Two Malvern students and two Villa students swapped roles for a day in order to gain new perspectives, not only on their respective swaps, but on their own schools.
It was the craziest idea I had ever had.
Well, no. Let me rephrase my lead: It was the craziest idea I had ever had that worked.
On Friday, May 16, two girls from Villa Maria Academy, Keely Washel ‘15 and Emily Legaard ‘15, spent the day as Malvern students while Parker Abate ‘15 and I spent the day as Villa students. The swap was the result of nearly a full month of planning, cooperation of the administrations at both schools, and the willingness of a couple of brave students from each school to be involved.
The girls both followed my academic schedule for the day, while Parker and I each followed individual schedules at Villa accompanied by a host.
When I was at Villa, I definitely noticed some differences. During the classes, the students were a lot more attentive. Not to say that Malvern students are not attentive, but the level of focus which was present by every student in every class was astounding.
“We definitely feel that there was a lot more freedom in the classes,” noted Washel and Legaard on their Malvern experience. “Classes were a lot more laid back then we were used to.”
However, Parker Abate thought the experience of attending Villa was more similar than different to a day at Malvern. “I felt like it was the same, just with girls,” said Abate. “I mean, a little more mannerly, of course.”
Villa did not have the set “break” in the day like we do at Malvern. And my tour guide had seventh period lunch. Going seven periods of class straight through is harder than you might think! I also was not accustomed to the bell. Having a universally set time which everyone switches classes was a cool thing to see. It brought order and lessened confusion.
But at the end of the day, Villa and Malvern were more alike than dissimilar. Both schools have beautiful campuses, the students and teachers are welcoming, and each school, though founded by different orders, is deeply rooted in their Catholic faith.
This one day of learning did not come without preparation and planning. In fact, planning began on April 22, almost four weeks before the actual swap.
In advance of the swap, Mr. Algeo, Head of Malvern’s Upper School, had some cautious questions. “How do we assure that the young lady who trades spaces and spends the day here isn’t subject to immature barbs, harassment, or negative comments? Should another student from her school accompany her so she doesn’t feel so isolated? How can we educate our students about this experiment and have them buy into making a positive impression and avoid negative behavior?” he asked. These questions drove our discussions throughout several planning meetings.
Both Villa’s and Malvern’s administrations preferred the idea of having two students participate from each school. Algeo had a brief meeting with the junior class on Friday, May 15, the day prior to the swap. He explained the program to the juniors and asked for the full class’s respect and cooperation.
“Class was normal regarding my routine, how I lectured, etc. The guys in class acted a little bit different though. They were trying harder than normal to be funny,” said Mr. Koenig, Physics teacher at Malvern.
Koenig liked the experience, noting it was a change of pace. “At Salesianum we used to have an exchange program with Ursuline, a nearby all girls school. We had a fixed first period daily and the rest of the classes rotated. The exchange was during this fixed 1st period and we loved it. It was basically our only interaction with females on an everyday basis,” he said.
Kiersten McDonald VMA ‘15 liked the experience of having boys attend Villa for the day. “It was definitely intriguing to get to have boys in our classes, because it got a chance for all of us to know the differences in single-sex education styles. They asked questions of us, we asked questions of them, and in the end, we all learned new things,” said McDonald.
“I think it was definitely an interesting experience for the girls,” said Peter Calvaresi ‘15. “They seemed like they were surprised on how laid back some of the classes were. But it was definitely awesome to have something happen like this in class.”
“I felt pretty comfortable attending Malvern, because even though we had no clue where we were going,” joked Keely Washel, “We could ask anyone on campus and they would be happy to help us. Everyone was really nice and willing to help us if we needed it.”
“It was really a stress-free day, and in general, a lot less structured than Villa is.” said Emily Legaard. “That aspect of the swap was definitely unusual, but the different buildings and classes were extremely similar to mine. This made it easier to adapt to the different atmosphere.”
“I love the concept of a co-ed exchange and hope we can find a way to work this in for the future,” said Mr. Koenig. “We should do a teacher exchange some time also, that would be interesting. I would absolutely do it again.”
Mr. Algeo was thrilled with how this all played out. “I was extremely proud of the hard work that went into this. The team who organized this took on all of my concerns head on, and it turned out to be successful,” said Algeo.
“I used to teach in a school in Florida,” said Sister Regina Ryan, Principal of Villa. “We used to do swaps like these all the time. It was interesting to see this happen again at Villa.”
Whether it be students or teachers, the exchange is definitely an interesting concept, and an extremely unique experience. In the words of Romans 12:5: “So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”