This month, Williamsburg Northside was excited to announce that we will open Williamsburg Northside Middle School in the fall of 2018. Today we are proud to introduce you to Elizabeth Hixson who will be leading our work to build a vibrant and engaging program. Libby, as we know her, is an experienced middle school director with a rich teaching and administrative career that has spanned many grade-levels and four decades in independent schools in NYC. She has successfully led middle divisions at both Dalton and Avenues here in New York City. Libby also founded the lower school program at Avenues and worked as both a teacher and assistant director at a nursery-kindergarten program at Rockefeller University Children’s School. We hope you’ll enjoy this letter from Libby, and keep an eye on the calendar and Northside News for more opportunities to meet her in person!
Dear Lower School Families,
In a couple of years there may be days you are asking yourself, “What happened to my adorable child?” The answer is absolutely nothing; they are still there buried beneath their insecurities and hormones.
Students in middle school are in a stage of development where their bodies and brains undergo tremendous transformation. Only in the first 18 months of life did they develop as rapidly, both physically and cognitively. Unlike like toddlers, however, these middle schoolers can be painfully, achingly self-aware. While parents remain of primary importance in the long term, in the short term, at school, it’s hard to be ignored, disapproved of, dismissed or teased. The importance of the peer group matters deeply. Having friends you know and can count on is crucial because it provides the confidence to tackle all kinds of challenges without worrying about failure.
This is where a small school becomes your ally. In a small school such as Northside, each and every student is known personally and valued individually by faculty, administrators and fellow students. Knowing every student’s name is truly half the battle. Knowing who their friends are, what their current interests are, how they deal with academic challenges, and what helps them succeed is the other half.
Many top independent schools have settled on two sections of sixteen to eighteen students per grade as a successful model – our exact goal here at Northside. Scheduling fifth/ sixth and seventh/eighth as two separate cohorts provides flexibility in academic grouping and a good base for extra-curriculars. It also supports students’ appropriate social-emotional development.
Whatever the cohort, it is crucial that middle school feels very different from earlier grades. Students want their growing independence to be acknowledged. They are ready for real challenge with a depth of learning through departmentalization. Exposure to interdisciplinary project work will excite and engage them. Co-curriculars, such as drama, student government and clubs will harness their energy and provide leadership experience. Athletics will teach resilience, physical fitness and teamwork. What all of these activities have in common is they allow students to work together.
Adults who work and live successfully with this age group love them for their energy, enthusiasm, loyalty and abilities – and I count myself among that number. I am delighted to be part of building a wonderful middle school for your children. We plan on keeping you up-to-date on the development of the curriculum, space, schedule, athletics, clubs and myriad other details as we move forward to 2018. I hope to meet everyone and hear your thoughts and ideas for our new Williamsburg Northside Middle School.