From Space Travelers to Princesses: Literary Agent Visits Creative Writing

This fall, students in Sonja Vitow’s Creative Writing elective enjoyed a visit from literary agent Rebecca Podos, who is also the author of the upcoming young adult novel The Mystery of Hollow Places, which will be published by Balzer & Bray in January 2016. As both an agent and a published author, Rebecca provided invaluable answers to the writers’ questions. When 11th grader Kendra asked about what she looks for in a manuscript, Rebecca said she values a good sense of plot and character, along with a strong command of language. (She also advised writers never to begin stories at the start of the day: “That can’t possibly be the most interesting time to begin a book, right?”)

When Tati, an 11th grader, asked how to write a young adult novel that isn’t cheesy, Rebecca advised, “respect your characters, whoever those characters are -- they can be space travelers or princesses, but respect them as people.” Rebecca also said she’s tired of all characters looking and sounding the same, and she strongly prefers books not focused solely on “cisgendered, white, teenage, suburban, affluent characters.” Elizabeth, a 12th grader, wondered whether she should write about characters who lack morality, and Rebecca insisted that those characters are often the most interesting, adding that the idea of “likeability” is a frequent and flawed standard for characters in young adult novels, particularly girls and women. In early reviews of her own novel, Rebecca said she was gratified to find that her female protagonist was described as “fascinating, but not always likeable.”

That description could be used for many of the characters in young adult novels these days, particularly those that focus on popular subjects like vampires, zombies, werewolves, and other apocalypse-generating forces. Rebecca stated that darker stories and horror are actually among her favorite genres. When Ruby, an 8th grader, asked whether there’s a limit to how gory or violent a young adult story can be, Rebecca’s answer didn’t dictate to writers, but asked them to make thoughtful choices. “Make sure there’s a reason for the violence,” she said. “Ask yourself, why do that many people have to die in that particular way?” In other words, it all comes back to one important policy: respect your characters.

Harvard Graduate School of Education Visits Meridian

On October 13, students from the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s course "Deeper Learning for All: Designing a 21st Century School System" visited Meridian to observe how our project-based curriculum, and its emphasis on depth over breadth, plays out in the classroom. 12 students and their professor participated in classes, engaged with students and teachers, and explored the student work visible in hallways and classrooms. They observed both Humanities and MST classes, and they debriefed their experience afterward with Joshua Abrams, Meridian’s Head of School, and Stephanie Kinkel, Dean of Faculty. During this conversation, the Harvard students expressed that they visit many schools, but that the literature about those schools rarely matches what they see in the classroom. Meridian stood out, they said, because "it was even better than what we had read about it.”

Educator Grant Lichtman calls Meridian the "school of the future today"

Writer and educator Grant Lichtman, author of #EdJourney: A Roadmap for the Future of Education and The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School visited Meridian and wrote about his experience on his website, The Future of K-12 Education.

In the post, titled "Believe in Dewey? School of the Future Today at Meridian Academy," Lichtman writes,

"...Meridian is a natural learning setting.  It is straight out of Dewey, Parker, Parkhurst, and Montessori. If I haven’t shown my bias strongly enough, I will say that it is a learning pond, a system that operates along the lines of a natural, not manufactured system.  Meridian is doing today what the founders of modern education were preaching in the past, and what so many of us are talking about as the future."

Read the rest of Lichtman's post here!

Boston Globe profiles Meridian and its "student-directed education"

In an article for The Boston Globe, reporter Kathleen Burge profiled Meridian and focused on its unique and student-centered approach to learning. Burge noted the many field trips that Meridian students take, the long-term projects that help learners gain knowledge through failure and perseverance, and the individualized support provided by teachers. 

Describing Meridian's project-based learning, Burge writes:

"Teachers at Meridian Academy evaluate students on long-term projects that the students present to parents and faculty at the end of each term. Children in a science class taught by Abrams, for example, will create a robotic miniature golf course for their final projects this spring. In Spanish, which is required, students wrote short stories in that language, and then translated them into English...'The kids have to work on something much more complex and long term,' Abrams said.  'Kids typically work much harder if the question is of their own making.'"

Photograph by Barry Chin for The Boston Globe.

Photograph by Barry Chin for The Boston Globe.