The disappointing assembly with which we kicked off our school climate activities last week turned out to have a silver lining: It prompted students and teachers to have some wonderful dialogue, both in the classroom and informally among each other. Here is just one bit of feedback from Japanese teacher Yoko Schmadeke:
“It was nice to have 66 minutes with my second period after the assembly, because we did have time to talk about things and I feel a lot closer to my students and I understand them better as a result. Positive things did come out of the assembly! A lot of people are talking now!”
Students’ level of participation in the week’s activities was even greater than we initially hoped for. Here’s a brief recap:
- On Tuesday, students quickly filled up the Scrawl Wall, where we asked them to share their thoughts about OPRF, and positive comments outweighed the negative. We’ll be taking a look at the comments to pull out any recurring themes or suggestions for change and reinforcement of what is good. These were just a few of the positive comments on the wall: “I’ve sat in on college classes, and realized that this school has really prepared me for later on in life.” “LGBTQ Acceptance!” “Friday Night Football Games #teamspirit”
- For the “Mix It Up” Lunch on Thursday, about 450 students voluntarily stepped out of their comfort zone to participate in this first-ever exchange of cultures, conversations, and fun! They were randomly assigned to small groups, where our student mentors led discussions. We heard lots of sharing and laughter as students answered such getting-to-know-you questions as, What’s your favorite OPRF cafeteria food? Do you have a hidden talent? What’s been your best OPRF experience?
- On Thursday, more than 400 students came to the Little Theatre to preview a seven-minute segment of Tyler Milsap’s interview about violence with Liana Gissendanner, an OPRF senior who recently lost her brother Chris Gissendanner to gun violence. It was very moving as we applauded Lianna for her courage and heart.
- Throughout the week, Avi Lessing’s students visited classrooms to facilitate small-group discussions about violence. Teachers and students have had a very positive response to this pilot, and Avi has received many requests to expand it to other classrooms.
In a thank you to faculty and staff for their support, Student Activities Director Cindy Milojevic said, "I am so proud of our students, faculty, and staff for finding the opportunities in the week. Ultimately, the assembly did accomplish the goal of bringing us together as a community and sparking meaningful discussion about some difficult topics."