Friday, August 26, 2011


Our new-to-Canterbury students spell out the school name. 
This time of year means people think about new beginnings. For educators, especially, it is a time of renewal - a time of expectation and excitement. For our students it is the same thing and for a particular set of our students it will be a brand new beginning.

This year we welcomed twelve new students to the middle school, nine of which are in the 6th grade. With so many new faces to Canterbury, we thought it important to provide a familiar context for them prior to arriving on the first day of classes. What came out of this was a program called Sowing Seeds for Success. We invited all new to Canterbury students to come to Armfield over the course of four mornings at the beginning of August. While they were with us we discussed topics ranging from Canterbury 101, organization, homework, technology, schedules, advisory, math, and composition. We even had Chapel twice that week.

By the end of our time together, the new students had formed relationships with their peers and felt comfortable with many of the adults who they would see in the building on a regular basis. They had learned a little bit about what makes Canterbury distinct from their elementary schools or prior middle schools. Finally, their anxiety level was brought into a manageable place. When we asked for feedback during our final reflective period, here is what we received:

  • A.W.E.S.O.M.E!!
  • Exciting!
  • Ubertastical
  • uber-super-duber-cool
  • F.U.N.
  • Amazing
  • Exuberant

We also welcomed our new 6th grade class to Armfield. Each year we welcome the 6th grade early and provide a day of activities meant to orient them to their new building, new teachers, new advisors, and all the cool things they will experience in the middle school. 

This year, Janet Mintz, Kim Markham, Karen Niegelsky spearheaded the effort and walked the 6th graders through their schedules, finding their lockers, an advisory period, and the middle school buildings to name a few. The returning Canterbury students had an opportunity to reconnect and connect for the first time with the new-to-Canterbury students. The highlights for the students (despite our best efforts....) had to be the pizza lunch and ice cream social!

Our orientation does end with the August meeting. In fact, it is a year long process to make sure we are helping these students integrate into the middle school community in a way where they feel respected, accepted, and empowered to engage in all aspects of it. 

On Wednesday, the school year began and the rhythm of the middle school was finally back to normal. I know I have taken for granted how integral a sound can be to one's sense of belonging and comfort. For some it is the sounds of the waves crashing on the beach, for others it may be the sound of the engine from a 1969 Ford GTO, still others may be taken back by an old song on the radio. 

For me, the sounds of a hallway full of students - the clamoring to interject their thoughts into a running conversation, the pure laughter of a child who has, for a moment, forgotten to act cool, the screechy scuffing of the newly waxed floor, lockers slamming shut, conversations muted as I walk by (this happens a lot for some reason...) - all of these combine to create a middle school symphony that is unlike any natural musical score in the world. Let's put it this way, it is definitely not the rainforest soundtrack.

But it is alive. And it is that energy that breathes life into Armfield Hall and Canterbury's campus. It is what makes this place pulse and gives us our rhythm. It's good to be back.  

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