What does it mean to be prepared upon leaving high school?
Over the past several years, the leadership team at Springhouse has worked hard to create a program that prepares students for life after high school. But what does it actually mean to be prepared for this next stage of life? This question has been a north star for us as we have created, delivered, and evolved our curriculum. In fact, we have built our program around it. In the process, we have identified three main areas in which we strive to prepare students - knowledge, skills, and dispositions.
Unlike most conventional schools, we do not expect our students to memorize a set body of knowledge. In an era in which most human knowledge is available on a device that most of us carry in our pockets, we have opted to focus on content that is relevant to our students as citizens of a democracy in a globalized world, as inhabitants of a planet that is experiencing dramatic changes largely due to human activity, and as future leaders who will be tasked with navigating untold complexities. In addition to the foundational content that we deliver, we teach students to ask probing questions, think critically, and actively contribute. We want our students to know how to learn and to understand why learning is important.
Students emerge from Springhouse with a depth of self-knowledge that guides them on their individual journeys. This knowledge comes from the mentoring relationships that students have with their teachers as well as from the countless opportunities that students have to confront and move through conflict. Students come to know themselves as whole human beings with a diverse range of needs, gifts, challenges, and responsibilities.
A quick search for “skills needed to succeed in today’s workplace” shows that employers are not searching for the ability to parrot information or do well on standardized tests. Rather, they are seeking abilities related to learning new skills and adapting, thinking critically and complexly, working collaboratively, communicating clearly, and managing time. These types of skills are embedded throughout the program at Springhouse. Students work on multifaceted independent projects, collaborate on real-world learning experiences, connect with adult mentors in the community, and engage in lively classroom discussions. Students acquire these skills as they progress toward graduation, and they receive explicit, targeted feedback along the way.
While these job-readiness skills are essential, our understanding of preparedness for life beyond high school also includes the skills needed to navigate one’s inner landscape. To this end, we engage students in honest conversations about challenging topics. We model and teach authentic expression and vulnerability. We invite students to connect with their bodies through dance, yoga, and other forms of movement and to thereby develop skills for understanding and expressing emotions and for trusting one’s intuition.
We want our graduates to leave Springhouse as passionate learners who are eager to be of service and to offer their gifts to the world. For students to emerge with this profile, they must acquire several dispositions, including a passion for learning, insight into the needs of their community, an understanding of their own strengths, and an awareness of how these strengths can be leveraged to make a positive impact. We promote these dispositions in several ways.
We make sure that students are surrounded by adults who embody these qualities. These adults may be classroom teachers, workshop leaders, project mentors, volunteers in the school, or guest lecturers. We are particularly interested in connecting our students with inspirational young adults who can serve as near-peer mentors. We engage in service learning on a regular basis to give back to our community and to experience firsthand the needs of our community. Every week, students work as hospice volunteers in the homes of individuals receiving end-of-life care and as volunteers at Skyline Nursing Home. These types of opportunities keep us connected to the community and remind us that we have a role to play in it. Finally, students are supported to explore their values, reflect on their gifts, and critically analyze the world in the learning experiences and the mentoring program that we offer. These explorations help students to orient themselves toward meaning and a life of purpose.