When we launched the first J-Term four years ago with the Class of 2018, we considered it an experiment. We would take a few days away from the regular business of school and challenge students to investigate problems in the wider world. We hoped they would learn something meaningful about their chosen topics. We hoped they would be able to manage the freedom it offered—no teachers telling you what to do? No grades? It sounded good, but in quiet moments, we asked ourselves: could this really work?
Four years later, we know the answer: absolutely, yes! (Scroll down for J-Term Video)
J-Term is a signature experience for every student in the Upper School. Our students tackle topics ranging from climate change to homelessness to racism, and their curiosity, open-mindedness, and capacity for reflection impress us more each year. Students work in teams to interview experts, do research, and come up ways to educate our community and take action. Many students continue working on solutions long after J-Term concludes. They create clubs, lead assemblies and do volunteer work in the community.
I realized that we could lead ourselves, as a group, not looking to a teacher to tell us what to do.”- Tyleigh Zammit '19
Junior Tyleigh Zammitt told me that J-Term was the place where she discovered she could be a leader: “I realized that we could lead ourselves, as a group, not looking to a teacher to tell us what to do.” Her group focused on problems with excessive screen time and social media. Two years after her J-Term experience, she says she still thinks about her own screen time and makes better choices because of what she learned with her group.
The faculty that created J-Term has only grown better at guiding students in this work. And talking with students like Tyleigh has convinced us, more than anything, to trust the process. Every year, by the final day of the J-Term Showcase, we as teachers are simply guests at the event: the students set up their exhibits, work together, teach visitors all about their topics, and are ready to lead. It’s an incredible transformation--the best of what school can be.
Tyleigh asked me why we don’t do J-Term in every grade. I have to admit, it’s a good question.
St. Luke’s is a private, secular (non-religious) independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission: An exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead.
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