A Message from the Head of Middle School

It was an unbelievable moment – shouts of joy and anticipation coming through the trees as the last two sixth grade hikers reached the summit of Bear Mountain, Connecticut’s tallest peak. The pair and their adult guides had taken a little extra time to clamber up the mountain’s north side, and their triumph of reaching the top was only amplified by the excitement of classmates – who had reached the top themselves long before and had now come back along the trail to cheer their friends.

That - in a moment, in a scene, on the top of a remote mountain – is middle school education at its best, and what the Middle School experience at Foote is all about. It’s about finding strength in a tough moment and then building on that experience, finding the next foothold and the next ounce of courage. It’s about being proud of ourselves, and at the same time cheering for others. It’s about the journeys we make as individuals, and those we make together.

I feel lucky to be a part of this experience here at Foote, and even more fortunate to have a chance to guide the Middle School program. During my eighteen years in education, I have focused my efforts on the years from sixth through ninth grades; I have taught in four different subject areas and directed several plays; I have coached both championship teams and squads that have struggled to win a game. Through it all, I remain fascinated by the ways that young people grow so much – physically, emotionally, and intellectually – across these crucial years.  They are not without their challenges, but these truly are wondrous years.

The middle school teachers share my deep interest in working with each student and helping each one explore the passions and talents that will allow them find success on our campus and beyond it. We have designed the four years of Foote’s middle school program so that students grow from and are nurtured by their experience at each stage.  A central theme ties each year’s experiences together, serving as a ribbon that winds through classrooms and crucial moments to provide a purposeful and lasting experience. Each year meets its specific aim, and the years, linked together, provide a transformational arc that thoughtfully supports a student’s maturation between the end of the Lower School and the high school years. 

In sixth grade, students embark on a Journey of Discovery, for they learn about distant lands and ancient fables from the first day of school, and their experiences across the curriculum help them better understand themselves and their world.

Seventh grade students exemplify the theme of Coming of Age, as they are becoming independent learners, thinkers and citizens, and coursework from science to humanities helps them to step forward as individuals and as members of a greater community.

The eighth grade year is all about Making Decisions, Making a Difference, an idea that recognizes the importance of sound judgment and a commitment to stepping forward to shape one’s own community. Students evaluate crucial decisions and employ critical thinking skills in all areas of the curriculum. Many students begin to find their own voices as campus leaders and global citizens.  

Ninth grade, the year of Leading One’s Self, Leading Others, is the capstone of the Foote School experience. Students not only begin their high school studies but also serve as active leaders – in the classroom, on the fields, and across the campus – and the experience they gain during the ninth grade play and through the China program ensures that they will graduate from Foote with greater confidence and purpose.

The middle school years are important years. They are both years of wonder and years of uncertainty, and the best of schools recognize both of these truths and provide a program that values each child at every turn. By blending timeless skills with timely experiences, Foote’s Middle School experience meets this charge and supports students as they reach the summits before them, and as they cheer and encourage their classmates as well.


John Turner
Head of Middle School