"The freedom that is given to the child is not liberation from parents and teachers; it is not freedom from the laws of Nature or of the state or of society; but the utmost freedom for self-development and self-realization compatible with service to society."
Students experience more of both freedom and responsibility in the Middle School. While teachers provide scaffolding, students build their own habits of organization and routine in order to keep up with a greater workload and meet the academic goals they set for themselves. At the end of each week students complete a self-assessment and take incomplete work home for the weekend. When they return to school on Monday, they will conference with their teachers to discuss goals and progress. Each quarter students prepare a more in depth self-assessment and compile a portfolio of their work to share their achievements, challenges, and intentions for improvement with their parents.
In Middle School students are given a variety of opportunities to demonstrate mastery. Assessment is ongoing and includes teacher observation, tests, projects, and presentations. Rubrics and self-assessments provide clear expectations and allow students to set goals and evaluate their own learning. In addition students receive constructive feedback on their work. During this bridge between elementary and high school we aim to prepare students for traditional grading standards. Therefore tests and projects are scored on a traditional grading scale and report cards include letter grades.
It is vital that students establish successful habits around homework in order to make steady progress throughout the program as well as to prepare for high school and college. Village Gate teachers are committed to assigning reasonable amounts of meaningful work for students to complete independently. While students may take some time creating a routine and developing the self-discipline for homework, they are supported and encouraged throughout the process. Parents can help by maintaining an environment at home that is conducive to work at a regular time each evening. Gentle reminders are welcome, but we encourage parents to allow students to take full responsibility for their work and experience the natural consequences that result from neglecting homework.
Clothing can be one of the most contentious topics for adolescents and the adults in their lives. Teenagers use clothing as a way to express their personalities, to conform in order to feel accepted by a peer group, or to deviate in order to set themselves apart. As we all know, clothing can make us feel comfortable, empowered, attractive, or self-conscious. As our adolescents experiment with the clothes they wear, they learn subtle but important lessons about their world and their place in it from the responses to their choice of dress. At Village Gate we find it an important responsibility to help students navigate the often conflicting messages about their bodies and their clothes. We find that a strict dress code only serves to increase conflict, shame and a lack of fairness. Therefore, we approach the topic as an open conversation that fosters students' sense of agency and self-awareness. We encourage students to think consciously but not obsessively about the way they present themselves in different places and situations and to notice their own assumptions and judgments in response to others' dress. Our aim in this area, as with all areas of education, is to prepare students to engage confidently and successfully in the world beyond school.
Students require computers with word processing and spreadsheet software in order to complete assignments and prepare adequately for high school. Students are expected to use their computers strictly for research and school work while at school. If it helps their productivity, students are permitted to listen to music on their computers while working provided that they use headsets and approved playlists. Phones must be turned off and placed in the basket provided by the teachers each morning and will be returned at the end of the school day. If a student needs to reach a parent, he or she can use a teacher’s phone.