Welcome to Heads Up, a blogging experiment that aims to:
- connect the people, parts, and principles of Durham Academy;
- share ideas about learning and human development;
- spotlight a few of the many wondrous things I get to see every day at Durham Academy.
Thanks for reading the posts below — and sending news, links and ideas worth sharing.
Michael Ulku-Steiner, Head of School
Exit Interviews 2016
In 51 days (God willing and the creek don’t rise), I will hand signed high school diplomas to one hundred Durham Academy Seniors. Above are the faces of the last dozen members (alphabetically) of the class of 2016 – the last to move the tassels on their graduation caps and the last to leap magically from adolescence to adulthood.
The transition isn’t quite so distinct and dazzling, of course. But graduation is big. And our Seniors are wise – most certainly about the nuances of the student experience at DA.
For this reason, I sit down for fifteen minutes with each member of the graduating class. These hundred “Exit Interviews” give Seniors a chance to share their most candid impressions of their time at Durham Academy. The following questions (shared in advance) guide the conversations:
- Of what contribution(s) and/or relationship(s) are you most proud?
- If you could rewind to your 9th Grade year and replay your time in the Upper School, what would you do differently?
- Where and how has Durham Academy best served you as a student and a person? What do we do best as a school?
- Where has DA disappointed you? What should we do to improve our school?
- Anything else I should know to help you or future students?
I love these conversations.
Common themes always emerge, and (while I protect anonymity with every comment shared) I always harvest and share with our faculty some useful wisdom about our curriculum, program and community.
Amidst the common threads, one hundred distinct stories materialize. Every student lauds a different group of teachers, recalls a unique set of highlights and points to a personalized set of lessons learned.
The “what would you do differently?” answers are particularly helpful for the students, I think, as these Seniors will soon be fresh newcomers in bigger communities – SO much better equipped to make the most of their postsecondary opportunities than they were a few short years ago.
As I make may way through the schedule of Senior Exit Interviews (30 down and 70 to go as of today), my primary feelings are pride and gratitude. Our Seniors are honest. They are comfortable in their own skins. They are generous with their time and accumulated experience. They are grateful to their teachers and friends. And they are nearly ready to graduate.
Choose groups to clone to: