From the Head of Intermediate School, Vahn Phayprasert

Late childhood (grades 4 and 5) offers fertile ground for broadening perspectives, recognizing complexity, becoming self-aware and embracing new responsibilities. Children this age emerge from Lower School ready to embark, with the careful guidance of teachers in a broad but clearly  defined structure, up on those first tentative steps toward abstract thinking. Intermediate School students are earnest, available for learning, eager to connect with teachers and classmates and excited by new ideas and opportunities to demonstrate independence. They seek the time and space to learn through exploration, yet benefit from limits on that freedom to begin to discriminate and evaluate their thought processes. They are eager to take on greater responsibility for their own lives, perhaps even more eager than prepared. But with the thoughtful, consistent guidance of teachers who understand and appreciate the exciting potential of this unique age, students engage in activities in and out of the formal academic setting that provide hands-on practice at self-organization, prioritization and collaboration with others beyond their classroom. Intermediate School teachers create situations, intentionally, for their students to engage safely in activities that challenge them to practice these skills, followed by reflection, feedback and renewed efforts. At this stage, an integrated approach—with life beyond academics providing frequent opportunities to apply what has been learned intellectually—is crucial to promoting maturity and growth, to empowering every child to reach his or her full potential. As such, during this stage, the socioemotional and intellectual needs of students are equal in importance and, at times, even indistinguishable.

Our Approach to Intermediate School

Within the context of Parker’s mission of educating students “to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a democratic society and global community,” our Intermediate School teachers challenge and empower students to:

  • Apply the skills, concepts and processes they learn to new intellectual endeavors and to real-life situations; beyond understanding and retention, the emphasis shifts to transferring the knowledge and skills to new aspects of their studies and lives
  • Recognize and adopt new and broader perspectives on themselves, others and the world around them; daily reinforcement helps students see and begin to articulate different points of view on the same issue, and new responsibilities around the school help shift focus from self to others (and to the multiple communities to which we all belong)
  • Think through and describe their own reasoning, discriminating between rational, sound opinions and simple preferences, as well as between supporting detail and broader conclusions; frequent practice at recognizing and describing context helps students see new perspectives
  • Recognize, accept and grow comfortable engaging “the gray,” pivoting away from more concrete thinking (good and bad, the way to approach a mathematical problem, the spirit versus the letter of the rules to a playground game); teachers are explicit in instructing students how to change points of view and draw no arbitrary distinction between opportunities to attempt more complex thinking during academic lessons and in their everyday lives
  • Demonstrate increased awareness of their personal responsibilities to themselves and their communities, understanding of the many types of relationships in their lives, of the important roles self-advocacy and effective communication play in their own learning and growth, and literacy around issues of identity, power and equity (drawn from the curriculum and connected to their own experiences of the world)
  • Related to the item above, begin to embrace their responsibilities as involved citizens in a free, pluralistic and democratic society, seeking, always, to contribute to higher levels of inclusion for the greater good, and committing to a lifetime of growing and circulating one's empathy and cultural competency
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.