Students in the Middle School gathered by grade this week to learn about and sign the Honor Code. The Middle School Honor Code is
I will live by the principles of trust, respect, responsibility, and honor as a student at MICDS.
Head of Middle School Jen Schuckman addressed each class.
Happy first week! So happy to be with you all again. I hope that you are settling in and really starting to feel and understand how our Middle School functions. And I don’t necessarily mean the schedule or the spaces or the technology or lunch. But rather how we function as people. How we thrive as a community of individuals who come from so many directions and experiences. We walk in the doors each morning as our own individual selves while at the same time we are members of Middle School. And as community members, we have a collective obligation to always do the right thing and take care of each other. That obligation is called our Honor Code and we are gathered today to be sure that we understand what it means and how it holds us together.
When we think about the concept of an honor code, we have many ideas that might pop into our heads: it’s a set of rules, it is what adults expect from us, or maybe it is just four words that hang on the wall that we think we can ignore. But to think of it in a different way is to see it as the definition of our community. The absolute, non-negotiable standard that the Middle School Student Council wrote over 20 years ago defined who we wanted to be. And over time, rules were adjusted, discipline consequences changed, but the Honor Code was never altered in any way. Similar to our School’s Mission Statement, our Middle School Honor Code has stood the test of time and its simplicity is what makes it so powerful. Four words…so short, but so mighty: trust, respect, responsibility, and honor.
What you might notice is that those four words are all you really need to do the right thing. We could have a list of rules a mile long that spells out all the things we expect from you. But soon you would realize that each and every rule would connect back to trust, respect, responsibility, and honor.
Think for a moment about a rule you have heard in your life from a parent, a coach, a minister, a teacher, a relative. No matter what the rule, there is always a way to tie it back to our Honor Code. Play fair, wait your turn, don’t cheat, say please and thank you, follow directions, clean up after yourself, be nice to each other. They all expect a level of us understanding that we are part of something bigger and that privilege includes the expectation to be a positive contributor. You will find out very quickly that anything less is not how our community works. You will come to learn that we are upstanders, not bystanders. You will notice that we do not tolerate unkind treatment, selfish actions, hurtful language, or any other negative behavior that would cause another person to leave School not feeling like they are welcome. Here at MICDS, we call each other out. We make it a point to extend goodwill and kindness. We expect to hear “thank you” and “can I help you” and “are you ok?” You can be sure that the adults around you will remind you of these expectations and we will have those tough conversations when behaviors fall short.
It really comes down to choice, your choices each day…the expectations are clear, they hang in your classrooms and in the hallway as you enter this Chapel. But you are the decision-makers. Your time in Middle School is not just about learning your history facts, or fine-tuning your drawing skills, or solving the word problem in math. It is about learning how to make good, fair, honest choices that make you feel proud and happy. You are faced with countless decisions each and every day that bring you directly back to the Honor Code and that Honor Code is your answer key, your “cheat sheet” as you contemplate your options.
And some decisions are easier than others…you start your morning by deciding what you are going to wear to school and whether or not you will respect the dress code. Or you might be in a hurry to go to recess, but you decide to walk all the way upstairs to return a book to the library because you want to be responsible and meet the due date so someone else can enjoy the book.
And then some decisions get more difficult…you spilled your drink in the cafeteria but no one saw it. You have to decide if you will clean it up or leave it for someone else to clean up so you can spend more time chatting with your friends.
Or…you forgot to finish your science homework. You have to decide if you will admit this to your teacher or try to copy your friend’s quickly before class so you don’t get in trouble at home.
Or…your best friend hurt you and you have to decide if you should spread a lie about her as payback because you know it will hurt her. You can never take your words and actions back so deciding to put them out there is a monumental and permanent decision.
No matter the choices you face, we recognize that middle school is hard and messy, and stressful at times. That is why we live by the simplest yet most understandable expectations: trust, respect, responsibility, and honor. We all have to do our part to make it easier for everyone around us. There is immeasurable wisdom in this room….listen to words closely and watch actions carefully. Around every corner is an example, just waiting for you to observe and to learn.
So when you sign your name to the Honor Code, you are not just committing to those four words, you are committing to every classmate and to every adult in this room and throughout MICDS. You are committing to doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do. You are committing to make choices that uphold the Honor Code, the contract that you have signed. We believe deeply in that commitment, we expect that commitment from each other, and when that commitment is broken, we find our way back to the Honor Code to own mistakes and to move forward and grow.
So remember…be good humans and…do the right thing…
Middle School students and faculty then signaled their commitment by signing the Honor Code, promising to make our Middle School a community of kindness.
The Honor Code will hang in the Middle School hallway outside Eliot Chapel for the rest of the year and serves as a reminder to all students and faculty of the promise they made to continue to take care of the school community.