At Wildwood, we value reflection; we ask our students and ourselves to take stock in what we do well, what we’d like to do better, and how we’ve grown over time. In her 8th grade Gateway presentation today, Kaiya K. charts her growth over the past two years in Division Two; highlighting her educational strengths and weaknesses (or stretches, as we prefer).
For the teachers, family and friends assembled here today, it is a chance to bear witness to Kaiya’s growth and transition from middle to upper school. All eyes are on Kaiya as she stands before her audience in her fancy dress and sweater, holding a thick deck of ring-bound note cards, as she guides the crowd with ease through the visuals she projects on the whiteboard.
Kaiya begins her presentation by describing her life’s passion: “I love to sing,” she says and pauses to add, “…everywhere!” Her audience indicates their agreement with a good-natured laugh. Anyone who knows Kaiya knows her penchant for musical performance. She shares a video clip of herself in elementary school singing and playing “Hit the Road, Jack” in a church talent show, to everyone’s delight.
For all Wildwood 8th graders like Kaiya, the Gateway presentation is the capstone of nearly three months of preparation and revision as they work with their advisors’ guidance to make their case for advancement to upper school. Their scope of reflection encompasses all of the past two years in Division Two.
For the lion’s share of her Gateway, Kaiya highlights her strengths and stretches in each of her classes since 7th grade, culminating with a reflection on her growth as a learner. To prove her point Kaiya shares a piece of her writing from humanities class last year, projected on the whiteboard. “As you can see, this doesn’t have a topic sentence and I didn’t even use proper punctuation,” Kaiya reveals. Then, she proudly displays an example from this year, “Not only does this paragraph include a topic sentence, but look at all of the evidence I included to support it.” Kaiya looks over and smiles at her humanities teacher and advisor for the past two years, Megen O’Keefe, who reciprocates and nods her approval.
These final two weeks of the school year, Kaiya is not alone as all Wildwood 8th and 10th graders students conduct their Gateway presentations, reflecting on the past two years of their learning and growth. The expectations for students rise with age and, in order to graduate, 12th graders produce a 90-minute Senior Exhibition, displaying their academic and intellectual achievements, along with their preparedness for college.
Kaiya wraps up her Gateway presentation by outlining some concrete goals for 9th grade: to better organize her materials, manage her time more efficiently and maintain her focus on her studies. Then, her teachers, family and friends have the opportunity to ask questions and offer congratulations. Kaiya’s accomplishments and confidence elicit an emotional outpouring of pride. Her advisor, Megen O’Keefe, tears in her eyes, sums up many others’ feelings: “Kaiya,” she says, “you blow me away!”