More Than Good Grades
More Than Good Grades

As a Brentwood School faculty, we often reflect on the three excellences—academic excellence, emotional intelligence, and character development. Although these excellences are shared school wide, divisions may include slightly different elements in their definition of each excellence. In a recent Middle School faculty meeting, we spent time defining academic excellence. The conversation revealed a level of thoughtfulness and complexity.

I also discovered something I never imagined which was the wide array of traits assigned to academic excellence from the different disciplines. And at the same time, one message was clear: Academic excellence is about more than making good grades. Students who exhibit academic excellence:

  • Love learning
  • Ask great questions
  • Embrace new ideas
  • Accept feedback
  • Make connections
  • Solve problems
  • Think critically and creatively
  • Value process
  • Apply prior learning
  • Collaborate
  • Reflect regularly

It was during our own reflection and discussion, however, that the next level of academic excellence revealed itself. The Middle School faculty determined that true academic excellence is when a student contributes to the class in such a way that the learning is more meaningful for everyone. The Arts Department labeled it as, "Listens and gives constructive feedback." "Encourages classmates", was added by the Human Development team. The common themes included, "Inspires others" and "Respects self and others." It is clear to all of us, that when students are secure in their own learning, they use their positive energy and skills to benefit the entire class.

I had been comfortable in my belief that academic excellence was something achieved by individuals and that they were the sole beneficiaries of this effort. However, our students are truly excelling when they are contributing to classes in a way that raises the level of learning for the entire class. This is now our revised definition of academic excellence. It is more beautifully multifaceted within the Middle School than I ever imagined.

Have a great weekend.

Diane Oliveira
Middle School Director


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