Eva Yu, Staff Writer
November 13, 2023
About half of the students in each Upper School class come up through the Middle School. And yet, once the boundary between eighth grade and ninth grade is crossed, middle school becomes a distant memory to many. With almost 500 students in the Upper School but only around 120 in the Middle School, the younger population of the community is greatly outnumbered. With the new school year welcoming a new schedule and many other school-wide changes, a problem arises: how does the Middle School fit into the puzzle of the greater Nobles community?
Affinity groups and clubs are some of the most important spaces at Nobles, as they foster community and connections within the student body. With the implementation of the new schedule, small affinity groups—which historically met during an all-school free period—are now scheduled in designated small affinity spaces. However, middle schoolers no longer have this block free, and therefore cannot attend small affinity group meetings. Andrew Finkelstein (Class V) says, “Some people want to go to affinity spaces that aren’t in the middle school, and that’s during class or study hall, and the teachers will give us scraps and get us in trouble for going to affinity spaces, which I think is unreasonable.” Michael You (Class V) shares similar sentiments about club blocks, saying, “A lot of times, there are meetings during unofficial [chess] club times, and everyone still goes but I can’t really go.”
Assistant Head of the Middle School Colette Finley says, “In the new schedule, the only overlapping Community Time happens on Wednesday mornings, so as you might imagine, there are competing priorities [such as long assembly, faculty meetings, affinity groups, and others]. The [Upper and Middle School] have their own Community Time, but Wednesday is the only overlap, other than All School Assembly, of course! Therefore, there is time allotted in the schedule for crossover events to happen, but probably not at the frequency some people are hoping for.” However, it seems that middle school students weren’t aware this block was allotted for overlapping events. Finkelstein said, “I didn’t even know that was a thing. I’ve never heard of it.”
Aside from the scheduling issue, middle schoolers seem to feel comfortable going to affinity spaces. Hanna Teeson (Class V) said, “I don’t really go to affinity groups, but I know a lot of people that do, and people feel comfortable to go.” Juli Smith (Class V) concurs, saying “Aside from the scheduling, I do feel involved with BSU.”
Even though scheduling might prevent middle school students from going to certain affinity spaces, efforts are being made to continue offering this support. Finley says, “While affinity or clubs might happen on Wednesday, they also happen at other community times, split [into Middle School groups and Upper School groups]. This allows students to explore with peers who are around the same age. We were working to strike a balance of crossover because sometimes groups would prefer to meet divisionally.”
Many students also report feeling more involved in their classes, including math and language. Many students like You or Smith who both take Upper School classes say they enjoy learning in Pratt and having their own separate space. Smith says, “It’s nice having some clubs and classes separate, and it’s nice to have our own space. It can get kind of isolating when you take Upper School classes, and no one else does, though.” Because of how different the Upper and Middle School schedules are now, the cost of being more connected with the Upper School seems to hinder immersion and connection with the Middle School.
Middle schoolers advocate for flexibility, namely in being able to attend Upper School affinity spaces as well as Middle School ones. Finley says, “As a whole, Nobles prides itself on community. Unlike our peer schools, the middle school is more connected to the upper school by attending assembly, eating in the same dining hall, and sharing Wednesday Community Time.” Middle Schoolers seem to enjoy being a strong community within themselves, but also wish for more overlaps with the Upper School.
The Nobles Middle School is a very tightly knit community, and the new schedule promotes more programs for the middle school as opposed to the whole school. While the schedule might’ve diminished all school affinity groups and even clubs, Middle Schoolers are provided these same spaces within their smaller community. As Finley states, Nobles offers a multitude of ways to connect the Middle and Upper School outside of just affinity spaces and clubs, including but not limited to assembly, all school events, and Wednesday Community Time.
(Photo Credit: Avery Winder)