On the evening prior to Opening Day, Carson had butterflies in his stomach, a combination of excitement and nervousness. Would he enjoy his new school? Would he fit in? After all, this was a significant change for him.
Last September I wrote about the importance of making moments matter (access here). Over the summer of 2018, I read Chip and Daniel Heath’s book, Power of Moments. The authors identify the first day of school as an example of a potential moment that “cries out to be shaped”. If schools have the opportunity to shape this first day, why not ensure we design a moment that matters, one that is meaningful and memorable?
“Firsts” are important as they leave a lasting impression and contribute to one’s outlook moving forward. Not only should the first day of school be fun, it should be one in which individuals feel noticed and acknowledged. This year we gathered Rockridge staff members at the front entranceway and rolled out the red carpet. As our Grade 8 students tentatively walked towards the door with nervous anticipation, they were greeted with hellos, an abundance of smiles, heartfelt welcomes and reassuring directions as to where to go and what to do next.
How about Carson? How was his first day? Carson is one of our new teachers at Rockridge. He is also new to the West Vancouver School District. There are many ‘Carsons’ in schools across our district and one of their first impressions would have been on Opening Day at the Kay Meek Theatre. All staff gathered for a wonderful welcome from Superintendent Kennedy, a recognition of staff members with 20 years of service in West Vancouver Schools, and presentations by speakers in the area of Physical Literacy. When I asked Carson about his day, he was beyond impressed. What Carson remembered in particular was the action break built into the morning where the entire audience stood up and danced. Needless to say, there was a lot of laughter at that point. Carson was in awe. With a broad smile he said, “Where I taught last year, you would never have seen teachers on their feet dancing like that!”
That afternoon when we gathered in our school library for the second part of our Professional Development Day, we started a new tradition. I called up each new staff member, shared a bit about their background and presented each with a Rockridge mug full of treats. The gift wasn’t that special, but that didn’t matter. It was the gesture of making each new staff member, including Carson, feel noticed and acknowledged just like we strive to do with our students.
I still remember the moment when I received my engraved glass apple which signaled my appointment as an administrator in the West Vancouver School District. On that day thirteen years ago, I recall where I was sitting, who I was with, and how I felt — excited and appreciated.