Character development is an interwoven part of every Primary School student’s day. Students in each grade engage in developmentally appropriate routines upon their arrival to school in which they store materials and assignments, greet teachers and friends, and complete a meaningful task. Children then enjoy a morning meeting during which every member of a classroom community is greeted by name and participates in greeting others. Morning meetings also include time for authentic sharing and meaningful group experiences to begin the day on a connected and positive note.
Discussions and activities regarding character and choices are both explicit and implicit in each grade’s curriculum. Topics include themes such as responsibility, respect, cooperation, community, friendship, sportsmanship, conflict resolution, empathy, expressing gratitude, appreciating diversity, and manners. Teachers are responsive to individual student needs and group dynamics in examining these and other themes during morning meetings, assemblies, and other times during the school day. Students explore these topics through stories, poems, role playing, video, songs, and through dialogue with their teachers. The Primary School faculty work as a team with students from Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 3 to develop division-level guidelines and rules that encourage the Tuxedo Park School core values of fairness, kindness, and responsibility.
In Grades 4 and 5, students are assigned to a homeroom and one homeroom teacher oversees the group of 10-16 students. In Grade 6, students are in smaller groups of 6-9 students with one advisor. These groupings allow the younger students to connect with their homeroom teacher and work with their classmates. Grade 6 works with an advisor, to smooth the transition to Upper School which will take place the following year. Advisors work closely with students to monitor and encourage them both academically and socially. Throughout the year, for 15 minutes at the start of each day and one 45 minute class period each week, students work with their homeroom or advisory and across grade levels on projects related to character education and life skills. We use the school motto of “Be Kind Be Fair Be Responsible” as a framework for our character education program. Activities and discussions cover goal setting, peer relationships, negotiating conflict, discovery of the self and learning styles, and being able to work positively and effectively within a group. Middle School students serve as role models with their buddy classes in the Primary School where they often work on community service projects which explore and act upon global issues. The curriculum is fluid and allows for changes at a moment’s notice to react and address students’ needs both individually and as a group.
In the Upper School, connections between students, faculty, and parents are reinforced through the Advisory Program. Building upon the foundations laid in the Grade 6 advisory program, students and their parents work with an assigned faculty advisor throughout the course of each year in the Upper School. The Upper School Advisory Program operates under the following tenets:
- Each student's intellectual, social, and emotional growth will be supported by a faculty advocate.
- Students' advisors are responsible for monitoring their welfare and growth throughout the course of the year in all areas.
- Advisors act as the primary contact at Tuxedo Park School for the parents of their advisees.
- Advisors will communicate with parents regarding their child's progress at regular intervals during the school year to ensure consistent understanding and support.
Students meet with their advisors for 15 minutes each morning in the Upper School. These meetings allow student to be greeted by the same familiar, consistent face each day, and allows advisors to "check-in" with their charges to see how ready they are to meet the challenges of the day. At the end of each day, students return to the advisory "touchstone" by reconnecting with their advisor, reflecting briefly on the day, and shaking hands. In addition to these daily exercises, the advisory groups meet weekly during a 45 minute period. While the meetings can often be fun and informal, advisories follow a curriculum designed to begin goal setting in the early stages of the year, address the innumerable and diverse challenges of adolescence throughout the course of the year, and draw closure at the end of the year with reflection.