Mr. Ketcham has been a History teacher and division leader in the Middle School since 2001. With an exceptional aptitude for connecting with students and a clear understanding of the change and growth that comes with the Middle School years, he is a treasured advisor among students and colleagues. Here, he answers a few questions about the Ranney Middle School experience and how the leadership team approaches this delicate and most important period of adolescence.
Middle School Assistant Head David Ketcham has been a History teacher and division leader in the Ranney Middle School since 2001. With an exceptional aptitude for connecting with students and a clear understanding of the change and growth that comes with the Middle School years, he is a treasured advisor among students and colleagues. As a spearhead of multiple student-life programs, Mr. Ketcham can often be seen interacting with students in the hallways and at special events as well as counseling them in small groups and one-on-one. Here, he answers a few questions about the Ranney Middle School experience and how the leadership team approaches this delicate and most important period of adolescence.
The Middle School years represent a time of change for children as they develop into adolescents and can often times be difficult emotionally and socially. How does the Ranney Middle School team support students during this time?
The Middle School years can be challenging, but more importantly, they can also be a time of significant growth and discovery. The experiences students have through our program and with our faculty can help them define who they are—which is something this age-group seeks. Our approach starts with something simple but often overlooked—we tell students that we care about them and are here to support them.
This message, which we deliver consistently in various settings, is reinforced by advisors, classroom teachers, coaches, administrators and our school counselor. We emphasize our team approach directly with students by informing them that we are always available for conversations. We do this as a Middle School faculty overall and as grade-level teams so that students feel supported by the community and can turn to any of us when necessary. In addition, advisors have personal conferences with students throughout the year to address academic, extracurricular, social and emotional goals and needs. Our program is designed for students to feel connected, secure, appreciated and supported by the entire Middle School community.
Can you describe briefly the Advisee Program and how this provides a source of stability for students as they enter the Middle School?
A student’s advisor is his/her main point of contact—but advisors also serve as student advocates, mentors, role models and more. Students start each day with their advisor for attendance, announcements and other basic tasks. However, this morning advisory period also allows advisors to make a personal connection with each student to ask how they are, address questions they may have and prepare them for the day. Students spend approximately 30 minutes with their advisor at the midpoint of the day during five out of the six days in our cycle (the sixth day is devoted to our activities program). These advisory periods are built into our schedule to guarantee a significant time commitment to the advisory program. Advisors use this time for a variety of pursuits, such as teambuilding activities, student conferences, grade-level and division projects, or topics that address community, academic, social and emotional needs.
Ranney has an “open door” policy when it comes to communication with parents. Can you talk about some of the ways in which the Middle School team collaborates with parents through the Middle School years?
As transitioning parents entering the Middle School, our fifth-grade families attend an evening program designed to establish familiarity with our program and connections with our team. We regularly have breakfasts with parents from each grade to provide information and to answer questions regarding division goals, events, programs and other important topics that may arise during the year. Advisors hold parent-teacher conferences after the first and third quarters.
Our team approach to parent communication also features introductory phone calls from advisors as the year begins, frequent emails to advisory parents, and individual calls or emails when necessary. Advisors, teachers, coaches and administrators reach out to parents with any information we feel warrants a family’s knowledge, given our experience with the age group. These communications may include anything related to the care and well-being of our students. Finally, communication initiated by families is encouraged, welcome and responded to in as timely a manner as possible. Communication is essential to our success with students.
Having worked at Ranney for nearly 15 years as both a teacher and an administrator, what has been your proudest moment?
The faculty and administration very much enjoy the annual events that display the progress students have made during their Middle School tenure, both as scholars and as people. These landmarks, such as the eighth-grade promotion ceremony and Capstone Project presentations, are goals that we have reached together with students and are a joy for us to witness.
We also feel extremely proud when students take a leap of faith or challenge what they consider to be their limits. They may approach us to propose a service project, ask to speak to their peers about an issue or topic that impacts them or simply ask us for advice. A student taking this initiative involves awareness, trust and the sense of community that we strive to create.