Inspired experience based college preparatory education for creative and intellectually curious students
Early childhood through twelfth grade

Waverly Wonderful Photo It has been a privilege this year to teach, among the 64 middle schoolers, a handful of eighth graders who were in Molly’s 3/4 class so many years ago when I subbed for her. She was on maternity leave for Aiben (who is now so tall and full of questions!), and I was taking on a change of work from teaching and dean-of-studenting to filling in. I had taught high school and middle school English here, and I thought, how hard could third and fourth grade be? And it was only for three months!

It will come as no surprise to elementary teachers that third and fourth graders are entirely different creatures from the pre-teens and teens of middle and high school. And this particular group of Molly’s was, how should I put it? Full of life. Full of energy and excitement and emotion. If I thought it was going to be any kind of laid back, semi-“down time,” well, I had another think coming.

Those little kids put me through my paces as I worked with them on social studies and English. They proudly brought me their cursive handbooks for signing off, and they read out loud to me from all kinds of books. I got to read out loud to them, too, which was always the highlight of my day in that classroom. Along with their exceptional liveliness, this group of children also had surprising emotional awareness. There were a few disputes here and there, but certain boys and girls always spoke up to either defend their less asssertive classmates or to remind others to tone down harsh remarks. They were, above all else, very loving and affectionate with one another and with their teachers.

When I was so lucky to be able to return to the middle school to teach, about three years ago, I knew many in this group that I had subbed for would be coming down the pipeline. I remembered their vivacity, and I wondered if they would keep me on my toes as 12- to 14-year-olds as they had way back when. I hoped I was up for it.

Here we are now, at the end of the eighth grade year for those fourth graders of (not that) long ago. This school year began with a surprising bit of reserve from many of my old comrades, and I thought, wow, they’ve really changed. They’ve grown up, they’ve evolved, and they’re much quieter than they were in elementary school. I will admit I was a tiny bit disappointed that I wasn’t greeted with crazy hugs and broad smiles back at the start of this school year. I chalked it up to maturity (ugh).

But then something happened, something that has happened every year I’ve taught middle school. All of the students, the lifers and the new kids, relaxed and loosened up, and we all got to know each other as the school year progressed. And this winter and spring has been rich with hugs and happy faces and jokes and a bit of hollering because that’s who these kids are. We even danced together at the middle school dance last week (it was a gas!)

The ones I subbed for way back when have changed, of course, but they are also the same exuberant humans who turned paper plates into indigenous masks with globs of tempera. Their humor is a little bit more sophisticated, and their writing can be wry and sassy and so vulnerable that it makes you want to weep.

It is going to be especially poignant for me to watch the eighth graders move on at their celebration ceremony June 8. I have had a kind of a double dose of a few of these individuals, and they have been lovely and remarkable and so full of life. Be assured that the students who were new to me or to Waverly this year have also had a profound affect on me. This is why I love to teach here so much, and why Waverly is so wonderful.

By Lisa Groening

I remember sitting in between my mothers knees, no longer holding back tears as she used a wide-toothed comb to untangle my hair. Bawling while simultaneously trying to pay attention to The Lion King because, an hour in and we were hardly a quarter of the way through. After each section she would take a clump of my hair that was trapped in the comb and place it on the table beside me. As the ball of blond hair became bigger and more cloud-like, I would think back to my friends at school, with their long straight hair and I was jealous. How come they didn’t have to spend a whole day washing their hair? How come their mamas never burned their ears with a hot comb? How come they look like the women in magazines and I so often get mistaken for a boy, just because my hair does not fall in glossy tendrils down my back?

For my twelfth birthday, I woke up early, so excited that this morning might have been mistaken for Christmas. At Katie’s Hair Salon, Katie herself would spend the next six hours making my hair straight; like that of the women on relaxer boxes. I ran my fingers through my hair for the first time and constantly after that. I brushed, twirled and flipped it just like my friends at school. I had never been so happy. It lasted three days.

Almost none of my friends recognized me, and in the first couple of days, I hardly recognized myself. As time progressed, and my hair got frizzier, more things got stuck in it.  At first it was just simple stuff like twigs and leaves, even frizzier and I would pull out that bobby pin I left there three weeks ago. Frizzier then, and I would remove the occasional pencil placed by classmates betting on how long it would take me to notice.

When I finally let it bloom into its fullest potential, I found some things I never expected. I found pride when a photographer invited me to his workshop, my unique look engraved now, and forever, as tintypes. I found frustration when my local temple took me less seriously because my curls made me an outlier. I found a startling attention from strangers stemming from the curious as well as the creepy and inadvertently racist.

While I have to fight every day to make my voice heard, my hair makes statements without even trying. I’ve had older black men look at me and raise a prideful fist in the air. Our eye contact speaks about Black Power, Angela Davis and a fight for equality that continues to this day.

I’ve had women stare with admiration as they touch their own tresses damaged by a billion-dollar industry pushing chemical relaxers, wigs and weaves. They tell me about sacrificing their natural hair to the European ideal of beauty so they don’t get passed over for a promotion. They tell me to keep it up because I’m continuing a personal protest with every wash-and-go.

I found my identity in a cloud of hair cocooning and incubating how I perceive the world as well as how it perceives me. It took years for me to accept that what I have is malleable and beautiful and mine and it shouts of black excellence even when I cannot find my voice.

Sidney Fisher, Class of 2018, will be attending The University of Michigan in the fall.

Everyday Photos

June 2, 2016

After discovering impressionist painters when I was fourteen, I decided to become an artist. It didn’t take me long to realize, however, that I lacked any ability to create with my hand what I pictured in my mind. Soon after seeing an exhibit of photographs of the Farm Security Administration (FSA), my mother gave me […]

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Far Beyond Good Enough

May 3, 2016

About six years ago I went to a school fair in search of a middle school for our daughter. I ended up in a room with representatives from an independent Westside school. The first question a prospective parent asked was, “Where do your students go?”  The representative responded, “We have gotten students into Stanford, Harvard, […]

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Counting On

October 27, 2015

Last Wednesday, my son Charlie made a game winning touch down, passed to him by my other son Sam, at one of two middle school flag football games I missed in one week. Fortunately, there were Waverly parents there, parents who not only gave them rides, but cheered them on, and later told me all […]

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Advice From The Class of 2016

October 16, 2015

Who is better equipped to give advice to 9th graders about high school than seniors? Enjoy these 23 tips for the appreciating and finding more success in high school from Waverly’s senior class. You may feel awkward or self-conscious about yourself. You may feel that you don’t fit in or have any friends. When I […]

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September 14, 2015

Carlos Aldaco’s face may not be one that is familiar to you. While his work at Waverly is not with the children, it is invaluable to the daily life at school. Carlos is a craftsman. He works on all the facilities at Waverly as a technician, painter, plumber, electrician, carpenter, and space problem solver. He […]

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Then & Now

September 14, 2015

If you are like me, thousands of photographs live on your computer.  The intention is to print them, create albums, or to in some way share and enjoy them with others. Every time I open my laptop, I see the ticking of the proverbial clock. As my children get older, time moves faster. The first […]

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Building Relationships & Community

March 26, 2015

My office is located at the elementary school just two steps from the bathrooms. Believe it or not, proximity to these facilities helps me to do my job. I am privy to all sorts of conversations between students, between students and parents, and between students and teachers (as I write this I see and hear […]

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Where In The World Are Waverly Graduates? Ian Rees, ’07

May 31, 2013

Ian Rees, class of 2007, began working on feature films, short films, iPhone apps, and more after finishing his college career at CSUN. For his Senior Recital (a requirement for his graduation) he hired a live orchestra and conducted them as they performed his original compositions in sync with scenes from movies that he had […]

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