Whenever we come together as a school, 99% of the time, it is in celebration. It seems almost strange that we haven't joined together as a school until this past Friday, but at the same time, it seemed perfect in the moment.
As the community is now aware, we have kicked off a new set of Core Values for our school community: Perseverance; Accountability; Respect; Teamwork. The kick-off has included grade-level assemblies, advisory activities, and a culminating project in advisory groups. These activities have taken time, and have been done with fidelity across the school. Additional layers of our kick-off have included parent email updates, a presentation by myself, Mrs. Warren, and two students at the October 6 School Committee meeting, and many meetings of the school leadership team to create activities and plans surrounding the kick-off.
The assembly was a community effort, and in the end, it was fantastic. The assembly included the following:
- An introduction and welcome from Principal Marchant.
- Five students from the Coolidge World of Difference program who were the "Emcees" for the assembly.
- A student-written explanation of the connection between A World of Difference and our new core values.
- A guest speaker, Mr. Jason Cross, who is the district METCO director.
- A slide show, created by the enrichment groups led by Ms. Steinhauser and Ms. Grant, that showcased the Core Values projects and students modeling core values. And it had awesome music as well!
- A ticket drawing (gift cards to Zynga!) for two students per team who have already exemplified the new Core Values so far this year.
- An explanation of our new ticket system, which will continue to recognize students for exemplifying our core values.
I would like to further describe two aspects of the assembly that parents might appreciate following up on with their children:
Mr. Cross's Speech: We videotaped his speech and need a bit more time to get it properly formatted to share via the blog. When we do, I will send it out so parents can hear it directly. Mr Cross started his speech by changing the energy of the room, asking students to count down from 5 and to say "bang!" at the end. It certainly did change the energy, and involved teamwork! Mr. Cross then began his story with a powerful first line, stating that he was hanging with his friends in high school, answered his phone and leaned forward to better hear his girl on the other line. By leaning forward, a bullet that went flying over his head missed him by centimeters. At this moment, the students were silent. An environment of guns and bullets is one that is, thankfully, not a familiar one for our students. The bullet came not from a stranger or passer by, but from his friend, as Mr. Cross and his friends were hanging out, playing with their guns. The bullet came from a friend, who had accidentally shot it; Mr. Cross would have lost his life had he not leaned forward in that moment.
Mr. Cross grew up on Boston and his life did not start easy. He was part of a gang, he was involved with drug and alcohol abuse, and he did not value his education.
At one point, lost in this world of gangs and drugs, he came to the realization that this wasn't the life he wanted to live. And it was up to him to be the impetus for change.
- It took Perseverance to get out of the gang, to quit drugs and alcohol, and to keep that energy for change going. He had to stand up to those doing wrong when trying to do right.
- It took Accountability, as he was accountable for his actions, positive or negative, so he had to be accountable for the changes that he wanted to happen.
- It took Respect. To make change, Mr. Cross needed to respect himself first and foremost. Secondly, rather than having an aggressive stance with those around him, he had to change his ways of thinking about those around him, and respect others as well. As a result, he earned more respect from them.
- It took Teamwork, as Mr. Cross couldn't act alone in life. He needed his family, he needed coaches, and he needed supports, in order to find his success in life.
So was he successful? Absolutely. He went to college (although it took seven tries). He is now married with three beautiful children. He is a METCO director, a motivational speaker, a father, a fitness coach, and an actor. (And as we all learned, he's a very good beat boxer as well!).
He shared a very powerful story, and everyone in the room was extremely riveted and moved.
What was the takeaway for our students? It was to think about their story. What will their story be when they leave middle school? High school? And beyond? How will our core values impress upon a nd support their story? Will they be proud of their story when they take pause in the future to share it? Mr. Cross's story was certainly a good reminder to all to appreciate all we have, and to always work to be our best selves, in all aspects of our community.
Ticket System: The message will continue, as will positive reinforcements in the form of tickets. Please visit our foyer, where three trees have been painted by our students, and on these trees, tickets will be hung (like leaves) by students who exemplified the core values! When the trees get full, we will come together again as a community to draw more names and to give more prizes! A second phase of this ticket system will be to incorporate parents; you will be given the opportunity to also give tickets to students and teachers. More to come!
Thanks to all of our students and staff for this tremendous kick-off! We hope to keep this energy going through the months to come!