Dear MKA Families,
Each of MKA's three divisions, the Primary, the Middle and the Upper Schools, has its partisans. Teachers, coaches, parents, alumni, even trustees, who deep down believe that one part of MKA or another is the real flagship of our school, the place where the best teaching and learning that MKA has to offer are unfolding every day. From my perspective, the composite of what takes place from Pre-K-12th grade is a kaleidoscope of memorable moments, ideas or events coming into my view, sharply focused, irreducible examples of great teaching and learning of which I get a glimpse before the view shifts again.
A former colleague of mine, who at one time served as Middle School Head at Albany Academy for Girls, says that a Pre-K-12 school is like an Oreo cookie: "the best is in the middle." The Middle School experience at MKA, especially because it encompasses grades 4-8, is nothing short of transformative. As a former upper school history teacher, I can affirm that working in a middle school is an acquired taste, but once acquired, there is no substitute for the spectacle of student growth in middle school that includes first moments of true mastery, the rewards of independence and the confidence that comes from venturing out - intellectually, emotionally, athletically and artistically - and safely returning, albeit now as a changed and further evolved young person.
The energy and the volume of Middle School can be overwhelming. Forty-five years ago, I went to my first symphony orchestra concert. I had heard a lot of recorded classical music on the radio and on records at home. Still, I wasn't ready for the live performance. For the first twenty minutes or so of the concert, all that I heard was noise before I became attuned to what was happening and the melodies, rhythms and patterns in the music emerged. Try standing in the Middle School dining room at lunch where the cacophony can be powerful enough to drive you out of the room. Over time though, as I do my occasional lunch duty, the sounds can be distinguished from one another. Shouts of laughter from a table of 5th grade girls, the lower rumble of some very cool 8th grade boys, the common volume of voices raised, not in frustration or anger, but in the assured and all-knowing earnestness of Middle School children. It's hardly symphonic, nor is it just noise.
While it may be impossible for me to fully capture the beauty, energy and poignancy of the recent Middle School Dance Assembly in celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I would not be doing my job if I did not try. This past Wednesday, in performances in the morning and evening, students in grades 4-8 danced in ensembles and individually to mark the anniversary of Martin Luther King's birth on January 15, 1929 and also to acknowledge the lives of other extraordinary leaders and humanitarians. It was an experience when all the bright colored pieces in the MKA kaleidoscope stood still and I saw and heard moments of artistic expression that were joyful, funny and occasionally as moving as any student performance of any age anywhere.
Of course, there is no one component of the school that is the flagship for the rest, but there are events and moments when one part of MKA is representative of the best that we have to offer, and such was the case at our Middle School this past Wednesday,
Thomas W. Nammack