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Monthly Archives: May 2016

Dissenting, venting, listening, and learning

Late last month, a good portion of Darrow School’s student body staged a walk out of Hands-to-Work to draw attention to issues they felt weren’t being discussed. We quickly convened to the Tannery for a productive two-hour session, during which students did a lot of venting and also a lot of listening to each other. Faculty and administrators did a lot of listening, too.

In the days following, I held three after-dinner meetings that I hoped would help us delve deeper into student perceptions, and also address some assumptions that were bumping through the student body. Here are my takeaways from those meetings:

  • Students recognize and think about their school as a business, though they are uneasy with the idea of the school making profit, which is all for the good.
  • The concept of not-for-profit business is not at all intuitive to international students, which makes sense given that this sector is not prominent in much of our world.
  • Students trust each other more than adults in cases where they feel the adults don’t have competency, especially around identity issues.
  • Students want to engage in designing their lives and don’t want it handed to them, for the most part. Other parts they most definitely do want pre-made and pre-structured.

I’m proud of how our students advocated for themselves, and of how the adults responded thoughtfully and wholeheartedly. I expected nothing less and have learned a lot from the experience.

For that I’m grateful.

Success for Dress

This week, Darrow has been trying out a new dress code designed to focus on some of the issues for which dress codes have been criticized recently:

The trial code is intentionally brief: “Darrow community members are expected to refrain from displaying inappropriate or offensive imagery and language on their clothing.” Although it is not perfect (clearly there is ample latitude for interpretation), the administration believes the code will give our students a chance to rise to the occasion, to show through their choice of attire what they consider to be their purpose each day as students, and to maintain an open dialogue that our community began two weeks ago.

Dress code is certainly a divisive issue in many, if not most, independent schools, especially those who want their students to have a significant voice in shaping the culture of the school. I’m excited to see what the week ends up looking like and how our students respond. I’m also eager to find out what other students, teachers, and administrators are experiencing at their institutions. Please feel free to comment below or email me at holzapfels@darrowschool.org.