Interdivisional Idiosyncrasies (Or, Your Division Is Not the Center of the Universe)

Vol. 13 No. 4

divhead eletter Vol14 No4 centerofuniverse

It’s easy to get caught up in the details and duties of your own division. Faculty meetings, evaluation and coaching, professional development, and perennial "fires" all demand your attention. But when you’re one Division Head of several in a multidivision school, you have to think beyond your own area. You must understand how your particular “cog” turns in the overall “machine” of the school, and how your students’ needs change as they age.

We’ve written about lower, middle, and upper divisions before, but here’s a recap on the differences among them.

Lower school tends to:

  • be based around a single classroom, with a tight connection between the student and the teacher;
  • face much larger developmental differences among the students (based on age) than any other division;
  • have teachers who are more child-focused than content-focused (content remains important, of course); and
  • create a highly flexible schedule, since one primary teacher is paired with one classroom of students, allowing for fluidity.

Middle school tends to:

  • be a “bridge” between the lower and upper school experience, incorporating elements of each in a hybrid approach;
  • help students face their biggest childhood transition emotionally and physically, as hormones and growth spurts kick in, emotional outbursts occur, etc.;
  • have teachers who are still highly student-centered, but content-oriented as well—many love the challenge of working with kids in this transitory stage of development; and
  • ideally employ a teaming process, meaning one group of students is teamed with one group of teachers (if the staff/school is large enough to make this work).

Upper school tends to:

  • have students self-select areas of interest as they develop a greater level of maturity and focus;
  • create more complex schedules to allow for greater student freedom in exploring personal strengths and interests;
  • have teachers who are highly content-oriented, but can adapt to individual student needs; and
  • struggle with an overall faculty focus on individual academic disciplines, leading to a more siloed and less team-oriented approach.

Your division is one part of a larger organization, dedicated to guiding and raising students through all academic and personal changes. By understanding the challenges your peers face in the various stages of student development, you can become a team that responds to the issues and problems with cross-divisional, intercurricular solutions.

Additional ISM resources:
The Source for Division Heads Vol. 10 No. 7 Things to Remember as a Division Leader
The Source for Division Heads Vol. 13 No. 1 Advice to New Division Heads

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 32 No. 15 Portrait of the Graduate—Moving from Division to Division

blog comments powered by Disqus
Connect with ISM: