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Formation of Self program helps students embrace their unique selves and appreciate others

This quarter in their Formation of Self seminars, students are delving into metacognition to boost their learning skills, exploring the many facets of human identity, and developing their mindfulness practices. The cumulative four-year FOS curriculum is designed to build the kind of practical skills and knowledge—along with a solid sense of self—that lay the groundwork for success and satisfaction in college and beyond.
Learning how to learn 
Freshmen are discovering metacognition—that is, thinking about their thinking—and how it can help them to build intentional, active learning habits. When students ask themselves questions like: “What am I supposed to learn?,” “Am I on the right track?,” and “How might I apply this line of thinking to other problems?,” they become their own learning coaches and are able to tackle new academic challenges with confidence, says Ann Bussard, Mayfield’s Learning Specialist. 

Our ninth graders are also learning how to apply Mayfield’s “Actions Not Words” motto to their studies. In a recent survey, freshman students identified procrastination and time management as their top two troubles, but they’re taking steps to jump into action to boost their planning and productivity. Drawing on the ideas of academic coach Gretchen Wegner, known for her “Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying,” Mrs. Bussard advocates a combination of effective planning tools and study routines along with a faithful support team and regular self-care. “These strategies help students ‘get in gear,’ maintain focus, and achieve their goals,” she said. 

How you see yourself and others
When you watch TV, scan your social feeds or listen to a podcast, are you looking through a “window” or into a “mirror”? Sophomores are taking a critical look at the media they consume to investigate how what they watch, read and listen to shapes their perception of themselves and others.

An audit of their own media intake helped students to identify the “mirrors” that reflect their own identity and the “windows” that give them insight into unfamiliar life experiences. “This exercise helped students to evaluate the way different groups of people are represented—or misrepresented—and identify pervasive racial and ethnic stereotypes,” said Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator Sarah Briuer Boland, who encouraged students to share their own backgrounds and identity narratives. They also role played day-to-day conversations to practice interrupting the unconscious comments and slights that can make others feel “less than” and marginalized.

Our 10th graders continued their exploration of human identity by talking about the difference between sex, gender and sexual orientation. It’s a big topic, and one that students approached, Ms. Briuer Boland said, “firmly grounded in their own values as well as our shared Catholic values of accepting others with respect, compassion and sensitivity.” 

Appreciating the present while planning for the future
Junior students continue to explore different methods of mindfulness, including mindful breathing exercises, in a quest to find what works best for them. School Counselor Cristina Perez even recommended that students share what they’re learning with their parents and loved ones to expand their circle of awareness and gratitude. 

The myriad benefits of mindfulness practices—from allaying anxiety to boosting focus—are helping juniors as they begin the notoriously fraught college admissions process. College Counselors Lynn Maloney and Samantha Pieper eased into it with a fun quiz session that tested students’ knowledge of colleges across the country and touched on key terms that will help guide their college research. Ms. Maloney and Ms. Pieper also introduced juniors to SCOIR, their new online college research tool and personalized application manager. “We changed to SCOIR because it is more user-friendly for college searches, and it also can provide families more information about college costs,” said Ms. Maloney. “The girls have already enjoyed taking virtual tours of campuses across the country through SCOIR!” 

Acknowledging those who help along the way
“Our seniors survived the Nov. 1 application deadline thanks, in large part, to the time they were able to spend working on applications in FOS,” said Ms. Pieper. These regularly scheduled classroom sessions gave our college counselors the chance to check in on students’ lists, stay on top of document submission deadlines, and help students write the kind of essays that make their applications shine. 

In the lead up to Thanksgiving, seniors put their gratitude into action by learning to write meaningful thank you notes to people who have helped them through the college application process, especially the teachers who wrote letters of recommendation. “A good thank you note can go a long way!” said Ms. Pieper. 

Nurse Cota presented the first senior-year sex ed session, which covered male and female anatomy and intimacy and also cleared up common myths about STDs and birth control.  
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Established in 1931, Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, CA is a Catholic, independent, college preparatory school for young women grades 9-12. Noted for its rigorous academic program, which includes 21 Advanced Placement and Honors courses, Mayfield’s curriculum is underscored by a philosophy of educating the “whole child,” which also encourages commitment to and excellence in the arts, athletics, community service and spiritual growth. The nurturing environment at Mayfield Senior School allows each student to flourish in an atmosphere of personal attention.