- Morgan Ogden mulls which colors her family crest will include and, with her “family” of classmates, decides on blue (patience), purple (royalty) and grey (maturity)
- Classroom exercises included students discovering which squares were the correct ones to step on and which ones weren’t, all of which was communicated without talking
- (left to right) Juniors Mackenzie Schoonnaker and Morgan Ogden demonstrate their family handshake
One for All, All for One
Students, Staff Form ‘Families’ to Bond Throughout School Yearby Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Morgan Ogden puzzled over what her family crest should include. She knew it needed to contain an animal that demonstrated strength, colors that conveyed her family's qualities and branches that sprouted leaves with her relations' names inscribed on them.
The eleventh-grader did not have to decide all this on her own. At the start of the new school year, Morgan and the district's 640 middle and high school students were grouped into "families" where, day-by-day, they learned what it would mean to rely on one another throughout the school year.
|Eight Character Traits
Good for Our Generation
Each family intentionally consisted of a mix of one teacher and five freshman, five sophomores, five juniors and five seniors – students who otherwise were unlikely to interact with one another throughout the year.
Middle and high school students the first four days of the new school year were immersed in team-building activities intended to forge strong relationships between them and their teachers, all the while embracing eight character traits they will be expected to put into practice daily.
"This is good for our generation," Morgan said. "We're kind of reserved. We tend to socialize less than the older generations."
Each family developed its own handshake to convey a new level of solidarity between them.
Each day, two character traits also were pondered. Respect, for example, challenged students to list as many words that represent it, and to look deeper at what that value meant to them, such as what respect has to do with the quality of their character.
"I'm connecting with people I never would have talked to before," junior Matthew Wieda said. "It's cool to strike up a conversation and make new friends."
The idea was born out of a Kent ISD conference four Kent City Community Schools teachers attended last fall that featured speaker Doug Fisher, professor of educational leadership at San Diego State University and a teacher leader at Health Sciences High & Middle College. He also is co-author of the book, "How to Create a Culture of Achievement in Your School and Classroom."
From there, that group of four teachers and others who comprised the WE Committee (We Are Kent City Culture Committee) hammered out what eventually became known as the First Four Days.
Not Just Another 'Positive Behavior' Program
Middle/high school principal Bill Crane stopped short of calling the First Four Days a program that rewards students for good behavior.
"We wanted to put our own touch on it," Crane said.
"We talk about preparing for college and career all the time, but what is our character? We want our students to have the character they'll need in the real world."
High school social studies teacher Bob Boyd said the First Four Days will be a meaningful way for students and teachers to stand shoulder to shoulder.
"In my 28 years, I think this is one of the best things we've done as far as making connections with the students," said Boyd, who was one of the teachers who attended the Kent ISD conference and a member of the WE Committee.
"We're hoping as the school year goes on, the students will have relationships with teachers and their classmates where they can feel comfortable opening up, and if they have a problem, share it with someone."