In my experience, one of the hardest tasks students face at Ridgeview can be summed up in two daunting words: required contribution. Every class requires that students actively participate in learning the material through “the great conversation.”

Countless quiet students have spent many moments contemplating their own hushed demeanor much to the chagrin of their participation grades. It is worth noting that teachers are not asking that those students become outgoing and opinionated. Moreover, they offer them a place that they, too, can voice their ideas about literature and history. Participation is required to further understanding.

For the shy, Amanda Sanders ’10 offers: “Don’t be afraid to speak up. The classes and the learning thrive based on discussion. And, even…opinions that seem obvious are great additions to the conversation.”

Aiden Van Maren ’13 suggests that contribution begets strength of voice and character: “Do your best to confidently contribute to daily conversation in class. This will necessitate not merely confidence, but also the humility to actually engage with the ideas presented by your peers as well as the teacher. There is nothing more valuable to the Ridgeview experience than to hear and be heard, to speak and to listen, to be part of the great conversation.”

Some may believe that “the great conversation” is best left for those who have the best grasp of some ideas. Students may feel they cannot contribute because they do not feel that they understand it thoroughly enough to respond. However, even explaining a misunderstanding can offer insight and forward understanding. “Be persistent,” Kylie Baker ’10, explains. “If you do not understand something, do not feel discouraged. Go and talk to your teachers and peers about it until you understand.”

I remember one fall afternoon, about eight years ago, during which six young ladies sat on the kitchen floor at my house. We were freshmen studying together, lost in a conversation about our history paper, debating whether Sparta or Athens was more free. I do not remember which side I ultimately took, but I do remember the conversation among friends and thus the concept. Conversation becomes the Ridgeview experience.

Ridgeview is not just a school, but a community and an experience. Thus, it nurtures three intertwined types of knowledge: as a school, Ridgeview teaches intellectual knowledge; as a community, it relies on mutual conversations based on shared knowledge; and, as an experience, Ridgeview is the constant realization of lessons’ applications in everyday life.

These are not forced conclusions, but natural consequences of an integrative curriculum that constantly asks, “Why do I care?” My advice is to answer that question quickly and appropriately whenever it appears. And, if you do not know the answer: ask and discuss it. “Why should we care?” asked mindfully, could be an important contribution to the conversation.

Posted by Michaela Koretko-Stephens