While we continue to hone the reading, thinking and speaking skills of our schoolchildren through the middle school, we start giving greater priority to building their social maturity, their work-skills, and their writing skills. Together, these skills will determine how effectively they would cooperate and work together as a group.

To build social maturity, we take a unique approach: we try to simulate the world within the four walls of the classroom – and nothing does it better than stories and cinemas. At Levelfield, a student of class VII or VIII end up watching 15-20 movies in a year. Movies transport us into other people’s minds and situations – thereby teaching us empathy. They can familiarize us with distant lands and different cultures. Movies like Hotel Rwanda or Life is Beautiful can even teach students some aspects of leadership.

To develop work-skills, we should give our students real responsibilities inside the school, so much so that our middle and high school students effectively run the school. We get the students to manage the school canteen, maintain the school blog and Twitter handle, take care of the school’s IT infrastructure, teach younger children, and fully take charge of the annual events. To prepare them for these responsibilities, we teach them how to use computers to write, present, calculate and communicate. We guide them about how to behave in a team, coordinate a meeting, and to resolve conflicts.

Writing also becomes a big focus around this time. Though our students do not write ‘answers’ to textbook ‘questions’ – rather, they write to communicate, to persuade. Everyone has a Medium and Twitter account, and they write convincingly about social issues and issues inside the school. They write about the need to sleep 9-hours a night, or about why cheating does not pay. Some analyze the movies they watch inside the school through their writing. Some write about how Bollywood movies brainwash us or why students should not use smartphones.

They write because they feel passionately about certain issues, not because they have been forced to write. A lot of their writings have won awards and have been published in newspapers. As always, our approach to teach writing is different: we do not teach them structure, grammar and diction. Rather, we write with them, thereby being examples and inspirations that they can follow. It also helps that they are so well-read by this age: reading feeds into writing.