Embarking on a new school year can cause different emotions for everyone involved; students, teachers, and parents. Excitement, anxiousness, fear, nerves, are all things that our students had expressed feeling prior to coming to school today. Our goal as Étude Middle School today was to allow students the opportunity explore themselves as well as their relationships with peers, in an effort to provide a learning environment where all students are comfortable this upcoming school year. In addition, we wanted students to see our Habits of Professionalism in action, specifically the habits of communication and collaboration, as these are components that will help students be successful in their futures at school and beyond. Finally, we as a staff wanted to get to know our students better and have experiences with them in a fail safe environment that we could use to reflect upon in the future.
Today’s activities were focused around many different tasks, but all with a common goal in mind; learning more about each other and building a cohesive group. One of the activities had students working together within their advisories to find puzzle pieces scattered throughout a field and put them together to form a square with a blind hunter and only one communicator who could not see the field, while everyone else silently tried to give directions. In another activity students were asked to think about themselves, what motivates them, what holds them back, and create a visual personal pathway that would lead to their success. After each activity, students were asked to reflect on what went will with the group, what things were challenging or frustrating, how we could overcome these challenges, and how these situations apply to things that might occur in school or in other parts of their lives. In addition, students were asked to think about what they learned about each other and how these discoveries could help them in the classroom setting.
The reflection process that followed each activity was the most revealing in regards to the effectiveness of today’s activities toward our common goal. Common themes in these reflections included that it was really helpful when people communicated clearly, came up with a plan in advance, and shared thoughts in a positive encouraging manner. Students also identified that sometimes they reached a point of frustration not because two people wanted different things, but because they were unaware of what the other people wanted. In addition, students created a goal of getting everyone involved throughout each activity, as they recognized that every person has different strengths. These reflections helped students think about how they will act in the classroom, that maybe when they are a leader, their goal should be to ask for opinions from everyone, rather than telling others what to do. They also identified that some people aren’t as comfortable sharing as others, but still have great ideas and should be asked to get involved. One of my favorite reflections was that even though students might be younger than you, their ideas are still vital to the group succeeding and should be welcomed.
All in all, our staff thoroughly enjoyed our first day back with our new group of students, and it is easy to see why. Welcoming new students into our culture at Étude Middle School is an exciting experience as we get to see a new group of kids collaborate, communicate, and open mindedly work toward common goals. We hope that we succeed in our goal of ridding of the anxiety and increasing excitement about the upcoming school year by allowing students to form connections and become comfortable in their environment. After today, we cannot wait to see what these students will accomplish within their classes and the community this year!