Ben Rihn ’22
Adviser letters: the typical method of reflecting upon a student’s academic and extracurricular performance at Mercersburg. This year is different, however. End-of-year student reflections are now front and center, where the reigns of the chariot are pulled by the students themselves; they hold the writing power, and while advisers certainly assist in the process, it is, in essence, a self-reflection. “I think the key point in a students’ school experience is their experience, and we want them to reflect and share with their guardians how being at Mercersburg has impacted their path through these years,” noted Assistant Head of Student Life Chris Howes.
This initiative is not unusual or unprecedented by any standards but has rather been cumulative throughout the ideals of recent years. “…we have incorporated goal setting into our advisory program so it made sense for the next step to have students reflect on their achievements and growth,” Howes continued.
The transition from advisor-written letters to student-written self-reflections is one well supported by Mercersburg’s faculty. They are on board with the idea of students evaluating their goals to paper. “It keeps students accountable and helps them engage in metacognitive thinking so that they become their own agents in their education and lives,” stated Christian Bancroft, the Dorm Dean of Keil Hall. The central motive is to hit home these ideas of accountability and self-sufficiency.
From a general perspective, the outline of the letter is as follows: “[students] will incorporate their top values in a reflection on their four years at Mercersburg,” stated Laurie Patterson. So, perhaps a student imagined themself as a more active participant in class. Or rather, maybe they wished they had actively sought help more often. Whatever the case, the student is the artist and the self-reflection is their canvas. It might include “what they’ve learned, mistakes they’ve made and how they grew from those experiences,” added Patterson. The possibilities truly are endless.
In a creative approach to achieving this goal, Dorm Dean of Fowle Hall Emily Parsons said “I made little reflection journals for [my advisees]. It’s a little “elementary school,” but I think they liked the colorful pages and the opportunity to just sit and write about their year.” Such efforts make the student-written letters therapeutic and clarifying. If self-reflection is the key to tapping into the purest forms of the human soul, then colorful journals are an avenue to improving oneself. There has to be a correlation.