Congratulations to all the students who made their public exhibitions of mastery—their “Gateway Exhibitions”—this week before moving on to the next division and level of study in the new semester! For students new to Parker this year, the January exhibitions were the first opportunity to experience a Gateway. For our older students and their families, the run-up to a Gateway Exhibition is deeply familiar, as are the conventions of its execution and delivery, but it never gets old or stale—schoolmates and family watching a student present and hearing about work that really mattered, work the student is proud of and—often enough—struggled to produce.
Exhibitions are integral to the student experience in all three divisions at Parker and in Essential Schools more generally. Ted Sizer put it this way in Horace’s Hope (1996):
Exhibitions consist of the presentation and discussion of the students’ actual efforts—their essays, arguments, and experiments…The idea of exhibitions derives as much from common sense as from custom. We do not judge a high school’s marching band and the individual players within it on the basis of brief snippets of taped music and videos of the marching. We want to see and hear that marching band in a real place, under real conditions, performing its entire repertoire, over time. The band ultimately knows full well how it is regarded, and why. At the same time, if well led, its members have a sense of what the target is, of how competence and excellence in this sort of endeavor is defined. They know from the observation of other, more experienced bands what they are aiming at, and they know that they have to go public and display their individual and collective work. This is a powerful incentive.
For students presenting this week, “going public” with their learning and accomplishment meant sharing their work with educators from around New England. As is often the case, the Sizer Teachers Center hosted visitors from three different schools this week who were interested in seeing Gateway Exhibitions and learning from Parker teachers and students during the visit.