bds cross graded 4 10.05.18
Brendan Largay, Head of School

Cross Graded Partnerships

Happy October everyone. I had actually written something else for this week, and then I had a conversation this morning that inspired what follows—a look at the power of our cross-graded partnerships on the morning that they launched for the year.

“I need to tell you,” a parent stopped me this morning, “my kids could barely sleep last night.”  These students, an eighth grader and a fourth grader, had been “counting down the days all week” for the assignment of cross-graded partners. The eighth grade student was excited to become the elder partner to a pre-ker—so excited, in fact, that he brought not one, but three children’s books to read—”just in case one of my friends didn’t bring one.” The fourth grader was excited to be the elder cross-graded partner for the first time, a great testament to all of the elder cross-graded partners he has had over the years.  

Each year I hear stories from parents about what happens when a younger cross-graded partner happens upon their older buddy in line at the grocery store or on the sideline at a playing field. These starry-eyed encounters are like what one might expect Tom Brady or Arianna Grande to experience on a daily basis. The impact of cross-graded partnerships on our students’ learning and the development of their understanding of our six core values is profound.

Last spring, we featured a collection of Belmont Day alumni as panelists in a discussion of the value of the middle school program. Each spoke thoughtfully about their later years at BDS, the benefit of Capstone, team captaincy, and the seamless and well-prepared transition they made to high school. Perhaps the most consistent thread among this diverse group of alumni was the powerful impact of being a cross-graded partner. “I am a better leader, collaborator, and community servant because of my cross-graded partner relationship,” one alum offered. “It actually helps me most in college where, as someone who is on a team, I better understand the importance of guiding underclassmen.” Another alumna spoke of cross-graded partnerships as the reason she is now the coordinator of community service not only for her college but for the entire town in which the college resides, coordinating some 2000 adults in service each year. She is a rising sophomore.

In short, Belmont Day’s approach to cross-graded partnerships—consistent with our approach to all areas of learning—is intentional, purposeful, and designed with the student (or, in this case, students) at the center. We understand the impact it has on community here in our day-to-day. We also see how impactful it is on our alumni as they move on to different walks of life as leaders.  

All of which brings me back to this morning. The eighth grade students checked in with the pre-k teachers before they met their buddies. “What happens if they’re scared?” one asked. “What should I do if they’re really quiet?” asked another. The answers: “Well, what would you want if you were a scared pre-ker?” and “Great question. What strategy do you think might work?” The intentional construction of leadership happened right before our eyes quickly followed by the joyful clamor of eighth grade students reading picture books with their pre-kindergarten cross-graded partners. And tonight, there is the very real possibility that it will be the younger cross-graded partners who struggle to get to sleep, starry-eyed with the beginning of meaningful new relationships that began for them this morning at Belmont Day.

Have a great weekend, everyone.


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