Sophomore Forum, an extension of Whitfield’s Advisory program, is designed to promote the healthy academic and social development of 10th grade students. Through discussion, readings, one-on-one meetings, and guest speakers, students investigate topics such as academic achievement and integrity, social issues, health education, and time management. During second trimester, college counselors also introduce college planning and self-discovery activities.
This year, the 10th grade teaching team is organizing a conversation series around topics the sophomores identified as important at this point in their lives. Conversation categories include: growth mindset, resilience, managing anxiety, navigating social situations, and managing relationships (both in person and online).
“At the beginning of the year, the sophomores shared they would like to have more time to talk about certain issues that they are dealing with as teenagers,” said faculty member and grade level coordinator Laura Lotz. “The topics they identified are vital to all of our lives, but especially to teenagers and where they are developmentally. And, this work is clearly rooted in our Habits of Mind & Heart.”
Working closely with Director of Health & Wellness Ginny Fendell, the 10th grade faculty planned and facilitated the sessions. “The kids appreciated that the advisors were a part of the experience,” said Lotz. “They have been very clear with us that they want more opportunities to speak with one another about important topics, but they also want an adult facilitating those conversations—that feels safer and more comfortable for them.”
Sessions included: “Things Might Go Terribly, Horribly Wrong” (test performance anxiety/social anxiety/general worry); “Let’s Talk” (relationships/dealing with break-ups, friendships, parents); “Get a Grip” (learning to manage daily hassles, emotional regulation and decision making); “If you knock me over, I WILL get back up again” (developing resilience and coping for overcoming setbacks, disappointments and failure).
After the session on February 4, students were asked to provide constructive feedback that will be incorporated into future sessions. According to Lotz, it all boiled down to students wanting tools for their toolboxes. “The overall feedback was extremely positive and, in some cases, profound,” said Lotz. “They want and need more actual strategies in order to manage certain situations in a healthy way. Some of their questions included: I understand that anxiety is a physiological reaction to stress. How do I manage that? I know what growth mindset is in an academic setting, but I need help with growth mindset in my personal relationships and with myself.”
Liv Hand ’21 enjoyed the experience and thinks activities like the Conversation Series are important. “I really like the concept of the sophomore conversations. These are topics we don’t talk about on a day-to-day basis and it’s not something that is necessarily ‘taught’ to us,” said Hand. “We are learning how to deal with things that are about interpersonal issues. Where else are we going to learn it if not here?”