This is my view of the first day of school. Quiet hallways, empty classrooms; not a teacher or student in sight. But, wait! It is the first day of school! The first day and two weeks are an important part of Étude. We use it to intentionally establish our community and culture for the school year. Today is all about culture, building a safe culture.
Our core mission is to help students to think critically and engage creatively in issues and topics they study as school, but our mission goes on to talk about a human connection. It is a strong emphasis in our schools. We see the human connection as the fundamental aspect of our school mission that provides the foundation for critical thinking and creative engagement. The establishment of it is intentional and as many businesses do, sometimes we need to get people away from the normal setting to establish it. We can’t afford the corporate retreats and high price consultants. For us it's the John Michael Kohler Arts Center or Kiwanis Park and prepping our teachers/advisors the week before, but it still works.
Today our middle schoolers spent most of the day at Kiwanis Park working as an advisory in activities such as Blind Hunter where they guide blindfolded participants to put together a puzzle. The point is to use verbal and non-verbal skills to communicate with one another. Advisories also worked as a team to build a luge course for marbles among many other activities.
Our high schoolers used the JMKAC, Mead Public Library and various parks as resources to explore how they can build a strong culture in their advisories. Through various activities, they developed their advisory cultures. Why? Our high school advisories are the backbone of supporting everyone in our Habits of Professionalism and Habits of Mind, they support each other as they grow in these habits to earn credits, and finally, they support each other as they transition to college or work. Building a cohesive identity is the first step supporting one another and working as a team.
At the end of today, each school reflected on the day. Much was said about the activities, but then other points were made. Walking around the city created time for new friendships to be made. Time was created for teachers and students to connect, and new students started to find a community to belong in.
This is why I like our hallways to be empty on the first day. A school needs time away from the classroom to create a community.