Conversations in Education
From teacher book groups to conversations in the faculty lounge, Prep faculty and administrators think a lot about how we support students. Each month in 2017-18, we are featuring a piece by a Prep faculty member or administrator that gives a slice of life at Prep. If you would like to share your ideas, feel free to comment on an individual post or contact Dean of Studies Sarah Cooper.
From teacher book groups to conversations in the faculty lounge, Prep faculty read and talk a lot about education. Each month we highlight a few memorable pieces or videos. Our goal is to make the process of parenting, learning and living a little saner, to put things a little more in perspective. These articles will be chosen by Prep teachers and administrators. If you want to share your ideas, feel free to comment on an individual post or contact Dean of Studies Sarah Cooper.
February Newsletter: Middle School Community Service Day
by 7th Grade Dean Rachael Madore ‘05
To say that Middle School Community Service Day has a lot of moving pieces is an understatement.
94 middle schoolers.
6 parent chaperones.
8-10 locations, which can include Ronald McDonald House, Harambee School, Tierra Del Sol Foundation, Mothers’ Club, Lineage Dance, CAPS Adult Day Services, Club 21, Union Station Homeless Services, Don Benito Elementary School and Foothill Unity Center.
When Dean of Students Midge Kimble, 8th Grade Dean Megan Burton and I sit down to plan Community Service Day, we are a team, dividing up the organizations to contact, buses to schedule and chaperones to enlist. It’s an exercise in attention to details and flexibility. There have been organizations that canceled at the last minute or buses that didn’t show up on time, but the beauty of every community service day always circles back to the excitement of the students.
Over the course of middle school, twice each year, students have the opportunity to visit four different locations–learning about the community outside Prep, discovering new passions, narrowing in on potential ideas for their 8th grade Community Impact Projects and ultimately uniting as a middle school. Whether it is playing with toddlers at Mothers’ Club or doing a skit for seniors with Alzheimer’s at CAPS, our students have the chance to expand their awareness one experience or connection at a time.
What I love most about Community Service Day is that teachers, parent chaperones and students alike all roll up their sleeves and immerse themselves in the day. There is an unspoken understanding that age has nothing to do with the impact that you can make. Everyone offers what they can, whether it’s being a teacher’s assistant at Don Benito Elementary or serving breakfast at Union Station.
Before every outing, students are asked to research their organization and try to imagine the impact they will make. However, a lot of times, it is hard to predict that impact until you experience it. At Ronald McDonald House, a home for families with children undergoing treatment at Huntington Hospital or other nearby hospitals, students are typically asked to deep clean the house so that families feel comfortable. While this is by no means a glamorous job, students take on the responsibility with determination, some learning how to use a vacuum for the first time.
My favorite memory from Ronald McDonald House actually happened during our lunch break, when a family sat down with the students to generously share their story. The mother spoke in Spanish as her sixteen-year-old son translated, recalling their journey, many hours from their own home and without the resources to pay for an extended stay close to the hospital. They expressed their gratitude for volunteers who offered their time so that they wouldn’t have to worry about cleaning or cooking while taking care of their daughter, who was having reconstructive ear surgery. The students listened in silence, but with a razor-sharp focus as they recognized their impact in real time.
It’s times like this that the worries about scheduling and buses and last-minute changes all fade. It boils down to moments of human connection that we hope students take with them as they discover and refine their personal definition of service.
After serving as 7th Grade Dean for three and a half years, Rachael Madore '05 is leaving Flintridge Preparatory School this month for new adventures in Northern California. Dean of Students Midge Kimble will be taking over her responsibilities as dean for the remainder of the school year.
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