No, I am not preparing for a wedding, but this traditional phrase that guides brides in the moments leading up to the big day felt like such a perfect organizational fit to share some thoughts about the start to the school year.
At Davis, there is such energy, pace, optimism, and excitement throughout the year that sometimes in the dog-days of summer, we forget that when we ramp it up in mid-August, there generally is very little dip or lull, save for the holidays and breaks. We like it that way.
Starting with something old…
The first book I ever read in its entirety was A Separate Peace by John Knowles. I went on to teach that book as an English teacher for most of my years in the classroom. I find it to be the archetype for bildungsroman literature for adolescents. At Davis, we are fortunate to have an iconic language arts teacher in Susan Fields, who likewise has a deeply passionate commitment to using this text with 8th graders.
This week, I happened past her class while they were doing a “grab-bag” activity. Susan sets a collection of meaningful quotes related to the Knowles novel (from other sources) on the table and each student takes a turn in this hot seat. First each selects a quote that he/she finds most relevant to the story, then the student explains what the quote means independent of the book, then in relation to the text.
Poking my head into the classroom to capture a moment of the magic that happens in that space, I was summoned by teacher and students to sit in the hot seat. Of course, I was more than ecstatic to oblige.
For the next 30 minutes or so, we engaged in a deep, meaningful and quite frankly FUN conversation about Finny, Gene, Leper and the rest of the characters from the Devon School. This trip down memory lane reminded me of so many discussion just like this one that I was fortunate to share with students over the years.
….and something NEW
Later that day, we took our second step in a new journey that we have developed for our 8th graders, which is using the TED Ed Club platform for our 8th grade advisory projects. The 8th grade project is ever-evolving, but at the core has always been passion-based, choice-based, research-driven, expertise-manifesting, creative expressions that we share with our community. Our existing best practices are an ideal fit to align with the philosophical basis of the Clubs- Ideas Worth Sharing. Our students will develop ideas, research towards expertise, use design thinking strategies, and create and execute a vision for sharing with newly nurtured presentation literacy. One of the culminating steps of the program is to upload the presentations to the TED Ed Club youtube channel for possible selection by the facilitators of the program to be featured publicly. Our students are excited by this challenge- and we are sure the challenge will bring out the best in them.
As I thought about what “something borrowed” might be, I realized that the basis for our schedule that we used for our incredible 8th grade retreat was based on a former schedule. As we re-designed this experience for the Class of 2017, we leaned on the logistical and timing structures that had already been in place to create fresh programming, that coupled with the right people (kids and chaperones), in the ideal place yielded a 36 hour odyssey that transcended the expectations for this trip.
At every moment of the past couple days at camp with the kids, the adults had the simultaneous feeling of being impressed with how well the kids embraced all we were doing, while not being remotely surprised because of the character and leadership of this group. Fatigued, but energized by the experience, we returned to school more galvanized as a kehilla.
As for something blue? That is easy- my favorite of all the Davis gear I own- my Blue Davis Ruach shirt that I wore during the first day of the retreat! We are kehilla, we are chochma, we are tzedek, we are kavod- and on the retreat, in our classrooms, at Kabbalat Shabbat, and everywhere else- we show tremendous RUACH!
So a little bit of the “NEWS” here and with me.