Three in One: Milton’s Upper, Middle, and Lower Schools
By CHARLOTTE KANE ‘19
Milton’s mix of Upper, Middle, and Lower School students creates a unique relationship that many comparable schools don’t have—700 Upper School students share the Milton Academy campus with 315 Middle and Lower School students. However, most Upper School students at Milton rarely interact with members of the other two areas of our school, so what does this relationship really entail, and how does it affect the Upper School?
Todd Bland, Head of School, explains the three principals met this week to discuss “life in between the three divisions.” He notes that the principals of each respective school have a “good relationship” with one another, as all three principals “seek out meaningful and authentic connections.” Bland encourages “respect and balance” between the three principals.
Curriculum comes up in many of discussions the three principals have, as the administrators want to make the transition between each grade as seamless as possible. Nancy Anderson, the principal of the Middle School, explained that she has been in close contact with the Lower and Upper School principals to ensure that the new curriculum “aligns with the principles and goals of all K-12 English Levels.” Anderson notes that the Middle School aims to prepare its students by teaching them “study skills that will allow them to engage with increasingly rigorous coursework,” such as taking notes and making flashcards. Such skills, Anderson said, “are...not always intuitive,” so it’s important that the Middle School teaches its students these techniques.
Despite the coordination between the three schools, Bland emphasizes that each school still aims to create an environment appropriate for the different ages of the students. He explains the “danger in creating a mini-Upper School curriculum [in the Middle Schools] that can make [the] learning process not what it should be” for younger students. Similarly, Anderson explains that one of her priorities is making sure that what is taught in her school “is meaningful to the students now.”
As for the benefits this unique relationship has on the school, Bland believes that having students here for so long “closely connects [the students] and their families to the institution,” making them “incredibly invested in the School’s mission.” To him, this type of investment is good for everyone at Milton. Furthermore, he believes that having younger kids around, with their energy and enthusiasm, can create a “lighter,” more family-like atmosphere than 9-12 schools. Bland also cites “opportunities for mentorship, coaching and tutoring” as ways the connections between the Schools provides Upper School students with a great opportunity to lead younger students. He hopes that older students recognize their status as role models and set an example.
While having younger students on campus can have its benefits, Mr. Bland acknowledges the limitations of this relationship; he “understands [that] Upper schoolers aren’t always aware of lower divisions” because the pace of our lives is completely different than that of younger students.
Student have varying opinions on the impact this relationship has had in their own lives. For example, Eloise Stikeleather ‘19, a “lifer”—a student who has attended Milton since kindergarten—feels like “the Upper, Middle, and Lower schools are like three completely different institutions.” She notes that “classes did not begin to prepare [students] for High School until the later years of Middle School,” so she had a hard time transitioning into the rhythms of high school. However, this distinction also meant that students were able to enjoy the ages they were without having to prepare for High School since their first day of Kindergarten.
Two freshmen boarding students that were interviewed feel like “a lot of drama from the Middle School came up to the Upper School,” and that socializing can be awkward at first because some friends groups have already been formed. However, almost all former Middle Schoolers make good friends outside of their pre established cliques as they are thrust into the entirely different environment of Milton’s Upper School.
Milton’s lower divisions put the institution in a unique position. Regardless of how much Upper Schoolers interact with younger students, a large portion of each class has been shaped by the experience of the lower divisions; for example, this fall fifty five students matriculated from the eighth grade to freshman year. As Mr. Bland says, it is up to every student to make the most of this relationship.