Where Lab needs to focus next


Berk Oto

Lab's success stems from its collaborative nature, and this is the key to improving our community, says Ben Cifu.

Ben Cifu, Guest Columnist

I have been at Lab since I was 3 and have seen dozens of changes, some of which I participated in through Student Council. I am incredibly grateful for my time at Lab and the invaluable opportunities I had in and out of the classroom and for how they shaped me. As I leave Lab, I wanted to say a little about how I think Lab can grow. Lab is filled with incredible students and teachers who need more of a voice in everything at Lab from its curriculum to who gets hired.

Lab is a unique school. One of our greatest strengths is our academics, and the schools do a great job teaching collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving and other essential skills. This strength is reflected in the mindset of students of all ages: everyone comes to Lab to learn together in and out of classes. 

DEI education is crucial for teaching students to honor diversity, part of Lab’s mission, and this past year’s events have exposed Lab’s shortcomings. Diversity, equity and inclusion are not taught sufficiently at Lab. 

There is presently some DEI education in middle and high school, but it is sporadic and disconnected. Lab needs to build a DEI curriculum that starts with young students and builds on itself every year. Students, faculty, administrators and parents collaborating will teach us how to build a curriculum that grows through the grades while also improving Lab’s climate.

Beyond DEI, the education at Lab is currently piecemeal and not cumulative. Nurturing curiosity and scholarship is in Lab’s mission statement, and many students develop this mindset. However, a common method to instill these values does not exist across the schools, and as students get older their education becomes more isolated into single subjects and less cumulative. 

Creating a curriculum with skills and ideas that are built on year after year is critical to stay true to the mission statement. The All-Schools Council regularly brings together teachers, students and administrators from the different schools to identify common problems and collaborate on solutions. Groups like this provide a place for students and teachers from different schools to discuss their curricula and how to use them to connect grades. These initiatives need to be expanded so everyone at Lab can work together on this progressive curriculum. Furthermore, teachers need to be empowered and given the time to collaborate with co-workers to enhance what and how they teach.

Student and teacher voice is also critical in hiring decisions. We have had two directors with short tenures. However, there are many successful administrators who have been at Lab for years and who work closely with faculty, parents and students. They succeed because they listen to the variety of opinions at Lab, make their feelings and intentions clear and understand the quirks of this school. 

Productive administrators are hired when students and faculty are involved from the first stages of the hiring process: reviewing and interviewing candidates. This yields successful administrators because everyone looks for something different in a candidate, so by considering everyone’s unique viewpoints and needs, the school hires people who work for everyone.

Despite Lab’s challenges, it has a community full of caring, smart people who understand that Lab’s success comes from collaboration. This collaboration to learn, play and solve problems together is seen at every age. As I am about to move from student to alumnus, it gives me hope that everyone at Lab can work together to continue to better our community.

Ben Cifu is a member of the Class of 2020 who served as all-school president during the 2019-20 school year.