RSD 13 hosted a convocation ceremony for students, families and faculty Aug. 23. This event, set prior to the start of the new school year, which began Aug. 28, was a way to reach out to the community to talk about the latest strategies and initiatives planned for the upcoming session.
Speakers at the event included: Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kathryn Veronesi; teacher and Board of Education teacher advisor Amy Schaefer; and keynote speaker Christopher Eaves, an artist and performer from New York City.
“We need to be compassionate to each other. We need to be each other’s champions,” said Schaefer as she opened the convocation. “We need to realize when a colleague needs our compassion and not our criticism. I want you to think of compassion as a seed, and every day if you plant this seed and give it love, support and gratitude, it will turn into something unbreakable and strong.”
Schaefer said that in order to “create meaningful change” in her classroom, she leads by example and approaches any challenges with students or her colleagues as “puzzles to solve” instead of problems that need solutions.
“My hope is that we can shift the mindset of our schools through emotional empowerment,” she said. “We need to cultivate a community of understanding; a place where compassion, curiosity and connections lead our daily lives.”
Veronesi talked about three focus areas for the district: engagement, student achievement and well being. She also announced a “climate survey” initiative.
“As we move into this year in engagement, it’s our year to do a climate survey,” she said, explaining that parents and students will be asked for feedback such as “‘How are we doing? Do you feel safe? Do you feel supported?’”
Eaves talked about the Higher Order Thinking approach to education. HOT already has been instituted by John Lyman Elementary School in Middlefield. According to the higher order thinking website, the HOT approach is “child centered, experiential, arts integrated teaching and learning.”
The HOT approach includes “rigorous academic subjects” according to Eaves, along with arts integration and democratic practice, to give students a voice in their education. Eaves also said that the HOT approach is “not a whole school reform model” but rather a “pedagogical buffet” that can be modified to serve any community.
According to RSD 13’s community newsletter, the district is looking at opportunities to expand the HOT approach into its other schools. Grant funds will allow the district to have Eaves work with teachers during the coming school year in implementing this approach.
“We’re not making watches. These are human beings we’re dealing with,” he said.
Convocation ended with Veronesi asking various faculty members, administrators and students to come up on stage. Faculty and administration went one by one, saying “I have your back” to students and colleagues, and students were given a chance to thank administrators and teachers for that support.