Saturday, September 12, 2009

Homeroom: Making a Small School Smaller

This is the second year that we have had homerooms at the high school. Homeroom period is ten minutes every day (except during block days) between 3rd and 4th bell, and immediately after Chapel on Wednesdays. Homeroom replaces the old advisory groups which met quarterly. Each group consists of ten to thirteen students of the same grade and gender and one faculty member or administrator. We have been able to create this period without taking away from instructional time because our expanded cafeteria has allowed us to go from three lunches down to two.

Homeroom has a few basic purposes. First, it is a place to give announcements, hand out forms and paperwork, and generally take care of school business. In the past, this happened at the beginning of 2nd Bell. But this wasn't always the most ideal way to communicate information. While 2nd Bell was slightly longer, occasionally announcements and business could bleed over into class time. This system had the effect of shortening the same class with every overage. We work hard to restrict classroom interruptions as much as possible. Another benefit to disseminateing information in homerooms is that, generally speaking, the smaller the group hearing announcements, the more effective the communication. Homerooms are generally much smaller than a typical class.

Second, and more importantly, homerooms form communities within the greater school community. Even though our school is small by some standards, some students still feel isolated. Because of homeroom, every student connects with the same group of classmates and an adult every day. Many churches create this community within a community with "small groups" or "home fellowships groups." Homeroom is ultimately relational time. Our homerooms foster relationships that help students navigate the school year socially, emotionally, and spiritually. It is a safe place for discussion, sharing, and praying together. Because it is immediately after Chapel, it creates a great place for chapel debrief as well. Mr. Salkil even creates potential discussion questions for his chapel talks.

Of my twelve students in homeroom, I had only worked with five of them before in a class or Winter Term. Over the past three weeks, I have had the distinct pleasure of getting to know a group of talented, considerate, thoughtful, and fun(ny) senior men. I look forward to sharing this year with them! I hope they can receive from me all of the energy, hope, and insight I gain from them.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My School

I hope everyone is enjoying the long weekend after a very busy first two weeks. It is nice to stop and breath for a minute after a non-stop, action packed start to the school year. I cannot remember a better beginning! Here are some of the highlights.

We began with a wonderful Opening Convocation service. The evening began with a processional of faculty and administration in full academic regalia. Students, faculty, administrators, and even a parent welcomed, prayed, spoke, and shared musical gifts. The highlight of the evening was Ben Lapps sharing his musical piece "Reveille" on the guitar. If you have not experienced an Opening Convocation yet, you must be sure to attend next year!

The first day of school is always a special time here. The Miracle Commons has the feel of a family reunion as students and teachers reconnect after two and a half months away. This year Student Council added a nice touch by bringing bagels for everyone! Thursday was Meet the Teacher night as each class gave a glimpse into the year. In much the same way that students reunited with each other on the first day, the parents did the same on Thursday evening, catching up with each other and asking what each other's students were taking, involved in, playing, etc. I had so many great comments and emails about how impressed our parents are with what is happening around here!

Friday morning of the first week was a Spirit Day. Because we were part of the Fox 19 Game of the Week, the Fox 19 Morning Show did their weather spots live from the MSL gymnasium from 7-9 am. So at 7 am on the first Friday of the school year, we had an optional pep rally in the gym. The pep band, cheerleaders, Encore, the football team, and over a hundred students showed some Eagle spirit for the cameras. The Cincinnati area watched as we played, cheered, sang, and gave interviews. If you missed the broadcast, click on the link under News on the website to watch video clips of the event. We had a fun morning and the entire Tri-State area got to watch!

This past week we had our first block schedule of the year on Tuesday and Wednesday. Wednesday we had our first chapel. "My School" is the theme of Mr. Salkil's first chapel series. He spoke about the way a sense of Christian community shapes our environment but how selfishness, fear, and elitism can break down what God can do among us. He challenged the students to consider what true Christian community could look like at CHCA and how God could use each of them to make it a reality. He pointed out how it was our responsibility to pull in all the new people so that they too could call this "my school."

Friday night was another one of those wonderful CHCA community times. Whether you are a football fan or not, Friday night football games are an important part of community here. Students from every building, parents and grandparents, alumni, teachers and staff all come together to share a wonderful evening. Watching and cheering over a football game only scratches the surface of what happens on a Friday night. Young and old catch up and rehearse old memories. Little kids play football in the grass, dreaming of the day they will be center stage out on the field. The pep band creates a festive atmosphere. People share food, whether tailgating or from the concession stand. High school students display their school spirit in all kinds of ways. New friends and aquaintances are made. And as a bonus to the evening, the Eagles won easily 21-0. (We also got a nice wrap up article in the Enquirer the next day!)

What a great beginning. This is our school! I've been moved the past two weeks watching our students engaging, learning, and growing in a school they proudly consider their own. But this is only a beginning. What will next week bring? I'm not sure, but I'll let you know.