This is the final installment (8th grade) in a series of three new StG blog posts that introduce us to “Joey K.,” none other than Dr. Joe Kreutziger, our Head of School! Characterized as, “The three best days of the year,” Dr. K transformed into Joey K. this school year—a new St. George’s student experiencing a day in the life of our Pre-K4, 4th grade and 8th grade students.
The third and final installment in a series of new StG blog posts introduces us again to “Joey K.,” none other than Dr. Joe Kreutziger, our Head of School! Characterized as, “The three best days of the year,” Dr. K transformed into Joey K. this school year—a new St. George’s student experiencing a day in the life of our Pre-K4, 4th grade and 8th grade students.
Dr. Kreutziger remarked at April’s Annual Meeting: “One of my professional goals, after leading through the stress and strain of the pandemic and Ida, was to find ways to reconnect to the joy in what we do as educators, to spend time with the students and see the school through their eyes, and to learn from and appreciate all the while our faculty and staff in the course of their work with your children. I needed pathways back into the work and the life of the school this year. It is one thing to walk around campus, attend games and performances and events, even visit a class or two each week when time permits. It is another thing to fully engage. I wanted the full immersion program.”
It seems so far away and long ago since I was an 8th grader; we have to go back all the way to November of 2022. I’m sorry I don’t have more photographs of my experience, but every time I took out my phone, it was confiscated. No cell phones are allowed in Middle School, and that’s a hard rule the students and teachers both called me on. That was a real bummer. I had to sneak the pictures most of the time.
Let’s also admit that I have a failing grade in Spanish right now. Six weeks of Duolingo in 2016 before a trip to Spain did not prepare me for success in Senor Guth’s class. Thank the good Lord that my desk group quadrant supported me during Block 1. We moved swiftly from our online quizzes on verb conjugations to writing five sentences en espanol about our weekend, to a read aloud to the group, to an assessment on expressions with the verb tener. There was no opting out. Senor Guth called on all of us, to the great glee of my classmates. To support my failing efforts and attempts, Senor Guth said I would benefit from some extra help before the quiz that Friday. As a student in 8th grade, I knew it was my responsibility to take him up on his offer, and I must own the grade I earned and the opportunity I was provided to improve it. This will be an important lesson I take into high school!
At St. George’s, we do like to celebrate our successes, and I did have one that day! My comfort zone was Mrs. Musa’s English Language Arts (ELA) writing block, where we were moving from self-editing to peer editing on a comparative essay recently drafted. Mrs. Musa is a master at the writing workshop model and the process of writing. Her students have their editing checklists and moved through them with care and confidence, and as a former English teacher, I was in heaven! I felt very confident in sharing my two pages of feedback to Amelia on her two paragraphs of drafting, far more than she could have hoped for or needed! I knew that Ph.D in English would come in handy one day. And speaking of being in your comfort zone, all of the third floor ELA classrooms of Porteous Hall have these comfy lounge chairs in various corners where you can sit when reading or working one-on-one with a peer. I became so immersed in this work with Amelia that I neglected to make it to Mrs. Burns’ ELA class, happening simultaneously.
PE was another story, and here I had to lean into the discomfort of both the activities and my current state of physical fitness. It was the week of our Red, White and Blue Games, so there were a series of relay races and challenges in the gym for us to take on as Houses. The rubix cube relay race, where you have to work as a team to, one by one, move cones into color sequences after racing back and forth across the span of the gym, was mentally and physically exhausting. I loved the strategy behind the volleyball target games as well. Nothing was simply exercise. I was actively, mentally and physically challenged the entire class. And, thanks to me, the Dragons came in third place for 8th grade that day. (And, yes, there are only three houses…)
Perhaps my favorite block of the day was music and our Orff Ensemble rehearsal. We were a month away from the Holiday Concert and Lessons and Carols at the church, and the 8th graders were anchoring the Orff Ensemble with performances of Silent Night and Carol of the Bells. I caught on quickly….until I didn’t. The middle section of Silent Night was a catastrophe for me, and that’s when Nicholas respectfully approached me and said, I kid you not, “I see that you’re struggling with Silent Night on the xylophone. What do you think is giving you trouble? Perhaps I can help you. Here, let me write down the notes for you so you can read your music better.” And that’s exactly what he did, which supported me through the class. I know Ms. Rosser regrets not inviting me to perform at the church last December, or even Graduation yesterday afternoon, but I’m confident I’ll be first xylophone next December.
For all their troubles and hospitality, I treated our 8th grade students and advisors to pizza in the Commons, where we talked basketball and volleyball, soccer and Robotics seasons and the big choices of high school before them all. I felt like I had gained insight into something new, something special, about every single one of them that day, just by seeing a glimpse into a day in their lives. They’d really come together as a group, something that always happens in that final year here. Just like this day, they always sit together at the same round table under the pagoda of The Commons, every single day it’s not raining, all of them wearing their red Class of 2023 sweatshirts, each one of them fitting and finding their place so that the image of them looks to be a tightly spun, red-hued ring with their conversation and conviviality at the center of it all. That time spent together, that’s the invisible, tightly-knit bond between them all.
And now those high school choices have long been made for our 8th graders—the rest of the year and all of its sports, its classes and extracurricular seasons a thing of the past. Yesterday, the Class of 2023 graduated. November seems at once like yesterday and ages ago. The year has flown by, and yet it’s been so full. That is the poetry of middle school time, to be this young and this old at their ages, to be this present in the here and now, and yet be on the cusp of the rest of their lives. That, I thought, was the very epitome of the 8th grade student experience, to be balanced on the scale in the middle of it all, poised between these two immensities of your childhood that in many ways you leave behind at graduation, and of adulthood that opens up before you like a grand, wide vista of possibilities.
So some key takeaways from my days in Pre-K4, 4th grade and 8th grade, all interrelated and all related to Culture with a capital C.
St. George’s has an excellent faculty, and I’m reminded that perhaps the most important thing a school administration does, beyond ensuring the basic safety and wellbeing of our students, is in the hiring, retention and support of an excellent faculty. They’re so good at what they do, and I need to honor that!
Put simply, there is so much thought and care put into the day of our students at every level.
In Early Childhood, play is learning. It’s where socialization and problem solving and decision-making and, yes, joy happens. There’s tremendous balance between the social-emotional and academic learning, built into the very structure of the day. They are so wonderfully intertwined, particularly with the Project Approach, but really everywhere.
In Lower School, I was blown away by the teachers’ pacing and instruction, how intentional the considerations were on when our students were most headily engaged in their academics, when we did a mindfulness exercise after returning from recess to calm our minds and bodies, and when, say, Mrs. McConnell chose to read a chapter book to the class after lunch. It’s like every single detail had been analyzed to provide the greatest opportunity for optimal learning.
In Middle School, it was how intentional relationships have been forged, the mentorship and coaching, the trust, the rapport between faculty and students, how at this point the core values are not only espoused and cultivated but inculcated.
Man, these students are known.
Even and perhaps especially in PE, every activity required strategy, teamwork and problem solving so that even the least athletic (and old) among us found avenues for contribution and engagement.
You feel a part of it, always.
At every level our students are so comfortable and confident in themselves and with their teachers. At every level it felt like I went from a curiosity to an amusement to a person genuinely cared for and included by them. Their days are not easy, but they’re not supposed to be. We have a saying around here that everybody is working on something. We all have strengths and deficits that thereby need to be challenged and supported to arrive at the best version of ourselves and the best version of St. George’s. That means we’re sometimes making mistakes, struggling in Spanish, losing a math quiz bowl, walking around with a wet butt from a dewy playground or elated at naming 50 states.
The students are learning and growing in such profound ways every day. We have a terrific culture, y’all.
I’d like to thank all of our faculty and the staff alongside them for making this happen every day at StG. I am truly honored to be your student and partner in our education together, and to learn from you every day I get to be at StG.
- Faculty and Staff
- Head of School
- Middle School