A Message from Alex Clain, Director of Middle School.
I love Middle School kids. It’s such a transitional time for them - no longer cute little children but not young adults yet either. These are some of the most challenging and exciting years for children. As an educator, it’s wonderfully rewarding to help guide them through the transition.
Students at this age have developing ideas and often feel like no one will listen to them. They feel awkward in bodies that are changing, thinking no one understands them and that no one knows what they’re going through. It’s a time of searching for self and the place where they fit in, a time of figuring out themselves and the world.
For the students, everything is brand new and they feel like they’re the first to experience it. As parents and teachers, we know they’re not, but sometimes it’s hard for adults to remember what the kids are feeling and to reconnect with the excitement and frustration and confusion of those years. They need a tremendous amount of understanding and flexibility.
They look at their teachers as heroes and taskmasters at the same time, as confidantes and challengers, as guides and mentors, as people who will listen, really listen - and at Browne Academy that’s what we are for them, to make them feel at ease with themselves.
Our small class size is a big strength, and class divisions are done with social dynamics and diversity in mind, together with a flexible program that allows us to customize curricula for the students to maximize their educational experience and developmental growth. From the point of view of teaching, it’s very challenging and a lot of cooperation goes across disciplines, with teachers communicating frequently with each other to individualize each student’s education as much as possible. We don’t teach to the masses but rather, work with each student according to his or her proficiency and special talents in each discipline. Our Science program is very much hands-on, for example, and mirrors what the kids will experience in high school, giving them extra preparation for the following phases of their education.
Our overarching goal is to prepare students and give them the tools they need to succeed in their next school when they graduate from 8th grade and leave Browne. In fact, we start helping students develop resumes in the 5th or 6th grade with various types of activities so that when the time comes, they are ready to apply to the schools of their choice. One teacher is directly responsible for overseeing the progress of about eight students, a small student-to-teacher ratio that ensures each student has a full experience at Browne that will prepare him or her for their next school.
We endeavor to set up good, solid foundations, sound ethics and to develop in each student a curious, questioning mind. Our faculty is top-notch and dedicated to making sure the students are engaged, having fun and committed, and that there’s a love of the challenge, always. We teach students not to shy away from any challenge and never to be afraid of asking questions. Our motto is that there are no stupid questions, but we’ll certainly tell a student when it’s a question that could be better formed, so they can learn to differentiate.
I’d say that if you asked Browne Academy Middle School students what they love best about the school, they’d tell you it’s their teachers. Teachers respect them, love them, and there’s no adversarial aspect to it - it’s like we’re all in this together, working together to get students through a tough transitional time in their lives.
I often say that to be a good Middle School teacher, you have to have a little bit of Peter Pan in you - a small part of you that never grew up and still has an ability to really delight in the students just as they are they are...awkward, noisy, silly, deeply thoughtful, and through it all, vibrating non-stop with energy.
Sure, sometimes they just about drive you up a wall with what they do and even they can’t explain it, but you can’t help but especially love students at this age.
Goofy and exasperating as they can be some days, it’s our absolute delight to watch them gain confidence and certainty about themselves by the time they graduate from eighth grade, far more sure of themselves than they were just a short time before.
And seeing that, we know we have done well by them, fulfilling our mission to develop independent, engaged, compassionate individuals who are ready to embrace their futures.