January 31, 2020

Why Middle School at McGillis is Different

by Tim Campbell, Middle School Director

How often does your child come home from school and offer you a curt “good” in response to your inquiry of their day?  Often? This isn’t unusual. Which, of course, you already knew because, if we know our community, you’re a well-connected group of parents that share and compare the trials, tribulations and joys of parenting an adolescent.  If you’re looking for a little more meaning behind “good”, allow me to offer you a few details on the experience we create for our middle school students.  


Our small class sizes and differentiation strategies enable our teachers to provide individualized attention to our students. Not only do the teachers know your child, your child is known and valued as an individual -- and a healthy relationship with their teachers yields excellent academic results. And, as Middle School Director, it’s important for me to know each and every one of my students. When I’m not in the hallways or in the classrooms, my door is always open.  


Young adolescence is a period of rapid development that can be complicated and also filled with joy and positive experiences. To support our students during these years, our Kehilah Crew program pairs students with a caring adult mentor and a small peer group to support them through various developmental stages of middle school. This setting makes entry into adolescence less stressful, offering our students the ability to discover who they are and confront the changes that come as they progress through adolescence.


We want our students to be confident about who they are and accepted by all. The crux of our students’ social and emotional well-being is in creating a culture of belonging. Our teachers actively work to foster healthy connections with and between students with intentional interactions, social-emotional exercises, thoughtfully crafted curriculum, and programmatic opportunities.  Providing the time and space for students to socialize across grade-levels, and to learn to empathize with others with one great outcome -- social inclusion.


Imperative to our mission, we offer a learning structure that extends beyond core academics and is grounded in our values. Offering our students experiential programs such as Outdoor and Environmental Explorations and Integrative Studies, encourages our students to take risks in the spirit of learning.


Being a kindergarten through 8th-grade school offers leadership opportunities to our Middle School students at a time when they are naturally developing these skills and need the exposure, encouragement, and responsibility that come with being the oldest students in a school. We welcome you to join us for All in the Family Group Lunch on April 24th to meet your child’s family group; it’s a great way to witness your child’s leadership skills in action.  


Of course, our parents are also a significant part of our community and important partners in student success. Our teachers communicate frequently regarding student challenges and needs, as well as to celebrate progress. And when it’s time to begin thinking about high school, we find a family decision involving the student, along with the support from our team, offers positive outcomes. By 8th grade, our graduates are prepared for the next phase of their journey. And, as with students, my door is also open to our parents.   

If you’re one of those fortunate parents who can get your middle school child to offer more details about their day than “good”, we’d love to hear about it. And with your permission, and your child’s of course, we’d love to share their stories on social media or our Spring issue of The Musings. Please feel free to send an email to myself or