Posts Tagged multicultural curriculum

Our Visitors See It: Advisory Is Essential

At Wildwood School we design our programs with our students’ futures in mind—helping them learn the key content, build essential skills, and develop the necessary habits for success in college and life.

Advisory is an essential part of our design.

A recent "chalk talk" discussion in a Division Two  advisory

A recent “chalk talk” discussion in a Division Two advisory

We dedicate much more time to advisory at Wildwood than most other school, public or private (four hours per week in most grades). That’s intentional, and has helped our advisory program gain notoriety—nationally and internationally.

This past week, I had occasion to reflect on how meaningful that commitment to advisory truly is. Every year The Wildwood Outreach Center hosts visiting educators from across the world, curious to see how advisory works at Wildwood, as they consider how their own schools’ advisory programs can develop.

Students in Erin Hansen's Division Two advisory engage in discussion

Students in Erin Hansen’s Division Two advisory engage in discussion

Visits to Wildwood’s middle and upper school advisories in action are a key part of the work.  I believe it is significantly helpful for our visitors to see the consistency of purpose common to all strong advisory programs. Last week at Wildwood, that meant in all four Divisions, one theme—multiculturalism—played out in four different, developmentally appropriate lessons.

Our advisory program’s multicultural theme provides a full scope of work that ensures each student understands and assesses the elements of one’s own multicultural identities (e.g., race, gender, physical ability, etc.) and how they operate in the world around them.

Here are snapshots of what our visitors saw our students working on during one advisory period:

Division One (6th grade) Focus: Choosing ally behavior
Students circulate through four stations, each prompting them to consider the different perspectives of people in conflict: bullies, targets, bystanders, and allies. Using this “four square” model, students discuss, among other topics, the challenges and benefits of choosing ally behavior over being a bystander.

Division Two (7th and 8th grades) Focus: Physical appearance
Through a “four corners” discussion, students grapple with how our society’s obsession with physical appearance can often lead to objectification—treating a person as a thing without considering his or her humanity.

Division Three (9th and 10th grades) Focus: Socio-economic status
Student teams are assigned hypothetical socio-economic profiles (some wealthy, some poor, some in-between) which either help or hinder their abilities to simulate a year in their lives: find housing and transportation, build a budget to meet household needs, etc.

Senior Institute (11th and 12th grades) Focus: Education
Advisory discussions focus on how socio-economic status, race, and gender intersect to create distinct advantages and disadvantages for students taking the SAT and ACT for college entrance.

What our visitors see is that through advisory, we live our school’s mission, daily—providing students the time and space to think, learn, and reflect on the topics relevant to their future success amid the competing priorities of a complex, evolving, and multicultural world.

That’s an advantage Wildwood students will take with them—to college and into life.

~ By Steve Barrett, Director of Outreach, Teaching, and Learning

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How’s This for a Little Miss Representation?

A movie that depicts scantily clad women vying for men’s attention in beer commercials, women “catfighting” on a reality TV show, and cable news commentators criticizing the physical appearance of women in public office.  So…. How is this day’s media diet different from all other days? For starters, these images are part of Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s provocative documentary Miss Representation, and Tuesday the film was the jumping off point for conversations in all of Wildwood’s Division Three Humanities classes. Just after the screening, I joined a group of twenty-eight young men and their teacher, Jason David. We sat in a circle to share our thoughts.

The 2011 film is age-appropriate, yet disturbing, showing many of the thousands of vivid images of demeaning, misogynist messages that bombard each of us through the media.

Owen L. is an aspiring writer and videogame designer. “The movie really made me consider what messages I’ll be putting out into the world someday.” His classmate, another 10th grader, Julian C., adds his thoughts. “It’s not just the messages about women,” he argues, “the media’s messages to men are also extremely limiting. If you don’t embrace the hyper-masculine James Bond-type, the media make you feel as if you’re not a man.”

The film’s thesis: media representations of women hinder their abilities to reach positions of power and authority in American society. Because of the subject matter, the Division Three Humanities teachers divided their students into gender-specific discussion groups to facilitate more open dialogue. Jason and I sit in with the boys while Jason’s colleagues, Ariane White, Annie Barnes, and Katy Green, hold a parallel discussion with the girls in a different room.

As the discussion continues, 9th grader David O. offers this perspective: “The movie talks about the media as if it’s some monolithic thing that’s entirely responsible for all of these negative messages,” he begins.  “But we’re the ones who consume what the media makes.  If anyone’s to blame, it’s us.”  Others in the group concur, then raise the deeper question of what role each of us plays in perpetuating the conditions the film depicts.  “It’s a vicious cycle,” 9th grader Max C. responds. “The media say that they portray women like this because it’s what the public wants, but the public consumes it because it’s all that they see in the media.” The conversation veers from idea to idea, then to insight, as the boys consider the layers of meaning.

The screening and discussion of Miss Representation this week is part of Wildwood’s comprehensive multicultural curriculum. In Division Three, the focus is on gender issues. Jason David asks the boys to consider a final question before the class period ends: based on what you’ve seen and discussed here today, what thoughts would you like to share with the girls in Division Three?  Tomorrow, they’ll have a chance to address this question and their female peers during a division-wide discussion.

Deep dialogue leads to deep meaning.

To see the trailer for Miss Representation click HERE (please note: the trailer contains images and language that are not appropriate for younger children).

~ By Steve Barrett, Director of Outreach, Teaching, and Learning

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