With the help of Evan Harris and Kate Hall, ninth graders learned about civil discourse, an effort to teach and encourage students to have respectful conversations even when they disagree. The teachers and facilitators led ninth graders through identity exercises and discussion, analysis of short stories to look at perspective, scenarios to help students consider how much we make assumptions about other people, exploration of empathy and vulnerability through role-playing, and concluded with work on having difficult conversations and understanding accountability when we go online.
Evan Harris adds, "My hope was to give students practice not just in advocating for their views but also in seeing opposing viewpoints."
Different units of learning appealed to different students because of the variety in the curriculum with a lot of directly applicable skills and concepts.
Emma Freeman '25 found the session on phone usage and social media, particularly thought-provoking. She says, "We watched videos of people talking about plans for how they can stay off their phones and they had interesting ideas of how they stay off their phones. I also liked how we talked about how to have deeper, more interesting conversations, questions for you to ask to make that happen, and even words or gestures you could use."
Joaquin Hartsfield '25 liked the vulnerability and shame unit because, as he puts it, "one of the videos reflected on some things about my life that are specific and I could relate," whereas Sophia Berumen '25 found the first unit on identity "surprising" and it gave her something to think about. She liked that it was more interactive and she could discuss it with a partner.
"Freshman grade-level learning was a class that I enjoyed and learned a lot about myself and my peers," Hollyn Hanslik '25 adds. "This class taught us about empathy, dealing with conflict, hard conversations, and many more important life skills that are good to have. I liked this class because we did fun activities like Kahoots to learn about these things. It was entertaining and helpful, and I gained many new life skills."
"Talking about who we are as individuals and how we relate to each other is essential to help us grow into healthy and empathetic people," Librarian Kate Hall says. "A favorite quote of mine is 'Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.' This grade-level learning about Civil Discourse gives the students a chance to learn more about who they are as a person and put themselves into someone else's shoes. It is really amazing watching the students get to know each other and grow in community throughout this course."
Hailey Zipfel, English teacher and one of the facilitators for ninth grade GLL, adds, that students have had so much fun getting to know one another better. She says, "These are students who may not have regularly scheduled classes or advisory together. At first, they were a bit shy, but by the end of the course, I could tell students made new friends. We've talked a lot about understanding ourselves, our emotions, our identity, and dealing with conflict. These are important life lessons that students often don't have time to think about with the regular hustle and bustle of day-to-day life. I hope my grade level learning students leave the course feeling they have a better grasp on who they are, and how to use that knowledge to deal productively with the world around them. I hope they can say they had a little bit of fun as well!"