There are many unique aspects to a Tandem Friends education - Freedom with Responsibility, one-on-one relationships with teachers, Quaker values and practices, and service learning, to name a few. These qualities are a part of everyday life for a Tandem Friends student. There are other equally important and 'uniquely Tandem' things every student will encounter, things they might not find at any other school, things that they will remember fondly when they look back on their years at Tandem. Some of these events happen daily, some occur once a year; all are life-altering affirmations of a school that stresses community, learning, listening, and sharing.
The advisory program at Tandem Friends School is a key component of the curriculum in both the Middle School and the Upper School and reflects a commitment to realizing the mission of the school at each grade level. All students are assigned to small group advisories by grade and meet once each week. The advisory program is designed to support and empower the student in personal development, self-advocacy, ethical behavior, academic excellence, and community engagement.
Quaker history and values are examined in the advisory curriculum and inform the school-wide advisory themes of community, integrity, service, simplicity, justice, compassion, peace, and stewardship. Advisory activities focus on goals, themes, and issues of importance to individual grade levels and to the school community as a whole. The advisory curriculum allows the flexibility to respond to matters of importance in the life of the school. Advisory activities also include review of individual students’ academic goals and progress and review of grades and comments.
Nothing is more important in the life of our school than student voice and well-being. To that end, the Tandem Friends advisory system will always allow for “Tandem Topics” to be brought before the group, should there be a perceived need to do so. No amount of scheduling should hinder the invaluable experience of spontaneous and heartfelt needs being expressed. Advisors will guide the conversation with their advisees.
Each spring semester, students participate in Emphasis Week. During this week, students and teachers put aside regular school activities and take part in faculty sponsored courses, community service activities, week-long field trips, or career-oriented internship programs. At the conclusion of Emphasis Week, students share experiences during an all-school presentation.
Examples of recent Emphasis offerings include: African Drum Making, Appalachian Trail Hike, Animal Activism, International Cooking and Culture, Silver Jewelry Making, Doghouse Construction, Katrina Relief, Strategy Games, Green Building, Florida Marine Life, Sailing, and Knitting and Quilting. Previous international trips include a Spanish language immersion trip to Spain, a trip to Florence, Italy to focus on the Renaissance, and a student (8th graders and Upper Schoolers) filmmaker's trip to England to participate in the Bridge Film Festival.
Students select from Emphasis offerings published in the Fall. All students participate in an activity of choice, regardless of ability to pay. Necessary funds are acquired through group fundraising efforts.
Emphasis Offerings for 2012 - Click here to read about this year's spring Emphasis Offerings, or see a slideshow of some of last year's offerings below.
Meeting for Worship is the center of organized spiritual activity at Tandem Friends School. Each Wednesday, the school community gathers for thirty-five minutes of shared silence. We sit in silence, listening inwardly, together. Sometimes someone shares a thought. Sometimes a "query" is presented for reflection at the beginning of the Meeting. Always, we go to Meeting with the belief that each member of the community carries an Inner Light which can be gleaned and expressed when one listens deeply to oneself and others.
Meeting offers a period of quiet meditation, a time for all to sit together in thoughtful and deliberate silence. Meeting is a process of sharing, searching and listening for meaning and understanding in a safe and calm space.
As has been the Friends' practice for over 350 years, the Tandem Friends community gathers together in quiet reflection to listen for the Inner Voice. Out of this calm center, and after an initial period of settling-in, members may become more sensitive to all that is sacred around us. When moved to speak from a calm center, teacher and student alike provide vocal ministry to the community. Every Meeting for Worship is different, in part because there is no official liturgy, and also because thoughts and concerns that may weigh heavily on members change from week to week. Meeting for Worship punctuates what can otherwise be a fast-paced week of learning with a quiet, meditative period of calm reflection.
The Meeting for Worship and query schedule is planned by the Spiritual Life Committee, which also guides the spiritual culture and atmosphere at Tandem Friends. The committee meets biweekly at lunch, includes faculty and staff members and members of the Charlottesville Friends Meeting community, and is open to interested students. The committee talks about issues in the Tandem community and student life, local concerns that might have a spiritual impact, and any upcoming Quaker-affiliated activities. It serves as the primary link between Tandem Friends and the Charlottesville Friends Meeting.
Click here for the second semester Meeting for Worship schedule.
Morning Meeting starts out every school day at 8:30AM, with Middle Schoolers and Middle School faculty meeting in the Middle School Meeting Room, and Upper Schoolers and Upper School faculty meeting in the Community Hall. Morning Meeting begins with a few moments of settling silence, then meeting leaders call on those who have announcements to make. Morning Meeting provides daily connection to community, an opportunity to find out about the day's events, and an open forum for those who have announcements to share.
In a typical Middle School Morning Meeting, an 8th grader acts as meeting leader, ringing a bell to start the meeting, ending the settling silence, and calling on any adult or student who has an announcement to make. Teachers explain any changes to the day's schedule, students announce birthdays, share concerns, mention athletic game outcomes, and announce community related events or concerns.
Seniors run each Upper School Morning Meeting, beginning and ending the silence and calling on anyone who has an announcement to make. As in the Middle School meeting, students and faculty share announcements about schedules, games, practices, birthdays, announcements, concerns, opinions and community issues. Seniors happily share college acceptance news with their peers.
Students are expected to be on time and mentally present at Morning Meeting.
As the need arises, all Upper School students and faculty gather to address any issues of concern raised by a member of the community. These gatherings, run by the Student Senate, are called Open Meetings and they are one of the cornerstones of the ideals upon which Tandem Friends was based. The entire group sits down to discuss policy, resolve disputes, or air differences of opinion. The school's founders set up this method as a way to "foster the ideal of reasonable behavior arrived at reasonably."
On Wednesday afternoons, after Meeting for Worship and lunch, a forty-minute block of time is allotted for Speaker's Series. Speaker's Series began years ago as a way to bring the community together to:
Listen to someone speak about a local, national, or international issue or cause
Enjoy a performance by touring or local musicians or actors
Hold an Open Meeting
Conduct a school event such as Mock Election, Student Senate Elections, etc.
Perform for one another in an Open Mic event
Some Speaker's Series events are attended by both Upper and Middle School students; some events are separated by division. All are open to parents, faculty and staff.
When the Upper School holds a Speaker's Series event, Middle Schoolers either meet in advisory or host an event or open meeting of their own, depending on the immediate needs of the community.
The role that students and faculty play in maintaining the buildings and grounds at Tandem is one of the school’s oldest and finest traditions, that of all members of the community working together to keep the school clean and organized. The spirit that moves students to take care of their school is renewed by the work they perform; every sweep of a broom signifies a commitment to a community whose benefits far outweigh those of a clean floor.
Maintenance and upkeep of the facility is primarily the responsibility of the faculty and student body. The Plant and Grounds Crew handles repairs that are beyond the scope of the student’s abilities; most cleaning duties are assumed by student work teams. This program is extremely important to the well being of the community.
Fifth grade students are responsible for cleaning their classrooms under the supervision of their teacher. The rest of the school buildings and grounds are divided into distinct areas, with a work crew responsible for each. The work crews are composed of students in 6th through 12th grades. As crew leaders, seniors are provided an ideal and challenging leadership opportunity. Faculty members serve as work crew advisors and participate to the fullest extent possible. Fifth graders work together to maintain their classroom space.
All students in grades six through twelve have a work obligation of 85 days (approximately one-half of the school year). The year is divided into quarters and students are assigned to a work crew every-other quarter. All work is performed after school from 3:30 p.m. to 3:50 p.m. Students who have athletic games that interfere arrange to perform their portion of work crew during lunch.
Back to School Night is an evening designed to introduce parents to the school program, faculty and staff. Parents participate in a shortened version of their student’s daily schedule, moving from classroom to classroom, and speaking with each teacher. Additionally, a program overview and school year introduction is provided by the Head of School, the entire faculty is on hand for introductions, and important information is handed out. Back to School Night is considered the most important parent event of the entire year, and every parent is encouraged to come.
When Tandem Friends was founded in 1970, it was with a determination to keep students connected to their natural surroundings. In an effort to remind the entire community to take the time to enjoy the beauty of our surrounding mountains, the school's founders began what is now it's longest running tradition - Blue Ridge Day. On one glorious fall day in October, classes are suspended, and the entire community - students and faculty alike - heads out for a day of hiking. It is a precious tradition that encourages us all to slow down, to look at the beauty around us, to connect to each other in a joyous celebration of the outdoors.
In keeping with the Quaker testimony of Stewardship, which encourages responsibility, conservation, protection and nurturing of the environment, students are encouraged to reflect on and live in their natural surroundings. A lengthy nature trail partially encircles the campus.
In October, students bring pumpkins to school and spend an hour or more on pumpkin carving. Faculty and staff judge their artistic endeavors and the campus quickly becomes decorated for Halloween with pumpkins everywhere. Students can work on individual creations or group creations; the quad is awash in orange.
Halloween costumes and Pumpkin Carving Day go together!
On the final school day before the winter holiday, the Tandem Friends community gathers for a winter celebration. This includes community service for all in the morning, with Upper Schoolers going offsite to deliver food baskets, take donations to the Food Bank, carol in nearby homes for the elderly, and many other programs. Middle Schoolers perform community service work and enjoy holiday activities together on campus. In the afternoon, everyone gathers in the Community Hall for a program of music, stories, sometimes dance or a film, and an occasional visit from Santa Claus. The day is concluded with a beloved Meeting for Worship that honors our seniors and finds many alumni returning to participate.
Each spring, grandparents and/or special older friends are invited to visit Tandem Friends. Grandparents are introduced by their grandchild to the community, accompany their grandchild to class, share lunch together, and enjoy a student performance. It proves a delightful day and all grandparents are encouraged to attend.
As the weather warms, the Head of School announces a spontaneous spring day. Classes are suspended for this day of merriment, athletics, art and food. The day might include snow cones and cotton candy, face painting, frisbee and soccer, volleyball and limbo, goofy races and organized indoor games, and more - all led by Tandem faculty. A picnic lunch of hamburgers (or veggie burgers) is cooked by the staff and served. The day ends with the traditional 'Tugs of Peace' between grades and between faculty and students, followed by an all-school photo on the front porch.
The Mother's Day Music Festival is a decades-old tradition - a fun-filled day of musical performances, games, food and sunshine. Planned and executed by the Music department faculty and students, it features Tandem students and local bands in a day-long musical celebration. This is a program that cannot succeed without active community participation. Students plan this special day, and welcome help from everyone in the community.
Mother's Day Music Festival Slideshow
Images from the Annual Blue Ridge Day (2012)
Senior holiday elves help spread festivity before winter break.
Both students and teachers enjoy getting in character for Halloween.
Students get to try non-traditional classes during Emphasis week.