It wasn't your typical start to the school year yesterday morning as The Priory and The Prep students returned to campus. This year was met with great relief and happiness as faculty and staff greeted students and families back to campus following last week's school closure due to a close brush with Hurricane Lane.
"We're so excited to have everyone back on campus as we kick off a brand-new school year filled with hope, joy and laughter," Head of School Ruth Fletcher, said.
Energy and enthusiasm were felt on St. Andrew's Schools Queen Emma Square campus from 6:30 a.m. on as new and returning families dropped off and escorted students to their new classrooms. Welcome signs and waving greeters met students in the drop-off area and echoing chatter about summer adventures filled the hallways.
Younger students displayed a mix of emotions, some eager and some hesitant and nervous, as friendly and welcoming teachers ushered them into classrooms to get settled and learn the routines.
Once the bell sounded, the day got underway with an 'oli and the Pledge of Allegiance at the Lower School's first morning meeting led by its new student council officers. Over at The Prep, morning meetings commenced. And the Upper School headed to the gymnasium for the first assembly of the school year.
Emotions a driving force
Yesterday's assembly unveiled the year's theme – hope – and focused on Yale's RULER program. This is the second school year St. Andrew's has implemented the program, which recognizes that our emotions are at the core of everything we do.
Upper School Principal Nichole Field told the crowd that emotions are what drive learning and decision-making and they impact creativity, relationships and health.
"We all have emotions going on constantly, and if all learning begins with emotions and they are going on constantly, they can help us or get in the way," she said. "Today, we have a special day where we are going to do the work of setting our school culture."
School Counselor Caitlin Watson then dove more into depth about the RULER program, which is an acronym for Recognizing emotions in self and others, Understanding the causes and consequences of emotions, Labeling emotions accurately, Expressing emotions appropriately and Regulating emotions effectively. Components of the program used across campus include mood meters, taking meta moments and creating class charters.
"Doing the charter activity on the first day sets the intention for the school year," Watson said. "I love that it's coming from the girls because it's their words about how they want to feel. Talking about that and defining that on the first day allows them to move forward with something in common."
Creating class charters
Following the assembly, students in grades six through 12 broke into groups to create their class charters. They were all able to contribute to the process and express their creativity by creating banners that were later shared with the Upper School student body in the gymnasium.
"The purpose of the charters is for students to figure out how they want to feel at school," Brian Turano, ninth grade advisor and upper school science and math teacher, said. "The girls design how they want to feel at school with a list and then determine how they can create a positive environment, so they can achieve how they want to feel. Then, they figure out ways they can deal with unwanted feelings."
Reoccurring themes in the six-12 grade class charters included wanting to feel safe, loved, respected, motivated, accepted, happy, successful and welcomed. Some of the ways that were shared to create this environment were to give high-fives, consensual hugs, smiles, refrain from complaining, talking to students they wouldn't normally talk with and complimenting each other. Ways to deal with unwanted feelings included laughing negative feelings off, expressing feelings honestly and taking a meta moment to calm down.
"The charter is about how we want to feel at school and how we can help each other and keep good emotions consistent," said seventh-grader Gabby Bowles. "We broke into groups and presented to our class and got feedback. We voted on them and the ones with the most votes went on the class charter."
The day concluded with entertaining numbers performed by the lower, middle and high school student councils and then each class' student council representatives. Each skit unveiled the theme for the school year and was set to imaginative theatrics and upbeat music. Watch the banner reveals on YouTube.
Lower school student council: Lower School Incredibles
Middle school student council: Entertainment
High school student council: Wonder Woman
Freshman class: The Freshman of Bel-Air
Sophomore class: Avengers – Age of Sophomores
Junior class: Disney Juniors
Senior class: Seniors 626
See all photos from the first day of school in our SmugMug photo gallery.