The Experts Are In ... The Upper School
Sidwell Friends School certainly has its share of experts on the faculty. But when it comes to talking about the difficulties of growing up in today’s world, it’s clear who the authorities are: the students.
“I can talk forever about digital citizenship. I can talk forever about respect. I can talk about the Golden Rule—and kids get it intellectually,” says Middle School counselor Julia Porter. “But who do kids really listen to? They listen to other kids.”
That’s why Porter, along with Middle School Assistant Principal Tray White and Middle School Academic Technology Coordinator Nate Green, put together a special panel for the Middle School. They invited seven Upper Schoolers to the Middle School to discuss a far-ranging series of topics, including appropriate use of social media, healthy relationships, and being an “upstander.”
Porter says that many Sidwell Friends students think that, if they see someone being bullied, being an upstander just means tattling. “But one of the Upper School speakers talked about how your job as a friend is to take a friend aside and say, ‘Hey, dude, you need to stop. You’re hurting people,’” she says. “That’s really what I think an upstander is.”
The Middle Schoolers also asked their “elders” about body image and body shaming.
“One of the best things that came out is, when we got to a question about whether the speakers had been harassed about how they look or their body, the people who stepped up and answered that first were the boys on the panel,” Porter says. “They talked about what it’s like when you’re in the locker room, and how guys will give each other a hard time, and they don’t realize how hurtful that really is.”
The final lesson was one that gave the Middle Schoolers a glimpse into their future at the Upper School.
“They gave very mature advice,” Porter says. “For example, they said it may seem uncool to have awkward conversations with friends where you have to say things like, ‘You said something, and it made me feel really uncomfortable.’ And one girl said that’s what actually makes you cool in high school—your ability to take on hard things, to have hard conversations, and to stand up and know your values.”
The authentic and lived experience of the Upper Schoolers who shared their stories connected with the Middle Schoolers in a way no faculty-led workshop ever could. Good thing expert advice is just across campus.
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