Tarriers as Communicators and Stewards

Building Skills for Life in Middle School Advisory

Thinker, Communicator, Explorer, Steward, Collaborator, and Innovator. These are all traits identified in CWA’s “Portrait of a Tarrier,” our educational philosophy that intentionally fosters the traits that have made Charles Wright graduates stand out. It is a shared vision of the qualities our school aspires to develop in our students, and what skills, mindsets, and habits a Charles Wright Graduate should have.

What does that look like in a Charles Wright classroom? How do Charles Wright faculty members intentionally support the development of these traits in our students?

Middle School Humanities Teacher Gabrielle Plastrik recently shared strategies she and her colleagues are teaching during weekly Advisory time to help students build skills as Communicators and Stewards of the community. 

Ms. Plastrik shared, “This month, students will be working on breaking their Tarrier Trait goals into manageable weekly chunks, staying physically organized, and practicing memory strategies. They will discuss friendship and gratitude in their advisories and practice strategies for managing difficult moments in friendships. The month will wrap up with some work with apologizing and accepting apologies.

Students are learning a strategy for dealing with difficult friendship situations called SEAL from Owning Up by Rosalind Wiseman, the curriculum used in the Middle School for social skill building:


  • Stop:

    Take a deep breath. Observe where you are. Make a decision about how to make the problem smaller. Remove yourself from the situation as needed. Know you can think and troubleshoot more later.

  • Explain:

    Put your feelings into words. Be specific about what you don’t like and what you need, even if it initially seems small.

  • Affirm and Acknowledge:

    Affirm means that both you and the person you are upset with have the right to be treated with dignity. Acknowledge asks you if there is anything you did that contributed to the problem and needs to be considered.

  • Lock:

    Do you want to continue your friendship or is it time to move on?

    • Lock: You want to talk about the problem and keep the friendship or relationship.
    • Take a pause: You want to pause the friendship.
    • Lock out the friendship: You feel that you aren’t being treated with dignity so you need to end the friendship.

Faculty also shared these strategies with families so they may incorporate them into conversations and reminders with their Middle School students at home.

Because the Middle School years are a time of great change and personal challenges, they are also an amazing opportunity for students to recognize and name their values, learn to act in accordance with those values, and begin to think of themselves as members of a larger community. This work with friendships and gratitude sets the stage for the work we hope our Tarriers will do building community throughout their Upper School careers, and as graduates prepared to successfully navigate the future with confidence.

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