At Middlesex, we honor success at all levels in many different ways. Each semester at our Academic Awards Assembly, we award the coveted “High Honors” silver bowl to students who maintain a semester average of 90 and above and “Honors” certificates for an average of 85-89.99. This winter, we celebrated the 81 students who achieved High Honors and the 168 who achieved Honors in the fall semester, as well as the 12 students who received Improvement prizes for achieving a level of academic success substantially better than their previous best.
But success and the academic experience at Middlesex are defined as so much more than a silver bowl or Honors certificate. Jecca Hutcheson, a teacher of English and Writing Workshop, discussed the meaning of work in her opening remarks at this winter’s Awards Assembly: “Work is that which gives meaning to our lives. It connects us to each other, to the earth, to our own essential happiness.”
Hutcheson told a story of her own experience in the classroom: “One day I was sitting around a table talking about Kafka’s Metamorphosis with my junior class. And we were talking about capitalism, and the grind of labor, and the dehumanization of work. It was a terrific conversation, one of those moments where I completely lose track of time, where I feel as if we’re getting to the heart of things. I said, without any guile, thank goodness I don’t have a job. And my students understandably laughed at me. They were right, as you all usually are. I do have a job. I do work. Just as you do. What you do here is work, but I hope what you labor towards is work that is transporting and fulfilling and energizing.”
Mr. Pillai, a computer science and math teacher at Middlesex, delivered a slightly different, but no less meaningful, message to students in the fall: “If you are constantly worrying about what score you’re going to get on your next assessment, you are in fact missing out on the greater learning experience…. In order to truly grow, you need to be willing to take risks.” Pillai told the story of how he tried to dye his hair blue in college, but, forgetting the basics of the color wheel, he ended up with green hair instead. He admitted, “of course I was too proud to admit I had made a mistake, so I told my friends this was always my desired color. My philosophy is: If you’re gonna fail, you might as well go all out and make it EPIC.”
“Your teachers fail. There have been times in class when I have tried to explain a complex concept and utterly failed to get my point across. I have pressed the reboot button and re-taught those concepts the following day. Learning from my mistakes allows me to continue to improve as an educator and grow as an individual. We need to embrace our mistakes rather than try to hide from them.”
Learning, risk-taking, growth, connectivity, fulfillment -- what we strive for every day in our classrooms, on our playing fields, and in our studios. The silver bowl is just the icing on the cake.