The last day of school vacations are times for students to physically and mentally prepare for the return to classes. For some students, this day includes significant time spent traveling back to campus. For others, it is one last chance to sleep in. And for many it is a day filled with sports practices or completing last-minute school assignments. For the employees of Darlington, these Mondays after breaks are filled with opportunities for us to continue to grow as lifelong learners.
This year, the Upper School student life team spent a portion of our day thinking about the social and emotional growth of young people. The deans of students, heads of house, counseling staff and I watched the documentary "8th Grade" by Bo Burnham. The film focuses on Kayla Day, an eighth-grade student finishing her final week at a public middle school in the state of New York. She posts motivational videos on YouTube about confidence and self-image that get almost no views. Struggling to make friends at school, she wins the "Most Quiet" award from her classmates. Meanwhile, Mark, her single father, struggles to connect with her and break her reliance on social media. Click here to read a review of the documentary from the Washington Post.
The film focuses on five themes:
1. Today’s teens experience most of the world through the prism of social media.
2. Social media can heighten teens’ self-consciousness.
3. Social media can be a tool for identity exploration and personal growth.
4. Teen anxiety is real.
5. Teens want us to be present.
After watching the film, we had a brainstorming session on how we will incorporate these themes into our character development curriculum here at Darlington.
Our conversation centered around “the real you” and how students, with adult support, can put themselves in a position to be successful. We discussed ways in which we can help students be comfortable with themselves and how each student within a grade is at developmentally different stages in their adolescents. As the film points out, some parts of growing up are hard.
I am thankful that I have the opportunity to work with a caring and dedicated group of colleagues who are constantly thinking about the student experience and how we can partner with our parent body to help our students with their social and emotional growth as they explore the path towards fulfilling the Portrait of a Graduate.
"8th Grade" is available to rent on Amazon Prime, YouTube and Google Play. This film is Rated R.