Today was one for the books. We did it! We opened a school with a radical new vision for what a school should look like in light of learning. It was a truly great day!
Of course there were some bumps (that is to be expected with ANY first day of school) but I have to say, when you surround yourself with incredible people it is hard to go wrong. When I say that we built a dream team it is not an exaggeration. These are true teachers, masters at what they do because each of them is a linchpin. They don’t wait around for someone to tell them what to do, they exude greatness and encourage the same in their students.
We started our day the way we will start every day at Anastasis Academy, with a community mile walk. We call this a community walk because families are invited to do it with us. Every family joined us today. I know that won’t be the case every day but it was an incredible start to the year to see a whole community walk together.
After the walk, the community gathered for a blessing for the year from our Board Members. These are people who have poured into us and mentored us in so many ways. We couldn’t be where we are without our board and the people it represents.
Today there were discussions about community, what it means to properly manage freedom and how to be a friend. The children are incredibly perceptive and these discussions led to some pretty profound insights from the students. One fourth grader noted “Freedom requires a lot of responsibility.” Students seemed to grasp that freedom doesn’t mean that we get to do whatever we want when we want to. It requires something of us. There were discussions about what this freedom looks like within our school community, what this freedom looks like in learning and what this freedom looks like in our technology use with the iPads.
The iPads are still a novelty for many of the students. They wanted to do EVERYTHING on the iPads all at once because they could. “Let’s play a game, listen to music, and have a video going all at once!!” I suspect that the novelty will wear off as students come to realize that the iPad isn’t just a once-in-a-while privileged but something that they can learn with all the time. One of my favorite moments of the day was when some eighth grade boys came up from lunch having an argument about which was bigger: a liter or a gallon. Their first instinct wasn’t to use their iPads and Google the answer, but to ask an adult. They are still in the mindset that adults hold all of the knowledge of the world. It was a great time for us to shrug our shoulders and remind them that they had the whole world at their fingertips and could discover the answer themselves.
We had some fun whole-school activities built into the day. Before school each teacher wrote 10 things about themselves. Each item was printed out on a separate piece of paper. These were spread out on the floor and students were to choose an item and match it to the teacher they thought it belonged to. Each teacher stood in a different corner and the students set off trying to match talents, passions and fears to the correct teacher. After they had correctly placed all of the items, each teacher took a moment to go through their stack, introducing themselves to the students. The kids asked great follow-up questions and were excited that many of their own passions, interests and fears were reflected in those leading them in learning this year. It was so much fun to see students faces light up when teachers said things like “I love Star Wars” or “I love to play basketball”. They begged for proof when we shared secret talents “touching our tongue to our nose”. They shared a special bond when they found out that even adults have fears. (Mine is taxidermy-true story.)
Because we are in a brand new building, we had to come up with a way of helping kids find things like bathrooms, drinking fountains, classrooms, playgrounds, lunchroom, etc. I thought a scavenger hunt would be a fun way to do this. Since I am a HUGE geek, I decided to do this techy style with QR codes. Each team (classroom) got 10 QR codes that led them to clues with each student in charge of one clue. Students downloaded the free Scan app and scanned the QR codes to receive a clue. As a team, they worked together to solve the clue to find different areas in the building. When they solved the clue they took a picture of the answer using the camera app. At the end of the hunt, students added up their points. All ages had fun with the hunt!
I deemed the day a success when, at the end of the day, I overheard siblings use their iPad to FaceTime with their dad. He asked how the first day was and both answered, “great! We had fun!”. The first grader went on to enthusiastically tell her dad about the scavenger hunt that she went on and the pictures that she took. The seventh grader added some additional details about how the QR codes worked. Both talked about relationships with teachers and students. To have that on the first day of a new school is telling. We have a great team.
Passwords may have been missing, permissions needed to be configured but all in all it was a fantastic success! I can’t wait to see what the year brings.