MS Head's Blog
In the Middle of It All
Middle School Musings by Trevor O’Driscoll, Bancroft's Head of Middle School
Most weeks, MS Head Trevor O’Driscoll writes a short note to parents and faculty about middle school, education, parenting, and other topics relevant to our community. We share these Middle School Musings here for the benefit and enjoyment of all who are interested. Read recent entries, browse the archives, and delight in Mr. O’Driscoll’s take on our Middle School and the amazing people who inhabit it.
Yesterday I received several notes from adults who accompanied our students out into the world during our community service afternoon. Seventh grade teacher Kendra McCuine passed on some thoughts and memorable moments from her students’ visit to an eldercare facility:
“I'm so in awe of how fantastic our kids are. This could be a very intimidating situation for people their age, and they completely rose to the occasion!”
- Nate and Chris dancing with two of the ladies there (totally sweet)
- Talya delighting the folks in the Alzheimer's room with her violin
- Malea bringing home a picture that one of the folks there colored for her
I am always appreciative of notes like this. As these community service days approach, the logistics can start to override the big picture. It feels like a victory just watching Cheryl Cowley-Hollinger lasso more than a dozen amazing parent-volunteer drivers; marveling at Claire Campbell, who graciously coordinates with our many host agencies; working with Catherine Hanssen to make sure each student gets placed in one of their top choices; seeing nurse Janice Morello quietly swoop in with all the medical info and supplies we need to be healthy; and of course witnessing the tireless faculty who roll up their sleeves, rise to the challenge, step out into the world, and lead by example. Getting 150 people out the door and to the right places is a not-so-mini logistical miracle.
But then, of course, there are the stories of the deeds our kids do in the world, and suddenly I am reminded of the whole point of this work.
The snapshots shared, like the ones from Kendra, show us all why these efforts are so important and special. It’s impressive that so many folks work together to get us to our destinations. It’s more impressive to see what our kids can do for others when provided the opportunity.
Thank you to everyone involved, from the people mentioned above to the moms and dads who perform the daily miracle of getting their kids out the door in the morning. Here’s hoping your children have a wonderful, no-homework break filled with resting, running around, and reading for pleasure.
Last Friday night, while the sixth graders and parent volunteers were playing games at their alternative gym night event, and about 25 parents were squirming in their seats as they learned strategies about how to have “The Talk” with their adolescent kids, the seventh and eighth graders were up in the Boone Room for their winter dance.
Close your eyes and imagine a middle school dance. What do your senses register? Do you see a cavernous gym with a tiny disco ball hanging limply from the ceiling? Do you feel the sticky humidity in the air? Is your hearing being assaulted by the thumping drum and bass lines of the pop song of the week, spun by a cheesy middle-aged DJ with a bit too much enthusiasm? Don’t even tell us what it smells like.
Now imagine last Friday’s Bancroft Middle School Dance. You can take most of that sensory overload and throw it out the window. This Middle School dance had the unique markings of a Bancroft event.
There were the students who excitedly showed up early to decorate the room in a winter motif. The tunes were spun by eighth grader Violet, whose DJ setup (courtesy of her audio-genius dad) and skills put your average wedding DJ to shame. And while there was the typical dancing, non-dancing, and goofing around, there were other scenes one wouldn’t see at many other MS dances — like the group of students who clustered around Dima to watch him put some finishing touches on his robot for the next day’s competition (his team was a top 15 finisher, by the way), or the kids who curled up with books for a respite from the excitement.
Sure – the songs were loud, the air was hot and thick by the end of the night, and there was a certain hard-to-miss fug in the air. But how many dances do you remember ending like this one, pictured below, with an army of Middle Schoolers cleaning up the event that they planned, decorated, DJ’d, and executed by themselves?*
Another reason to love Bancroft and the kids who make us special.
*HUGE thanks to student council advisors Jody Stephenson and Angela Sigismondi who played more than a small role herding the cats. Also thanks to the eighth grade team for chaperoning the dance, all the sixth grade parents who helped make gym night a success, Pam Sheldon who organized the parent sex-ed workshop, and Kevin Briggs and Lance Stewart who spent Saturday with our robotics teams.
The sound was faint at first and barely noticeable. But the recurring trill pattern eventually began burrowing into my brain. It seemed to be coming from the next room. The pinging was familiar enough and would have made perfect sense – if only I was below sea in a submarine. Then it hit me. The ping was the lonely and desperate call initiated via the Find My iPad app. And thus began my favorite moment from the first two weeks of school.
Before I had time to get up and further explore the epicenter of the sound, I heard the not so subtle approach of three eighth grade boys outside my door.
“Wait! Let’s just check in with Mr. O in case he knows,” I heard one of them suggest. The boys burst into my office. A new student had lost his backpack. The ensuing (and thus far fruitless) search had lasted for quite some time and caused him to miss the bus. A stressful situation for any person was exponentially more nerve-wracking for an adolescent on Day 3 at a brand new school. Luckily for the newbie, two veteran students took up the cause and out of the common mission was formed a triumvirate. Now I was being asked for help not from a singular and overwhelmed rookie, but a team of problem solvers who seemed to be actually enjoying the inconvenience.
Moments later we found the backpack that contained the iPad that was making the ping that first caught my ear. The fact that the backpack was actually in study hall right where the student had last left it did not inhibit a round of exuberant high fives. Friendships were made and solidified. Never has a lost backpack been such a blessing. (Of course the missed bus meant mom had to make an extra trip to school, but for the purposes of this story, that detail makes the cutting room floor.)
There were plenty of amazing things happening on campus in the first two weeks of school. Some kids learned they could be pushed beyond and abandon their perceived limits, especially when it came to hiking mountains in New Hampshire. Others realized they are ready for more of a challenge and are eager to chase it. A few may have shifted a bit from established friendships and started cultivating new ones. Several learned they are ready to leave a tiny bit of their younger selves behind and grow into a leader. I learned that when you lose something, especially a backpack, you sometimes gain so much more.
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