Trust the Process:
Student Government Kicks Off!
This past month our Middle School students and teachers embarked on a brand new initiative: establishing a student government, and using Quaker process to nominate and select student leaders from each homeroom to serve as representatives on the student government team. Our students have completed the nominations, and will soon engage in meetings to decide on two representatives from each of our 11 homerooms.
We chose to use a Quaker decision-making process called sense-of-the-meeting rather than traditional voting to select our student leaders. As a Friends school, we believe in using decision-making processes consistent with our mission; we also see the value of providing our students with group decision-making experiences that will give them skills for high school, college and career.
Unlike a majority-rule process such as voting, which is common in many student government systems, a Quaker sense-of-the-meeting process is cooperative, involves listening and discovery, and culminates with participants uniting on a decision. This does not necessarily mean that everyone agrees, like a consensus process, but rather that everyone feels comfortable moving forward. In this way, the group can emerge empowered and united, rather than disempowered and divided, which can result from voting. Of course, the process takes time, patience, listening skills and perseverance. If we trust our process, we think there will be a great payoff for our students and our Middle School community well into the future.
A faculty committee, led by Assistant Director Allen Vandegrift, has been shepherding our team through this process, which included advisory lessons to help students develop best practices for group decision making, faculty training in Quaker decision making, and student input on the traits and characteristics of leaders. As we enter into the student selection process, I think we all feel excited but also uneasy because of the autonomy and trust we are placing in our middle graders. We know they are up to the task, and that some mistakes will be made, but believe that in the end the learning experience and the skills gained will be worth the effort.
Of course, when we have our student meetings to select representatives, there are guidelines in place to ensure that the process is positive and uplifting for all involved. Most importantly, students may only lift up a nominee’s traits, characteristics or behaviors that make him or her an excellent candidate, rather than sharing reasons nominees would not be effective leaders. Our teachers will clerk the meetings and will uphold important aspects of a sense-of-the-meeting process such as:
- Understanding that this process takes time and patience
- Establishing a climate where all students are given the opportunity to be heard and feel safe
- Helping ensure that all voices are heard equally and not just those who are extroverts or high energy
- Directing the group away from applause or outward displays of approval that can unfairly sway the group process
- Helping the group trust that the wisdom of the group is greater than the wisdom of any individual**
**adapted from Arthur M. Larrabee’s Friends Decision Making in a Friends School
We look forward to engaging in this process and then reaping the benefits of student voice, leadership and ideas in our Middle School program. We anticipate that our new student representatives will meet about once a month, lead grade-level student meetings, serve as resources for teachers and administrators making decisions about our program, and more. As this system develops, we envision students leading students in larger Meetings for Business using Quaker decision making processes. We are appealing to our students’ growing sense of autonomy, and anticipate that this system will build leadership capacity, unity and community for years to come. If you have any questions or if you would like more information, please feel free to contact me.
Director of the Middle School
Events and Happenings in Our Middle School
Please encourage your child to participate in our Holiday Gift Drive. Please click here for a flyer with more information.
Interested in growth mindset? View a recent advisory lesson delivered to our eighth graders to learn more.
In a recent Middle School assembly, aspiring artist and current eighth grader Kaela Savoy-Cooper presented her passion to our Middle School community—making art. View her short animated video. It’s a must see!
We hope to see all of you at our annual Middle School Choral and Band Concert on Monday, Dec. 11, starting at 7:00 pm in the Kurtz Center!