The Most Important Things You Learn at PSCS…

New Student Orientation

By Steve Miranda

When I first started at PSCS, I conducted a series of interviews with members of the school community so I could better understand how the educational philosophy gets put into practice. One alumnus said to me, “The most important things at PSCS are not necessarily what goes on in the classes. It’s what goes on around the classes that are the most profound.”

It took me a while to figure out what he meant, but I started seeing examples of this almost constantly. For example, if a student signs up for a “high commitment” class and decides she wants to drop it in the middle of the term, she’ll meet with her advisor. Dropping a high commitment class is a big deal for us because it means breaking a promise to a teacher, who spent time and energy preparing a class with this student in mind. In her advisor meeting, the student will get coaching on how to drop the class in a classy way. She’ll get support while she does it, and an opportunity to reflect on the process afterwards.

Here’s another example: we don’t segregate by age, so sixth and seventh graders share the same space as 11th and 12th graders. Every day at check-in, those middle schoolers get to see how the older students conduct themselves, how they go about making announcements, and—as one student observed at last year’s graduation ceremony—how they model mutually respectful dating relationships. The positive impact that has on younger students is immeasurable, but undeniably profound.

Finally, there’s the scheduling circus, which might be the richest educational opportunity we offer at PSCS. It is two solid days of authentic critical thinking directly tied to the students’ own lives. In that time they have to consider their own educational path, prioritize things that are most important, consider the needs of the group, advocate for themselves, and, sometimes, speak up in front of the whole school. The most important lesson they learn: you are in charge of your own education.

Of course, what goes on in the classes is pretty cool, too! In fact, here’s a list of classes students get to choose from, starting tomorrow: It reminds me of what so many people visiting PSCS have said to me: “This is the school I wish I had gone to.”