The St. Thomas School mission underlines our critical focus on leadership and it's connection with the important notion of global citizenship.
The mission of St Thomas School is to develop responsible citizens of a global society. In partnership with parents, we inspire and motivate intellectually curious students. Our small, nurturing environment supports the acquisition of a broad academic foundation with an emphasis on critical thinking, leadership skills, and the development of strong character and spiritual awareness.
Leadership requires an intentional program that engages students with specific skills, knowledge, and experiences. The STS journey is not just an academic one, but one that also provides students with the capacity to reflect about themselves and the world. Leadership opportunities are woven throughout the curriculum and school life:
- Public Speaking & Presentation Skills
- Service Learning
- Buddy Programs
- The Senate
- 7th Grade Leadership Lab
- 8th Grade Service Lab
- Emotional Intelligence
One of the first things noticed by our visitors is how poised, articulate, and confident our students appear. Our high expectations are reflected in the verbal domain as well as with the written. Our students are expected to present clearly from the early years throughout their STS journey. Students are given opportunities to plan and prepare for their presentations in all classes as well as for Chapel, and opportunities for self-reflection and supportive, instructive feedback allow our students to grow. They frequently have to enact roles with expressive features, be it during the Scientist of the Week program in 2nd Grade, during the Hero Project in 4th Grade, or debating to save the life of Julius Caesar in 6th Grade.
Careful focus on vocal techniques occurs during classes studying storytelling and speech-writing. Debate is highly valued, and our 8th Graders are exposed to a course on global issues where research into both sides of the issue is critical, as well as an ability to argue a case in detail. Drama is an important part of our growing Middle School program, again offering students critical opportunities for interpersonal skills as well as vocal techniques. Technology plays a critical role as well as our students are expected to plan and prepare high-quality presentations using a variety of tools.
One of the most important building blocks of the STS approach to Leadership is our Service Learning program. Our School has a long history of service. The School has a carefully crafted model of experiences that see students taking on more and more individual responsibility in the planning and execution of Service Learning projects. Service-Learning is a process and has a cycle, where students learn concrete methods to prepare projects that are directly applicable to the world beyond school. The following steps are part of our Service Learning process:
Our projects are founded upon the notion of meaningful service. Linked to the curriculum, powerful moments for students’ voices to be heard and choices to be exercised define these experiences. Service learning involves partnering with others both within our own community and with those in communities outside our School. Service-learning offers opportunities of service that promote the understanding of improving society, working for social justice, and caring for the environment. Through these, an understanding of the concept of democracy is grasped.
Buddy programs with younger grades draw out a special leadership skill set as middle school students serve as guides and mentors to younger children. The older students develop a deeper sense of responsibility and grow in understanding of the profound influence they can have on their school community. The buddy relationship is a significant and joyful one for students of each age.
The Senate is a special forum to allow the Middle School students an important voice and representation. This body gives students a strong say in the student life and affairs of the school as well as developing leadership and problem-solving strategies. Students can propose and organize school events and service learning projects.They prepare speeches when offering themselves for office, stand for election, and learn how to set goals and manage projects, mirroring practices of the adult world.
Beyond helping as student ambassadors with Open Houses and serving as key leaders in the Senate, our 7th Graders experience a training ground in very special setting: Leadership Lab. This weekly class offers some unique, challenging experiences where students are exposed to contemporary research on the topic as well as given unusual challenges to experiment with their new-found knowledge and skills. The first trimester focuses on connecting with younger students who would look up to and admire our young adolescents. Each student completes an apprenticeship in an Early Learning Center classroom, understanding that all human beings undergo profound developmental changes in the realm of physical, social, emotional, and cognitive realms. The second trimester is focused on preparing to lead Chapel lessons for the whole school and learning social and emotional traits based on Daniel Goleman’s research on social and emotional skills. The last trimester sees the class develop and act upon a service learning project of their own creation beyond the walls of the school.
Service is very closely connected to leadership concepts in the Middle School. Leadership and service are closely intertwined. Unique to St. Thomas School, our 8th Graders have a weekly Service Lab that connects closely to Social Studies and English classes, where students learn critical needs of the globe today, educate themselves on these contemporary issues, designing service projects that actively engage the issue, making choices and designing processes themselves that lead beyond the school community. Students use The Teen Guide to Global Action to help design their own independent projects. The 8th Grade Peru trip also reflects this quest for global understanding and connection. The 8th Graders’ projects become part of a final exhibition at our school, where students will capture their growth, service, and learning in a meaningful way. The 8th Grade graduation ceremony speeches feature this service as a major theme – a wonderful way to leave the world of STS!
Our Chapel program offers many opportunities for students to experience these elements of understanding themselves and others though its exploration of different stories and opportunities for deeper reflection. The Chapel program also emphasizes character development, which tackles many of these skills while discussing the great human world stories. The Middle School years also allow our students to question more deeply as ethical dilemmas are presented to provoke a more thorough understanding of values. Chapel constantly provides students with opportunities to practice public speaking, developing confidence in front of a large audience. The older students play more significant roles in leading and planning Chapel for the entire School. In 8th Grade each student plans, prepares, and delivers a Chapel lesson.
The work of Daniel Goleman has connected successful leadership to an effective mastery of emotional intelligence. Our future citizens will need to manage themselves as well as their relationships effectively. Through class meeting time, our social problem-solving focus, advisory activities, life skills classes, and leadership lab and service lab experiences, our students will get to experience the following set of skills:
Leadership is not only encouraged; it is expected. Upon graduation an STS student has:
- developed an awareness of the larger world and its current challenges.
- the clear ability to make responsible, ethical decisions and an active concern for the welfare of others.
- understanding of the importance of leadership and service and the ability to set, plan for, and carry out goals.
- essential interpersonal and social skills needed to work, team, and play with others.
- a notion of citizenship founded upon understanding local, national, and global responsibilities.