Making Community – September 2022: Middle School


Dear KSDS MS Parents,

We are often asked: “What’s the secret? How does KSDS help middle schoolers – with all of the challenges that middle school years can bring – create community with each other?”

The answer? 

A loving, supportive, values-based middle school with a faculty who is ever-mindful of providing students with formal and informal opportunities to share their true selves with each other, to be open-minded and helpful, and to prioritize practice treating each other with kindness. We work towards these goals purposefully as a faculty in SO many ways… here is just a sampling…

  • Special programming early in the school year, with team-building opportunities in purposefully-created activity groups, including special trips for the Tishrei holidays (5th grade Genesse Valley day; 6th grade Pearlstone Sukkot day trip; 7th grade Sukkah Sleepover; 8th grade Hershey Park trip). More information on these trips will be coming home soon!
  • Fostering a sense of belonging both as a specific grade-level and as a middle school:
    • Special grade-level experiences that help promote that grade’s shared identity as the KSDS Class of 20XX.

AND

  • Frequent combined-grade experiences in MS, for students to meet kids in other grades, including after-school sports, 5th/6th or 7th/8th combined lunch/recess, 6th/7th combined elective classes, multi-grade tefillah (prayer) experiences every week
  • Bo N’Daber classes that provide discussion and activity opportunities for students to learn and talk through the positive values of inclusion, support, kindness and respect that are so important to KSDS, Judaism, and our lives today.
  • Middle school class groupings that are designed to meet students’ academic priorities while also providing opportunities for repeated, varied mixing of students within a grade.
  • PE classes and after-school sports that focus on sportsmanship, teamwork, positive reinforcement, risk-taking in a supportive environment.
  • Active MS teacher presence at lunch and recess to guide students in navigating joining activities, lunch tables, and group experiences
  • LOTS of collaborative group work in class and for special programs and holiday celebrations, with a middle school policy of teachers (not students) assigning partners and groups to help maximize integration and community-building
  • Working Lunch and other academic resource and club activities during lunch/recess for social mixing as students help each other study, do homework, or enjoy a shared interest
  • Values, values, values! We know that students learn through explicit discussion of our school values, but also through practice and doing. We frame our shared experiences and our social interactions utilizing the values we prioritize, and we return to those values when mistakes are made (our kids are middle school kids – they WILL make mistakes!)
  • Conversations between students and teachers/middle school counselor that include honest self-reflection, mindfulness, and looking inward to see how each of us can make choices that better ourselves and help better our world, and how we can resolve conflict in a productive, respectful way.
  • Class discussions and activities around tefillah (prayer) that focus on social justice and our obligations to help each other and the wider community. We create community at KSDS by seeing how we can work together to help others.
  • and more, and more, and more…

We thank all of you – our amazing parents – for modeling for our students as YOU create our welcoming KSDS parent community. We look forward to opportunities throughout the year for our parents to meet each other, socialize, and create a support network for each other, just as our students do at school. Thank you for being positive examples to our students of the values of inclusion, kindness and support that make our KSDS community so special.

Have a wonderful Shabbat,
Dr. Robyn Blum