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Many changes ahead for middle school

The Middle School plans to make changes to its students’ schedules, among other changes.

“There’s three big things that we’ve been talking about as a faculty,” said Pat Sillup, Head of the Middle School.

Those “big things” are insulated class time, increased learning opportunities, and student recognition.

How do they do these things? Well, the Middle School will have a different schedule to help allow for insulated class time.

Community time will start the day, then there are periods one and two. After that, lunch, then the “ensemble block,” and then the day ends with periods three and four according to Sillup.

“The day itself becomes clean,” he said. “It will make a lot of sense for students and for the teachers.”

The Middle School will still have their eight class schedule; however, they will only have four classes a day, according to Sillup.

As for the ensemble block, students will be offered classes like Band, Chorus, or they can take part in other musical endeavors.

“All of our guys will be doing an ensemble next year,” Sillup said.

That ensemble might be Band, Chorus, or another type of a musical experience.

“Whether is guitar, whether is trying a garbage can band type of thing … whether it’s singing in another format rather than chorus, everyone’s going to be doing something,” Sillup said.

The Middle School will also be implementing trimesters into their new format for next year.

“Trimesters is just a longer grading period,” Sillup said. “A quarter right now is seven to eight weeks, a trimester gives you eleven to twelve weeks.”

Sillup thinks that additional time in a term will allow for students to process information more thoroughly.

“When that’s done, we have a week that’s going to bridge trimesters, in which those things like winter trips, those things like a class trip is going to launch a specific theme or unit,” Sillup said.

Other things like conferences and demonstrations of learning will also take place during that time, according to Sillup.

Chris Krein ’21 likes the new trimester format, “because everyone’s getting really lazy for the fourth quarter.”

Krein knows that one of his eighth grade classes will be taken away. He said he would really only care if one of the classes he wanted to lose was taken away, but he did not specify which class that was.

“The biggest positive is definitely more work ethic,” he said.

And after a year of no-cuts for the Middle School, there will now be only one team per sport.

“That’s something that we still want to work through,” Sillup said. “The initial goal was ‘how do you create better opportunities for students?’”

“We’ve found over the years that more teams doesn’t always equal a better experience for a student,” he said.

Sillup thinks it is important for players and coaches to communicate better. “Sixth, seventh and eighth grade baseball don’t all use the same language,” he said.

Krein is not excited about the one team rule coming to the Middle School. “I’m going to compare it to what it is for lacrosse currently. Around fifty percent of the Middle School is in lacrosse.”

He doesn’t want to see a lot of people get cut from the team.

Jamie Wasson is the Middle School lacrosse coach, and may have to make cuts to his sixty player team next year. However, he plans not to.

“With the lacrosse program, it’s going to be a similar setup to what it is now, with the two teams that are traveling and playing against other schools,” he said. “We’ll just have one team, but within the Middle School lacrosse program, I’ll have a rotating roster for each one of those games.”

“I typically take twenty-one kids to a game,” Wasson said. “Next year I’ll probably take twenty-one kids to a game, however, I’ll probably have I-don’t-know-how-many kids playing lacrosse [on one team.]”

Wasson thinks that a one team rule would make sports more competitive “in terms of kids that actually make the team.”

“Having three teams for the basketball program… I think that kind of waters down the competition level,” he said.

Wasson said he has also heard stories about kids who didn’t make a certain team, and then ended up trying and excelling at another sport.

The Middle School has also identified three teachers who will be next year’s grade level deans.

The Sixth Grade dean will be Wasson, the Seventh Grade dean will be Mr. Leo Kindon, and the Eighth Grade dean will be Mr. Robert Buscaglia, according to Sillup.

The application process was a few weeks long, Sillup said.

“We asked questions that we feel get at the root of what the position is all about, which in this case was teamwork, chief communicator, someone that’s really gonna be a great touch point for parents,” he said.

Wasson said that Sillup sent an email to the faculty, explaining what a grade level dean would do.

“The email basically said, ‘this is what a grade level dean would do, if there’s anybody interested, please send an email back,’” according to Wasson. “I did that, and then a week later I sat down in an interview.”

The interviewers were Sillup, Mrs. Michele Lott, Mrs. Mary Schreiner, and Mrs. Carissa Casey. “They interviewed me for about an half hour, and asked me about twelve questions,” he said.

“They asked questions about leadership, different things that I’ve done over the years,” Wasson said. “[They asked] me to give examples of times when I had to be a leader.”

Wasson was also given an example of a situation and asked how he would respond.

“It was like like a round table type of thing,” he said. “They were all on one side and I was on the other.”

Sillup is enthusiastic about all the changes.

“If you look at the way [Christian Talbot, Head of School] framed academic transformation, the idea was to start with the sixth grade group, and then scale that up,” he said.

And as Sillup puts it, “We’re here to evolve.”

About Joe Lister

Joe Lister is has been on the Blackfriar Chronicle for two years. He is from West Chester, Pa. He is in MTS and also plays soccer for Malvern.

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