On the last day of school in 2011, on exam review day (a New Canaan idiosyncrasy - the "instructional" day that follows exams and graduation), our students wrote and filmed a welcome video for the incoming NCHS class of 2015.
I wrote about this last year, when we screened the video to our assembled freshman class on their first day of high school. The video got some attention. Lisa Nielsen, author of The Innovative Educator Blog and Teaching Generation Text, referenced it in several posts and during many of her presentations. Our friend Jeremy Angoff also uses it when working with schools through his Boston-based technology integration, support, and PD firm, OunceIT.
And back here at New Canaan High School, the kids loved it. We feel as though it set the tone for the year. The underlying messages being...
- Respect is part of our school culture
- Students and teachers contribute to that culture
- We share a philosophy grounded in mutual trust
- This is a privilege that demands responsible behavior
The line, "There are some unique responsibilities associated with that.", suggests that a failure to honor our established culture of trust will be disruptive and offensive not only to adults in the building, but to peers, and particularly older peers - the upperclassmen.
I've been a teacher for a long time, and I've known plenty of students who deliberately scoff at the authority of adults, are rude to their classmates, and are disrespectful. But it is so much harder for a student to act out deliberately against a positive culture that is embraced by an entire learning community, particularly if that student benefits from it directly. It's a very simple recipe. I would never suggest that it is fail-proof, but it is one that is clearly aligned with a core principle of education itself - with the right nurturing, guidance, and instruction, all students are capable of growth and learning. It is a far more constructive approach than, "With the right banning, censorship, and prohibitions all students will be safe."
BACK TO SCHOOL 2012:
August 28th was New Canaan High School's first day of classes, and like last year, after the 10th, 11th, and 12th graders were dismissed at 11:45AM, our freshmen had lunch, and then attended an informational assembly. The session is intended to give students an overview of all the high school has to offer, and the library program is among those featured. Rather than try to tell the students all about the program in under five minutes, we showed them the We Trust You 2012 video. It follows.