New Year: New Expectations

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Omar Gillan (19) helps new student Christian Campbell (19) with homework.

The end of the last school year left many of us looking towards the future, and asking what we will see. Casady’s communication team and headmaster, Nathan Sheldon, presented the annual student and parent survey results to the Upper Division student body and faculty last spring. While the survey noted some of the great aspects of Casady, it also showed that many students felt they were overstretched and could not complete their work in the time allotted.  I interviewed Mr. Sheldon and our dean of students, Marion Tolon, or as we call her, “Coach T.” to hear their insight on these concerns. They both had plans in store to address the feedback and are excited to implement them in our community.

Many students felt unprepared for higher levels of education, specifically in the area of time management. Coach T. said, “the lives of students, to me, are important.” The unity of Casady inspires her the most, so she wishes to see “communication [improved] across the board” and throughout all divisions. Coach T. acknowledged students’ prevalent choice “to do more.” Many students participate in multiple aspects of Casady’s student life, such as theatre, music, sports, or all of the above.

Unfortunately, however, this truth can be the root of such underlying stress. Coach T. hopes students can become “comfortable saying it’s too much” when they feel stretched further than their capabilities. She encourages self-reflection among the student body, and self-awareness to cut back on activities that do not serve them best. Coach T. affirmed faculty will encourage students to take advantage of available time during the day, in which they can work on their studies, more frequently this year. As a result, students would have more time at night and ideally get more sleep in return. Overall, effective time management consists of smart decision making and thorough communication. A better understanding for balanced ambition and knowing one’s limits will also improve the daily lives of Casady students. Coach T. wants Casady to work towards an environment that betters such skills everyday. A less stressful atmosphere will also feel safer to students and strengthen their confidence.

Students’ insecurities of fearlessly expressing themselves while on campus also came to light through the survey. In this age, where social media and cell phones dominate our lives, many students can feel anxious from the pressure of their surroundings. This concerned Mr. Sheldon, so he researched further to find new ideas that could benefit the student body.

Mrs. Stone, a beloved Casady English teacher, also felt stricken by the students’ feedback and reached out to him. He eagerly revealed to me the student-wellness program Mrs. Stone will now be in charge of this year. He hopes the program will “develop safe mechanisms [for students] to fail, but also recover from that failure.” Mr. Sheldon knows that Casady cannot control what happens off campus, but he does plan to make the campus a safe space where students can make smarter decisions for themselves to succeed.

Mr. Sheldon wishes to see a “holistic” curriculum of emotional and physical student-wellness implemented in all K-12 divisions in the years to come. He encouraged Mrs. Stone to take this risk, outside of her daily teaching, and create an innovative program that Casady has not seen before.

“It’s a building year,” admitted Mrs. Stone.

At the end of the interview, Mr. Sheldon shifted the subject towards the faculty and his encouragement of more educational risks. He concluded that, “our secret sauce is our faculty” and that is what makes Casady special. Mr. Sheldon wants Casady’s teachers and staff to intentionally develop their teaching styles and techniques to produce the best result for their students. For instance, Harkness discussion did not always exist in Casady’s English and History curriculums. Fortunately, this method thrived in the classrooms. Now, Harkness discussion frequently serves as a base for humanities courses.

Mr. Sheldon wishes to continue this intelligent curiosity around education this year. Before this school year, he met with Casady’s teachers to assemble “essential expectations of what [they] want [Casady’s] faculty to look like.” Mr. Sheldon and Mr. Bottomly, director of the Upper Division curriculum, will be building an evaluation process that can adequately assess Casady’s teaching methods and characteristics. “We must make sure we have the best faculty,” said Mr. Sheldon.

Today, the future looks pleasing and successful. Only time will tell, and by the coming spring, you can voice your opinion on this year in another annual survey. We shall hope for only progress on our campus.