Well, in a phrase, I thought Opening Day in the Junior High School was fantastic. In fact, I thought both “opening days” — the new student orientation and the half-day ease-in — were fabulous. To see the excitement and to feel the energy from 561 students and 82 faculty…there is practically no feeling like that in the world. The students are so excited to see each other, and the year is full of potential and opportunity. I was having so much fun that, on too many occasions, I forgot to crank up the Flip camera or iPhone to record the action and activity. But…I did capture enough to provide people with a taste (see video below). Also, remember that you can check the Twitter hashtag “#day1wms” for a compilation of slices-of-time moments and reflections.
Today is OPENING DAY for The Westminster Schools Junior High School! Today we welcome the 561 students in grades six, seven, and eight! Today we begin another school-year journey together! Blessings to all for a tremendous 2011-12!
In the Junior High at Westminster, we begin Opening Day with a brief devotional assembly. Traditionally, the principal of the Junior High gives this devotional. It is a moment that I look forward to and cherish. This year, I am using the idea of “brand management” to detail a bit of wisdom about being our best selves…and helping others to be their best selves. For those that want a peek at the content of the message, you can access my slide deck two ways:
- If you are a Keynote user, you can download my slide deck at this public Dropbox folder: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/23676397/Branding%20and%20Herds.key
- Also, I converted my Keynote to PowerPoint and uploaded the slide deck to Scribd. You can see it below, but the links and videos may not be live and active.
Here’s to a superb Opening Day, Junior High!
Tomorrow illuminates another experiment involving social media in schools. Westminster is documenting our first day of school with Twitter! What a great way for a community to collaborate on communicating the thrill of DAY 1! [Click link below for details!]
The Junior High School may want/need to participate Wednesday and Thursday, August 17 and 18 – because of our schedule and additional thrill of the Apple 1:1 Initiative Roll-Out!
On rare occasions, I sometimes think it would just be easier to go start another school instead of working on teams of educators trying to innovate curriculum and instruction that has a long history and tradition. However, each and every day (seriously) something or someone brings me back from that relatively irrational cliff face. One of the great hallmarks of my current school – my place of work for the past 16 years – is our regular practice and willingness to analyze and consider ourselves. And I don’t mean admiring ourselves, although all people and institutions can fall into that trap periodically. No, I mean “considering ourselves” in the sense of examining our practices and asking if we can do better for the learners in our care. No matter how frustrating some issues of static inertia or dynamic change may seem, I believe we are genuinely into continuous improvement.
A few weeks ago, the chair of the English department came to see me. He said he had been thinking about what PBL (project-based learning, problem-based learning, passion-based learning, etc.) would look like in a 21st century English classroom. Now this man is a great thinker, so when he said he had been “thinking about,” I knew he had put some serious time, research, reflection, and conversation into the effort. In short, his idea for 21st century PBL in English involves the complexities and integrated nature of publishing. An idea with genius and endless potential!
What to do with the idea? Well, we work in PLCs (professional learning communities) in the Junior High. While not everyone is formally involved – YET! – it is our developing way of working…our ethos of working and learning together. So…the idea was taken to the JH English PLC and, specifically, the Writing Workshop team. Several members of this team had been thinking about potential innovations to the Writing Workshop course and its intersection with Synergy and Economics, which are two more courses in a triad of classes for our eighth graders. Now a confluence of thinking and thinkers used Steven Johnson’s “coffee house” to swirl and rift on some possible manifestations of publishing in the Writing Workshop course. What a blessing that we have four hours a week built into our work days in order to collaborate in this way. May we never take for granted that we have a developing infrastructure to get us anywhere we want to go!
Largely because we could collaborate in PLC meetings, a proposal was quickly drafted and presented to a few administrators. Largely because we have a dynamic vision statement for our work as a school, a foundation existed that practically inspired this type of curricular and instructional innovation and improvement. This week, we were able to send a letter to parents of rising eighth graders explaining that Writing Workshop would be innovating for 2011-12 in order to utilize topical or thematic electives. Here is the letter that was sent:
Today, rising eight-grade students will hear about the innovations in group homeroom, and they will be able to respond to a survey which requests their desired topic of elective focus. Now, they have a choice much greater than that which existed before in this course. Now, they will be able to develop an authentic audience through publishing work. Oh the places we could go!
Possibilities and realities enacted through the passions and determinations of a team of educators. How fortunate I am to work with these teachers! How fortunate I am to work with these learners! How fortunate I am to learn with these learners! It’s about learning!
Our Junior High Associate Chaplain, Rev. Tina McCormick, along with the help and support of several others, has created a superb Junior High Christian Emphasis Week 2011. See the updated summary document below, which has been uploaded to Scribd. Below the summary are more thorough bios of the speakers for JH CEW 2011.
Christian Emphasis Week
Monday, March 14
Dr. Rodger Y. Nishioka is the Benton Family Associate Professor of Christian Education at Columbia Theological Seminary. At Columbia, Dr. Nishioka focuses on equipping pastors to be teachers and leaders in the church’s educational ministry. Prior to joining the faculty at Columbia, Dr. Nishioka served for 12 years on the national staff for the Presbyterian Church, USA, as Coordinator for Youth & Young Adult Ministries. A widely sought after speaker, Dr. Nishioka has published several articles, chapters, and books largely focused on ministry with youth and young adults and the educational ministry of the church as spiritual formation.
Tuesday, March 15 – Thursday, March 17
Mr. Matthew Flemming is an instructor in Preaching at Columbia Theological Seminary. Mr. Flemming’s work focuses on the theological formation of preachers engaging the opportunities and challenges of the church in the 21st century. He received M.Div. and Th.M degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing a Ph.D at Emory University in the theology of preaching. You can find Mr. Flemming on Facebook and follow him on Twitter at @flemmingmatthew.