DEEP IN THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER, AS MANY ADULTS AND children alike experience seasonal sluggishness and fatigue, there’s anything but a sense of slowing down on the Harding Academy campus.
The teachers and administration keep pace with the rising temperatures and humidity, as dreams and visions for the year ahead accelerate and take shape, and an infectious energy fills the halls and classrooms.
Within that kinetic atmosphere, though, Head of School David Skeen points to a disciplined sense of focus amongst his entire team as they plan for the year ahead.
“Our teachers are incredibly committed to the mission of Harding Academy,” he says. “A mission ‘to educate and inspire young people to become thoughtful, creative, lifelong learners and self-disciplined, responsible, caring citizens.’”
Along with Skeen, Lower School Director Laura Underwood and Middle School Director Jay Codispoti encourage serious reflection on this mission statement.
“We begin the year by reading the mission aloud to the faculty and the students,” Codispoti says.
Likewise, Underwood says she meets “with teachers individually and by grade level to discuss programming and instruction. Their enthusiasm for the children and the curriculum shines through, so it is always an exciting experience.”
More than an abstract statement, Harding Academy's mission characterizes the actionable philosophy that enlivens everything from curriculum development to relationships between staff, parents, and students.
Skeen observes, “We are lucky in that we have incredible faculty, who are professional and as such, are motivated to reflect on and improve each lesson. When a teacher feels connected to a place and its mission, that mission and purpose will manifest itself through the ways they engage their students.”
Recently, teachers schoolwide were asked to provide examples of their Mission Exemplars: model practices, processes, and programs that illustrate Harding Academy’s mission and unique commitment to inspiring curiosity, courage, and cooperation by balancing academic rigor with personal care. Highlights included:
Teacher: Anne Swift
In this effort, children create and govern their own town. Laws are created, and mock town meetings resolve conflict within community. The need for self-discipline is acquired in a child-centered way. Students’ fellow “citizens” hold them responsible for their actions. A caring community evolves and leads to a learning experience they remember for a lifetime.
Project: “Trench warfare” lesson
Teacher: Meridith Dyer
Grade: Eighth grade
Empathy and visualization are key
themes of this project. Students explore, through essay writing, how certain groups of people are targeted or treated unfairly throughout history—slaves, Jews, Slavs—and how we as citizens can try to stop this history from repeating.
This project requires rigorous research in tandem with thoughtful considerations of ethics and our place in the global community.
This year, students engaged further by viewing the presidential inauguration and exploring the reality that they will soon have a voice in our government.