Darlington School: "This is Why" - What I Saw in 6th Grade
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“This is Why” - What I Saw in 6th Grade

Brent Bell | October 18, 2017 | 768 views

Two weeks ago on Tuesday and Wednesday, I fulfilled an obligation made in support of the Darlington’s Purple Tie Affair, our Parents’ Council auction and party that occurs each August. One of our students, sixth-grader Kayo Lufadeju, would be “Head of School for a day.” In a slight twist, I also spent the day before with Kayo as a sixth-grader. I’m not sure exactly what Kayo thought of being “Head of School,” but I had a great day as a sixth-grader.

At Darlington, we base much of the work we do around our Mission and how it is reflected in the “Portrait of a Graduate.” The portrait is an important aspect of our “Cycle of Learning” and, we believe, a key to developing each student’s skill set as they become confident contributors. Not knowing what to expect going into my day as a sixth-grader, I was thrilled to discover that aspects of the “Portrait of a Darlington Graduate” are being lived out ALL day, every day.

A Darlington graduate...

  • Passionately explores learning as a personal responsibility

  • Cultivates versatility by pursuing multifaceted goals (art, athletics, academics)

  • Identifies interdisciplinary connections

  • Transfers knowledge and applies skills from the familiar to the unfamiliar

  • Seeks and analyzes perspectives from multiple persons and cultures

  • Creates, collaborates, and effectively communicates with superior oral and written skills

  • Embraces a challenge, welcomes feedback,  and reconsiders an approach

  • Investigates global interconnectedness and cultivates empathy

  • Turns empathy into a lifetime of service

  • Values Honor above Everything

Even having a sixth-grader at home did not diminish my amazement at the amount of clothes needed to get through the day. We needed clothes for Fitness, the first class of the day, of course we needed our uniform, and we needed clothes for P.E./Sports at the end of the day. The different clothes, though, said something more than changing just for the sake of changing. They say that everything we do is important. In fact, it is a demonstration of “cultivating versatility.” Everything is a learning opportunity, and when we look at it as such we see the potential in each situation. I hope that we are helping our students see this as well.

One of my favorite, and I think most important, challenges of the “portrait” is the call to “embrace a challenge, welcome feedback, and reconsider an approach.” This was clearly evident in Strings class as Kayo and his friends worked with me to learn a few notes of the cello. I felt proud of myself, I embraced a challenge, I think I welcomed feedback, and I certainly reconsidered my approach more than a few times. But what was most compelling was the way that Kayo and his friends did the same thing in trying to teach me. They wanted me to learn, which gave me confidence to continue the attempt. I know that students at Darlington feel that sense of commitment from their teachers. We strive for that model on a daily basis.

Students in the sixth grade took responsibility for their learning, and so did their teachers. Whether it was engaging with math in real-world problems, collaborating to review vocabulary in Spanish, or checking sources related to planet projects in science, students and teachers were fully engaged in the learning process. For me, that made the day both inspiring and tiring. We were on the go, we were engaged, and we were looked after and cared about at every turn.  

At Darlington, we want our students to be both compassionate and empathetic. To show empathy, you must be able to put yourself in someone else’s situation. What a privilege it was for me to spend a day in the shoes of a sixth-grader.