“Skills of mind” is the central third of Field’s concise mission statement—a commitment to teaching students to master intellectual tools that will serve them well beyond college and into their lives and careers. One of the skills that Field takes most seriously is writing. In learning to write, students put their thinking and reasoning through a rigorous test of clarity, logic, and persuasiveness. Perhaps most significantly, writing skills at Field are taught and required in nearly every classroom.
Writing Where You Expect It
Of course, our English classes stress writing explicitly. “In the English classrooms,” explains Department Chair Dave Nelson, “students write across genres and in creative ways. From the 6th graders to the seniors, we've seen everything from poetry to analytical paragraphs and long essays, from creative non-fiction to collaborative group essays.” It is also traditional that history classes emphasize analytic writing. “Seventh grade historians prepare written statements for a debate on the culpability of minors who acted as child soldiers in active combat,” notes Chair Georgia Warner. “Meanwhile, 11th grade historians write argument-driven and research-based thesis papers on a U.S. history-related topic of the individual students' choosing.”
And Writing Where You Don't Expect It
But instruction in writing goes beyond these relatively typical applications. “Students in the upper levels of French and Spanish are asked weekly to compose summaries, take notes, or write in journals about articles they read in authentic newspapers in different domains: architecture, science, sports, music, or contemporary international events,” according to Chair Ermira Elmazaj. “Writing in this case is used as a tool for learning while students negotiate meaning and make a conscious effort to incorporate words and phrases from their studies.”
Math and science use writing extensively as well. “Field’s math teachers ask students to write explanations of solutions in addition to showing the numerical results in many cases,” says Chair Jeff Kurtz. “I require my Advanced Math Seminar students to prepare a detailed write-up of a fairly complicated problem several times each year. This helps students to merge writing skills with math skills, which becomes incredibly important as they move on to higher level math courses in college.” In science, explains Chair Kate Breslin, “it’s all about the lab reports. Step-by-step writing for the method section and clear articulation for conclusions are a necessity.”
Teachers in the arts are equally passionate about writing, requiring students to reflect on their creativity through “artist statements” that accompany their work on Studio Day, for example. Music classes ask students to become articulate critics of what they are studying and, of course, in our journalism and yearbook classes, students are writing for publication, which explicitly develops skills in editing as well as writing.
The editing that is front and center in journalism has its analogue in lab reports, poetry, analytic essays, and every other form of writing at Field. "Revise!" our writing teachers say. Good advice across any discipline.