The Arthur Morgan School is a staff-run school, meaning that there is no hierarchy amogst staff and that all of our decisions are made by consensus. Our weekly All School Meeting operates on a consensus model and serves as a forum for student voices to be heard. Students set the agenda, clerk the meetings, speak for themselves, are asked to be responsible for their own actions, and are encouraged to be honest with themselves and the community about the issues at hand. Our process offers an opportunity for students to make real and relevant decisions about the functioning of our community.
Advisor/advisee groups, usually comprised of two students and one staff, will stay the same all year, emphasizing the importance of building lasting connections. Staff advisors serve as advocates, mentors, trusted companions, and role models to their advisees. These groups meet every week for a special extended lunch and participate in a special awards ceremony at the end of the year that honors the strong bonds between advisors and their advisees. Advisors often help if there is a miscommunication between houseparents and a student. In a Clearness (an informal mediation process to resolve conflicts and facilitate positive communication), the advisor sits alongside their advisee to be an advocate and to assist the student in articulating his/her concerns. Advisors also communicate concerns or staff meeting decisions to the parents of their advisees.
have the distinct advantage of gaining a well-rounded understanding
of the students. While all staff and students interact down at
school, it is the houseparents who foster a "family setting" home
life for the students. During staff meeting discussions and informal
information sharing among staff members,houseparents are able to share crucial insights about a student's
needs, behaviors, challenges, strengths, and areas of growth with the
other staff members.
Relationships between the houseparents and students can be both deep and rewarding. Visiting alumni often return to their former boarding houses and stay in touch with their previous houseparents. These relationships are unique and provide a chance for students to find friendships and trust with other adults in their lives.
Academic Advisors and Class Structure
Each student will have an academic advisor who will help the student select classes and will guide the student in developing strong study skills. The goal is that each student will come to understand his/her own learning style and will develop skills to deal with learning challenges. The nature of our program, with its emphasis on education of the whole person, means that all staff members are teachers. Classroom teachers are focused on the academic part of our program. The North Carolina Standard Course of Study for 7th-9th graders provides overall guidelines for our academic curriculum, which is designed to engage student interest and to foster growth in knowledge, skills, and critical thinking. Small classes (6-10 students) result in strong bonds, individual attention, and ease of communication between teachers and students.
Family Style Meals and Chores
Traditionally, seven meals per week are served out of our school kitchen: five lunches and two dinners. The meals are based on a whole foods, primarily vegetarian diet and are served at tables, family style. Chores are a part of daily life at AMS and are a valued learning experience as much as any academic class. The work of the school has always been shared by the students, and in many cases, their ideas shaped certain traditions and processes into what they are today.
Circle and Silence
Circling before meals and having silence before and after all meals and meetings is a tradition that comes directly from our Quaker roots. For Quakers, silence and circle before the meal are an opportunity to bless the food and the preparers and be grateful for being together and sharing the meal. Before a meeting, silence is to mentally prepare for the work of the meeting, which is to come to consensus about a spiritual truth and/or the best moral actions to be taken in a situation. After a meeting, silence occurs to hold all that happened in the meeting (including those who were at the meeting itself) in the light to bring closure to the meeting.
Contracts and Clearnesses
Students and staff sign a tri-pillar contract to respect themselves, respect others, and respect the environment. This includes a commitment to resolving conflict non-violently, which may mean participation in a clearness, a mediation process used in Quaker traditions.
Work projects happen one morning a week throughout the year, and every day during the weeks before Thanksgiving, Field Trips, and Graduation. We do not usually "hire" anyone to clean, manage, and/or prepare our community buildings, grounds, work spaces, and living spaces. This work is done collectively and helps create a sense of ownership for staff and students alike.
Work projects are a 2-on-1 learning and teaching experience that enables students to participate directly in the work of the community. Students experience reasonable physical challenges, they spend time outdoors, and have the opportunity to participate in purposeful work needed by their community. They see the impact of their efforts and enjoy the fruits of their labors. This part of our program also affords many opportunities for students to experience an adult level of capability.
Internships are a unique and wonderful part of our program here at Arthur Morgan School. They are offered through a variety of jobs that are done on campus and take experiential learning to its core elements.
Internships are offered in the garden, kitchen, outdoor program, development and main offices, and maintenance of the school. Staff members working in these areas will teach between one and four students the basic skills required to run the school. The content of the internship varies with the season, the students and the teacher. In the fall, garden interns will focus on harvesting and food preservation. In the spring, they learn about making beds, starting seeds, transplanting crops, etc. A maintenance internship might focus on one project, such as remodeling a bathroom or building a treehouse. Other times there might be many small projects, varying from plumbing to painting to carpentry to electrical work. Students working in the kitchen help to plan and prepare our lunch time meals. They also learn in-depth about one aspect of running the kitchen, such as local food sourcing, chemistry and cooking or food handling, safety and sanitation laws.
Each year, students and staff split into three groups and embark upon an adventure of a lifetime.
At the end of each academic unit, teachers prepare narrative evaluations to fully assess students' strengths and weaknesses in their classes. These evaluations are invaluable communication tools for determining growth in academics.
We begin each day by singing together. Songs are chosen from two books- Rise Up Singing and our own compilation of modern tunes. Students and staff play guitar and other instruments as we wake up to the sounds of our own voices.