By Maclaine Willett, editor-in-chief
This winter, the Nantucket High School has been working on a growth plan with students to help them attain their fullest potential in high school and the world beyond. This plan, known as the Vision of a Graduate, has been in the works for a few years, but this year it has become a greater priority. This contains a list of characteristics, actions, and behaviors that the school wishes the students to follow in order to become what NHS believes to be the best form of a graduate. The school has implemented these ideas into the framework of a student’s four-year experience at NHS in many different ways, including conferencing, portfolios, organizers, and spreadsheets where they show examples of these traits being used in schoolwork, and visual and vocal reminders on a regular basis. Principal Mandy Vasil explains that “teachers have put in quite a bit of time to integrate the Vision of a Graduate in their classes.”
The list of traits for the Vision of a Graduate platform, determined by teacher committees, includes communication, collaboration, critical thinking, social responsibility, reflection and adaptation, and innovation. Under each of these categories are certain criteria points that a student must demonstrate to be able to achieve proficiency. These criteria, also referred to as domains, differ for each. For example, under communication, a student must show proficiency in developing ideas and backing them up with evidence, show that they know what their purpose for communicating is in relation to their audience, and show a certain level of responsiveness. Each of these overarching ideas contains smaller domains such as these that are shown in the graphic organizer and rubric for the Vision of a Graduate.
Although these ideas and influences that come from the Vision of a Graduate are expressed as important to the students and their education, not much is required for the students to do under these guidelines. Aside from the conferences, some organizers, and self-reflections, most of the work for the Vision of the Graduate comes from the students themselves. This is due to the fact that this program is to challenge students to be individuals that practice these skills on a daily basis, ensuring that they will do so after they graduate.
One of the main tasks students have to do in order to be mindful of the Vision of the Graduate is a Student-Led Conference, where their advisory teacher and a parent or other guardian is present if possible. If not, they may do the conference alone with the advisory teacher, but the school urges students to have a guardian present to aid in the conversation on more personal skill sets. Prior to the conference, students filled out an organizer in November that allows for them to place certain assignments or projects they have done into each of the categories in the Vision of a Graduate domain. This is to ensure that the student has evidence to put forth for the conference to show the work that they have done under each of the six skills.
The organizer was set up in a way that for each of the six skills, there are three columns, being titled “Glows,” “Grows,” and “Artifacts.” Under the first two columns, the students had to write about a specific class that they feel showcases that particular skill the best. Under “Glows,” the students had to write about areas of strength for the specific topic, whereas under “Grows” students wrote about areas that need strengthening. In the final column, students either provide a link to an assignment or share a picture of an assignment that showcases that skill. This organizer will then be referred to during their conference to make sure that their evidence is being put forth properly. It is also meant to be a “live document”, added to as students complete tasks or assignments. This way, the portfolio can grow with the students rather than being remade every year.
The Student-Led Conferences occur on January 26 and seem to be an important event for the Vision of a Graduate. This is where students have the opportunity to reflect on their work to become a better student under these guidelines in a more formal setting. Vasil comments, “I truly believe that the Student-Led Conferences help students learn to advocate for themselves and define their personal goals for life after high school.”
Although the conference is more formal and feels more like an interview than a casual conversation, these meetings are not something that students should stress over and are simply required for the purpose of having a conversation about one’s experience in school. A student’s advisory teacher may pull up their grades as well to refer to their academic progress and any other pieces of evidence that may reflect how their high school experience is going. All students in all grades are required to do this conference, different from in years past when the conferences were urged but not mandatory. For older students, specifically seniors, the conversation may be also directed toward their future plans after graduating.
These conferences usually last around 15 minutes and are typically scheduled from any time between 12:50-2:50 and 5:00 to 7:00. Again, the student will not be punished if a family member or guardian is unable to attend, but the school urges someone to be present in support and accommodation of their future graduate.
Whether it be the organizer that aids in reflection of work, the Student-Led Conference, or the simple poster in almost every classroom, the Vision of the Graduate guidelines are present everywhere at NHS and are reigning important to the culture of the high school. Over the past couple of years, as the ideas have developed, this has seemed to become a staple to a student’s experience at Nantucket High School and will continue to be prevalent in the educational experience at the school.
In regards to the future of Vision of a Graduate at the school, Vasil noted that the school hopes for students to “take more ownership of a portfolio that addresses how they have accomplished the indicators for the Vision of the Graduate.” She also strongly believes that taking this seriously will benefit students later on in their college or job application processes. It is worth it to put the effort in now.