We value each individual’s identity
Connected to its mission, Greene Hill values the experience and individuality of each member of the school community, and teachers work to instill in students both a strong sense of themselves and empathy and understanding of others and their perspectives. We value and reserve space during the school day for these conversations and consider the work an important part of our commitment to creating children who will grow into adults who participate in a diverse and democratic society.
In order to promote community in the classroom and school as well as to set the expectations for shared norms and procedures, classes begin the school year with an Identity Study. Through this study, teachers build community through the exploration of various individual and group identities. This study seeks to address the following guiding questions:
1) Who am I?
2) Who am I with others?
3) Who are we as a school?
4) What makes us Greene Hill?
5) How can understanding myself help me understand others?
By investigating these questions at the beginning of the school year, teachers and students seek to co-create a progressive and responsive classroom and school community. This in turn establishes a foundation based on reflection and inclusivity that will support learning throughout the school year.
Our All-School Identity Study curriculum is designed to be developmentally appropriate, emergent, and responsive to the academic and social-emotional needs of the students in their classroom community. Lower School students may do regular self-portraits throughout the year as they learn about what makes them unique as well as similar to others, or observe themselves closely in a mirror and use these observations to create a sketch of themselves. Older Lower School students may look at their own family artifacts as a precursor to learning about how researchers have learned about ancient civilizations, or create personal maps that represent the various places that are significant to them and their family. Students in Middle School create physical representations of themselves, including identity masks and boxes, to display both their external, obvious characteristics as well as those that are more internal and lesser known. In all areas of learning about the world, students begin by first learning about themselves.
An identity study allows students of all ages to build core understandings and skills that help them contribute to their classrooms, the school, and ultimately their various communities of membership outside of school as confident individuals. The main developmental outcomes created by teachers working to frame the identity study and its goals were drawn from the work of Learning for Justice (formerly Teaching Tolerance), and built upon the same themes for different age groups in the school, culminating with the Middle School outcomes:
- I know and like who I am and can comfortably talk about my family and myself and describe our various group identities.
- I see myself as an engaged learner, a socially responsible community member, and a leader in my school.
- I know that I can use the democratic and progressive values of my school to positively contribute to my life outside of school.
By beginning the year with a focused identity study and incorporating these key elements into curriculum through the school year, Greene Hill School aims to support students’ development of their individual sense of self, their awareness of their roles in the classroom and school community, and their ongoing growth into active contributing members of a wider society.