I have been talking about the concept of apprenticeship a good deal lately. A parent who is looking at the school for her son mentioned a great article she had read recently about the importance of the apprenticeship model for young people. Kids want to feel valued and want to be taken seriously. In the not so distant past, kids at what are now considered high school ages, were often launched from the home to begin their own apprenticeships to learn new skills and practice a trade. Teresa Imhoff, who works in our admission office, gave me a book titled Hackers and Painters which discusses this issue briefly as part of a larger argument about the creative power of the computer generation. Paul Graham, the author of the book, writes that, “[t]eenage kids used to have a more active role in society. They were junior members of adult societies… Now most kids have little idea what their parents do in their distant offices, and see no connection between schoolwork and the work they will do as adults.”
Our founder Paul Lehmann believed in the apprenticeship model and our mission statement speaks to our collective belief in “meaningful work.” From our work gangs, to the arts, to our athletic teams, and especially in our small classrooms, meaningful work and the apprenticeship model are alive and well. We must constantly demonstrate the connection between what we are asking students to do and that work’s relationship to their future lives. I speak regularly with our faculty about the need to create authentic experiences for our students. While they will often shy away from challenge, I believe that deep down they crave intense experiences. It is the adult’s role to walk with the apprentice and bring them along in a shared experience. We saw this relationship this past winter with the cast and directors of the musical Hair.These students were taken seriously and treated like professionals, and guess what, they acted like professionals!