This is the next article in King's 'Thought Leadership Series', which focuses on educational trends, independent school culture, growth mindset, teen development, and many other topics related to teaching and learning.Over the course of over 150 years in education, King School has guided students toward their personal best. Educating students from PreKindergarten through high school has led the school to recognize that successful intellectual development requires students to manage their social and emotional well-being so that cognitive growth can come to the fore. King achieves this by facilitating strong mentor relationships between teachers and students to ensure that every aspect of the King experience serves as a pathway to achieving individual growth and preparing for a life of accomplishments.
A prime example of King's approach to mentoring occurs during the middle school years, the most challenging stage of student development. It is then that biological changes intensify and threaten to derail cognitive development and the realization of each student's personal best. Recognizing this, King implements an Advisory Team to support and challenge students throughout their middle school years.
"We create many opportunities to develop strong bonds with the students," said Robert Waller, King History Faculty and Grade 6 Dean. "Each middle school student has a personal advisor and each day starts and ends by checking in with that advisor. We monitor their progress and make necessary adjustments in real time. Advisors have a direct line to the faculty and parents."
King's approach to mentoring is aligned with research in adolescent development. William Alexander, chairman of the department of education at George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, recognized that young adolescents are not simply older elementary school students nor younger high school students, but that there are dramatic changes that occur during this time of life requiring a radically different and unique approach to education.
Alexander set into motion a fundamental change in the approach to middle school education with "the establishment of a mentor relationship between teacher and student, the creation of small communities of learners, and the implementation of a flexible interdisciplinary curriculum that encourages active and personalized learning."
King is uniquely situated to be able to create these small, intimate, and safe groups. Small class sizes allow students to develop strong relationships with each other and to experience one-on-one time with King faculty. The faculty supports students so they take the lead in their own learning, as evidenced by our student-led conferences.
"We hold parent-teacher-student conferences led by the student," said Elizabeth Couch, King Middle School Mathematics Faculty. "Students present their academic achievements and identify how they might improve their performance. They establish personal goals and create strategies for achieving them, and then we as teachers and parents find ways we can support students."
These relationships help students navigate the challenging emotional terrain of the middle years which can so often distract from important cognitive work, so King students are able to maintain their course and prepare to succeed in high school and beyond.
King has structures in place across all grades so students are able to learn, excel, and realize their personal best. "Students understand they will be challenged and we prepare them to manage that," concluded Waller. "We cultivate tools they need to succeed: figuring out how to attack a problem. We practice using these tools so they become habits of the mind and students are fully prepared for future academic challenges."