When Teaching and Learning Become One

Looking forward to Senior Exhibitions 2021.
Though there are many events in a Thacher year which bring me great joy—Big Gymkhana, ToadFest, Opening Day field games—Senior Exhibition Weekend is easily my favorite. I’m at home in the role of student; I love to learn, to explore new ideas, to see or understand something I haven’t before. But having as my teachers the students with whom my colleagues and I have lived and worked for the past four years, kids whom we’ve stood beside in moments of deep struggle and breathtaking growth? That brings a whole new level of joy to the learning. It always reminds me of what it feels like as a parent the first time your child explains something to you that you didn’t even know they knew and you get a glimpse of who they will be in the world. It’s like that, but bigger and with lots of kids. 

We often talk at Thacher about Senior Exhibitions as the moment when the students become the teachers. In truth, though, that transition doesn’t happen in a single event. From the day they arrive on campus students are asked to take on the role of teacher in ways big and small. They make presentations in class, run discussions, lead clubs, speak at Assembly, share lessons in dorm life, help another student figure out mucking or how to serve at Formal Dinner, they tutor in the dorms, and stand up at United Cultures of Thacher events and share their personal stories. Senior Exhibitions is more of a culmination, a celebration of the work of four years, than it is a sudden transformation.  

But it’s transformational nonetheless. Giving a 30-minute presentation to a group of peers and adults and responding to the audience’s questions on a topic they have researched independently provides concrete proof of their capacity to learn, to understand, and to communicate outside the confines of “the classroom”; it’s clear evidence of their agency and their impact, their independence, and their readiness for the next adventure.

Listening to a Senior Exhibition can be equally transformative. Some of the best parts of the weekend for me are hearing the questions students ask of the seniors, hearing their excited conversations as they go from talk to talk, and listening to them muse about what they might want to explore when it’s their turn.

The seniors have been working overtime and then some to prepare for this weekend. At yesterday’s Assembly I could see their nervous excitement, their readiness to take on this particularly Thacher rite of passage. They’ve been through a great deal this year—in all four of their years at Thacher—and have at each turn stepped up to the challenge with great strength and even greater heart. I know this weekend will be no different. 

I hope you’ll join us—if from afar—in the celebration of these remarkable kids and the work they have put in to arrive at this important culmination. You can access the schedule and topic descriptions here. Starting on Thursday, you’ll find a link on each senior’s page allowing you (and any friends or family you care to share the link with) to tune in to the presentation via Zoom. 

Here’s to the class of 2021!

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Notice of nondiscriminatory policy as to students: The Thacher School admits students of any race, color, national, and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the School. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national, and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other School-administered programs.