Did they learn anything during the first week of school?
Looking through the pictures from the first week of school, it may seem that nothing really happened, or the teachers were just keeping students occupied as they transitioned from summer vacation to the beginning of school. Playing at the park, hiking, games, lunch by the lake, recess, building sandcastles, painting and singing….when does the learning start?
Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. He was referring to fire safety, however this notion holds true for starting a school year as well. The first week of school was so much more than games and sunshine; it was carefully planned and executed activities and experiences to lay the foundation for a healthy, productive school year. By providing this foundation for students at the beginning of the year, many issues, conflicts and misunderstandings can be avoided. Students develop a sense of belonging and responsibility towards the classroom community, which results in ownership of learning and a strong sense of self. This in turn opens wide the floodgates of receptivity for learning new concepts and information and paves the way towards a healthy synergy from collaborative learning.
Most students at Roots are returning students this year, and already have a good understanding of the rules and expectations as well as what it means to be part of the Roots Community School. But what about the students who are new? Do they understand the expectations and the level of community we desire? How do returning students handle the change to their tight knit group from the previous school year? The first week of school is an opportunity to welcome everyone into the classroom and help all students integrate into this new and growing community.
Teachers and students spent time developing an understanding of community. What it is, what it looks like, what it sounds like and what it feels like to be part of a healthy community. Students are expected to respect each other (even if they don’t agree with another person’s opinion), listen to each other, and participate in the group. Participation is an important and often overlooked aspect of a classroom dynamic. Roots teachers expect all students to be active participants in group discussions and feel safe and valued when they share with the group in return. This can reduce the potential for a few students to dominate a conversation or for some students to fade into the background, never taking ownership for their important parts as peers and fellow learners. As students internalize their responsibility as classroom community members, there is a natural shift away from bullying or belittling. Respect, listening and participating are building blocks for a successful group and a successful school year.
Many activities in the first week were connected to the Roots Community School Core Values as well as the Mission and Vision of the school. Students not only need to understand what the Mission, Vision, and Core Values say, but what they mean and how it affects each student. All students and staff are reaching towards these Core Values in their daily interactions within the school and each other. Truly understanding the foundation of our school will help students and families have common ground to start building from for the year. Students are expected to uphold these standards throughout the year, so why would we not spend ample time helping them understand and internalize these core values?
So no, the first week of school was not wasted time, it was not just games and field trips and playing around in the park. It was planned, guided, specific activities and learning experiences to create a strong foundation for the year as well as a strong community known as Roots Community School. Contact us if you would like to know more!
By: Krista Frahm and Rachel Robison