At Habersham Ninth Grade Academy (HNGA) we believe the first day of school sets the tone for the entire school year. We want our students to have so much fun on the first day that they want to come back for day two and every day after that. At a recent leadership conference speaker Jesse Cole, owner of the Savannah Bananas, said “Normal gets normal results”. We are expecting extraordinary results this school year, so everything we do must be intentional with that goal in mind.
August 7th was our first day of the 2019-2020 school year, and it was the best day EVER! We began our first day by taking a short field trip to the football stadium, where our annual high school graduation takes place. Our freshman students were challenged to begin their high school career with the end in mind, GRADUATION. They were urged to make memories, and work hard each day. It was a very powerful moment for our students to begin their freshman year of high school with a clear vision of their destination. Our expectation is that four years from now, we will be celebrating each and every student’s success as they walk across the stage to receive their high school diploma.
We then created opportunities for our students to participate in team-building activities in their Teacher as Advisor groups and in their first House Meetings. This helped ease the students’ anxiety of uniting with students from all the other middle schools. Each student was presented with a Class of 2023 t-shirt in their House color. We also served sack lunches on the first day of school. Students and their Teacher Advisor chose any location on campus to enjoy lunch and get to know one another better.
Before you get the idea that students didn’t get to visit their classrooms and meet every teacher, our schedule included “mini classes”. Students visited each class, but they didn’t get the traditional rules and syllabi routine. Instead, they were given the opportunity to get to know each teacher and get a “hands on” view of all the great experiences in store for them throughout the school year.
Finally, our first day of school culminated in one of our famous “Battle of the Houses!” The music was loud, the students and teachers were cheering, and the energy in the gym was electrifying. Students from each House competed in dodge ball, musical chairs, a lunch eating contest, a dance-off, a book balancing contest, spirit contests, and so much more! There was something for everyone, and it was so much FUN!!! We had a blast on the first day of school!
How do you know if you had a great first day of school? Anxious faces are replaced with smiles. Faculty and staff are smiling. You overhear students saying, “This was the best day ever” and “This kind of stuff makes me want to come to school”. Parents share with you their student’s success stories. And, you hear laughter! Students laughing, teachers laughing, school nutrition workers laughing, and custodians laughing! You know you are building a positive school culture, a place where students want to be, when you hear laughter resonating throughout your building. Normal gets normal results. Take a risk. Do the EXTRAORDINARY!
This blog was written by Dr. Connie Franklin. Dr. Franklin has over 20 years in education with 15 years as a school administrator at the middle school and high school levels. Before moving into administration, Dr. Franklin taught business education and was an instructional technology specialist.