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Sixth-Graders at Mountain View School Shine During Exit Interviews

The students reflect on their education, on life lessons learned and on their development as people

With about five days of elementary school left, sixth-graders at Mountain View School sat down and opened up to adult interviewers about their experiences, challenges, fears and excitement at this pivotal growth moment in their lives.

The conversations were all part of the students’ annual “exit interviews” at the school at 5465 Queen Ann Lane in the Goleta Union School District.

Caroline, a sixth-grader who shared both triumphs and struggles, described the interview process with appreciation.

“It was fun because you could actually tell him what you feel inside,” she said of her interviewer.

Students presented proud test grades, projects, artwork and a snapshot of the growing and evolving person behind each sheepish smile and goofy grin.

Scattered among the students were soccer trophies, ballet slippers, medals, two bright yellow softballs, a basketball trophy, and other glimpses of these unique and aspiring young people. It was a great opportunity to let the students share their accomplishments and help them celebrate who they are. There was an incredible amount of life energy.

Although sixth-graders may seem young, these students are bright, curious, driven and insightful. They are beautiful human beings in the making, learning what it means to have an identity and what matters in life.

Students shared a potpourri of insights regarding their lives. Summer declared, “I’m not a morning person.” John shared a lesson he stumbled upon, saying, “looks can be deceiving.”

They are just entering this discovery mode; each day they learn more about who they are and what they are capable of.

Those involved with Mountain View provide a community structured upon values and soaked in nurturing love and enthusiasm. Sora Young, one of the sixth-grade teachers, hopes to teach the students kindness.

“The world needs more kind people,” she said.

With nine years of experience teaching the sixth grade, Young knows how to captivate her students until the very last day. She does not let the end-of-year climate dampen with bittersweet feelings of departure.

“Instead of winding down, we wind up,” Young said.

Students learn more than how to number crunch and write papers, describing progression throughout the year not just in terms of test scores, but “life lessons and morals,” along the way.

“The biggest thing is kindness and respect,” Young said. “I always say sixth grade is one big happy family.”

The idea of a family resonates strongly with her students. Students conveyed the family environment in nostalgic letters reflecting the past year, when speaking about friendships and classroom dynamics, and when explaining programs such as peer mediation.

The emphasis on development as a whole person is not just present in Young’s classroom. Serina, a voracious reader, wrote fondly of time spent in the library.

“Mrs. DuBois and Mrs. Kautz teach us a weekly lesson on good character and caring before we check out our books,” she said. “Mrs. Kautz knows she doesn’t have to do that and she could just sit at the computer and enter in our books but she does it anyway and we’re grateful to her for it.”

Other students shared how helpful it was to spend time with Peggy Grossman, through the program “Thinking about Thinking,” in which Grossman helped students discover what type of learner they are, and how to study based on their learning style.

A sense of gratitude was evident, as students truly treasured their final year. Carly remarked, “This year is the best year in elementary school because you become really close with your friends.”

Some students will head to Goleta Valley Junior High, and others to La Colina Junior High. Many related feelings of both nervousness and excitement about their departure from Mountain View, most after seven years with their classmates. However, anticipation about new classes and meeting new friends often trumped worries about early morning P.E. classes and saying goodbye to recess.

Afterward, interviewers — including former Mountain View Principal Bob Wood, who retired last year; Goleta Union district Superintendent Kathy Boomer; and Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen — expressed how impressed they were with the Class of 2010. One interviewer described it as affirming of human nature. Another admirably noted the students’ attitude toward education. The “maturity, sense of purpose and totality of life,” was recalled in awe by an interviewer.

One recalled a poignant remark made by a student who said, “This year we learned how to learn.”

The student’s sentiment affirmed Young’s affectionate description of the sixth grade: “I just think it’s a really magical year. They grow up in so many ways.”

Noozhawk intern Lindsey Weintraub will be a sophomore at the University of San Diego in the fall. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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