity of my students. Even with lessons where I feel like I know the subject inside and out, I’m no longer surprised when a student raises a new thought or idea. Often, their questions are ones I’ve never thought about and require us to learn together. Learning with my students makes me a better teacher, Spanish speaker, and, surprisingly, a more knowledgeable Pittsburgher.
In my Gender and Power seminar, I have made it a priority to not only teach students about the history of gender in modern history, but to create a class that pushes students to apply their knowledge to the present. Rarely do my students read or hear something just for its own sake. Instead, our studies of the past serve as a first step to develop an informed awareness of the contemporary world through the lens of gender. For example, reading the stories of Victorian women carefully navigating the dangers of London streets can (and do) provide telling insights into today’s gendered urban spaces. My history seminar also asks students to go one step further and create a real-world project that both builds on our earlier studies and provides a platform for student activism.
It’s Friday morning and the Lower School is gathered together in the auditorium for our weekly assembly. Two fourth grade students stand on the stage with a wall of colorful blocks separating them. They try to reach up over it to take each other’s hand and their fingers barely connect. Each block has a word or phrase written on it volunteered by the students in the audience.