From Waiters to Wood-choppers - Midland School

From Waiters to Wood-choppers

How students form the backbone of campus

Summer 2021

If you ever have the pleasure of dining in Stillman Hall and you stick around until the very end, you’ll be witness to something spectacularly “Midland.” Someone will call, “Dishes to Dish House!” and the whole room will spring into action. Diners will grab their plates, bowls, and utensils and deliver them to a team of students scrubbing sticky dishes, blaring the soundtrack of the day, and having the occasional bubble fight. Another team of students will pick up brooms and cleaning cloths, restoring the whole room from meal-time messy to spick and span.

In the midst of it, if you’re paying close attention, you’ll notice that every person involved is a student, each group led by a skilled and knowledgeable senior who has taught their team how to accomplish the task at hand — and how to have fun doing it. It’s a brilliant illustration of what Head of School Christopher Barnes means when he says, “The most powerful part of our mission statement is through study and work.”

While the “study” aspect is (unsurprisingly) most clear through our curriculum, we perhaps see the “work” piece of this most clearly through our Jobs Program. As waiters, dishwashers, bathroom and classroom cleaners, bell-ringers, lettuce-pickers, horse-feeders, wood-choppers and more, our students participate in robust and authentic experiences to keep our community engaged and campus well-maintained. Extending beyond the confines of the classroom, the Jobs Program teaches the importance of being a member of our community where you are counted on, you matter, and your role is not only important, but critical to our success.

This begs the question: how does the Jobs Program work? Students rotate through different jobs every semester, to gain a comprehensive understanding of the multitude of roles and responsibilities that are crucial to supporting Midland’s daily operations. As they embark on their final year at Midland, our seniors step into leadership roles as job heads, guiding and mentoring underclassmen in their work. This means that our Jobs Program is almost entirely student-run, grounding the student experience in real responsibility and, for seniors, management experience.

The Jobs Program, too, is intentionally designed to prioritize our students’ growth. At the base is showing up and acknowledging the responsibilities of a job. It is at this stage that students become externally motivated because not performing their respective duties comes with consequences — including the knowledge that a classmate had to pick up their slack. 

Gradually, students then become internally motivated — they see a beginning, a middle and an end to their duties; they build self-confidence; and they develop a sense of identity and ownership for doing a good job. The results of this are twofold: students not only learn to work effectively with others, but also develop a sense of agency through priority-setting and time management. 

Finally, our Jobs Program culminates in institutional sustainability — by teaching the next person what they’ve learned throughout their four years as a Midlander, this is a testament to each student’s commitment to creating a legacy for years to come while allowing them another opportunity for leadership. 

By the time each student leaves Midland, they have an impressive resume that showcases the diverse skills and responsibilities they developed and held as a student. Even more than that, though, they leave with the ability to find joy and fun in hard work and countless memories of jokes made while cleaning classrooms, sprinting to the bell to make sure its rung on time and, yes, post-meal parties in Dish House.

Read what our students have to say about the Jobs Program.

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