At Beech Hill School, students and staff start every school year thinking about themselves as individuals and their sense of belonging in a large community. The launching platform for the last two school years has been: “Be Here. Be You. Belong. This school belongs to all of us” (inspired by the leadership work of Brene Brown). From there, they consider what matters to them, more specifically, who they are and what they wish to contribute to society. This work aligns with the school district’s mission to provide students with the knowledge, skills, and personal qualities to be successful learners, workers, and citizens in a rapidly changing world.
Last year, Principal Nichole Pothier began hosting monthly “Be” themes, which were so well received by students and staff, that they requested more! For “Be You” September, students complete inventories, surveys, and profiles that highlight their interests and learning preferences. During October, the focus was on “being a citizen,” with extra emphasis on their school-wide values: respect, responsibility, caring, and honesty. Students were particularly engaged in learning about the rights and duties of citizens.
Each month’s theme encourages thought and even some action in the school and community. This year, students particularly enjoyed December’s “Be Worldly” theme with a “Reading Takes Us Places” read-a-thon (with door decorating challenge) and exploring of cultures through literature. In the new year, January kicked off with a “Be Creative” hat contest and the finalists in each classroom moved on to a school-wide vote. “Be Kind” February led to all kinds of random acts of kindness throughout the school and even extended to St. Jude’s Hospital.
All of the staff at Beech Hill School brainstorm ways to integrate the monthly “Be” theme into their work with students. Even their school cook incorporates it in the lunch program! Other ideas have included the use of children’s literature, art and music, and outreach activities to reinforce concepts and personal qualities. The school’s efforts help to foster students’ social/emotional skills and overall sense of belonging. It gives a rhythm to the school year and unifies the efforts and intention of everyone in the school. They are looking forward to a “Be Well” March with a wellness bingo challenge and school-wide (differentiated) study of the story of The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate.
This article was provided by Beech Hill School as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea email it to Rachel at firstname.lastname@example.org.