The lights dimmed on the theater stage as the actors from The Defamation Play entered and took their places on the set. As I sat amongst the students of the Upper School, I felt the anticipation in the room. We were sharing a common experience of performance, and in the next 90 minutes, would listen and learn together. I relished the intensity of the moment in this profound example of community.
This play was the introduction to the Upper School Pre-Summit, a day for students to investigate the complex issues of intersectionality in contemporary culture in advance of the New England Youth Identity Summit. In the months leading up to this day, student volunteers worked together to create the plan. During brief snatches of lunchtime and longer after-school sessions, students came together to share their vision for the day. The focus became a crafting of a commonality of language and experience about gender, race, culture, class, sexuality, and religion. The students shared personal experience and knowledge of methods of dialog. As they created a curriculum for the day, their role as facilitators emerged.
Witnessing this process and then watching the day unfold was one of the most rewarding experiences of my thirty-one years at Waynflete. I saw the fruits of teachers’ modeling and teaching of dialog as the students listened to each other. The respect that was shown to the student facilitators, the mastery of the facilitators to lead discussion beyond proscribed discussion activities, the trust and honesty expressed in the students as they shared personal experience—this is the epitome of the Waynflete experience.
Returning to the theater at the end of the day, students chattered about the remarkable stage performance and the important discussions that took place in their advising groups. One of my advisees said it best: “I have been in the same room with these kids all year, but I learned so much about them today.”
Waynflete emerged on April 5 as a school committed to communication and relevancy in its curriculum. We are inspired to move forward and continue this important dialog.