What Makes the Derryfield Middle School Experience Unique?

Q & A with Mark Blaisdell, Head of the Middle School

Q: What kind of students apply to Derryfield?

A: We attract students who are looking for challenges, looking for a place to belong, looking for a school where they can develop their passions–and maybe find some hidden talents they never knew they had.

At Derryfield, students don’t have to pigeonhole themselves as a bookworm or an athlete or into drama, they can really be all of them here. It’s okay to take risks and maybe fall flat a couple of times–it’s about the effort to try. And then if you do that across the board, if you do that within arts, if you do that within athletics, if you do that in your academic classrooms, then everybody is going to have areas where they shine and other areas where they perhaps don’t feel as confident. And that shared experience is so valuable because then they learn what risk feels like, what it feels like to support each other.

Q: What kind of skills do you aim to develop in middle school students?

A: We try to develop our students across the board in a more holistic way. Of course, there are the traditional skills associated with academics – the famous “three R’s” and the new competencies of a 21st-century learner often referred to as the “5 C’s” – critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, and curation. We also have a skill strand related to entrepreneurship that is woven into our curriculum. However, the most critical skills to develop in our young people are those involving the habits that lead to strong character. We believe that interpersonal skills, like learning how to share ideas respectfully or how to listen to and support others, or how to advocate for yourself, for example, are skills that both can and need to be developed and fostered in middle school students. Ultimately, they are the skills that have the greatest impact on student growth, success, and even their own self-worth. 

Q: What is the typical class size?

A: Our classes are typically between 15 and 17 students. We believe that’s a great number to do small group work, individual work, and even allow our teachers to work with the whole class without kids feeling lost in any way. We don’t think kids sitting in rows, not moving around, quietly listening is the way a middle school classroom should look and or feel, so the classes are designed to be small so that everybody can interact. 

Q: Derryfield is a grade 6-12 school–how does a combined middle and high school benefit younger students?

A: Not only do they get the advantage of incredible facilities (like our new Science & Innovation and Athletic & Wellness centers) that you wouldn’t see in many middle schools, but the middle school students also get the advantage of interacting with athletes or performers or students in the classroom who are older, which is great modeling for them.

The Derryfield School is located on 80 bucolic acres in the north end of Manchester and welcomes bright, motivated students in grades 6-12. Derryfield offers transportation throughout the region. For more information, visit


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