As we get further into the school year, I've begun to hear parents, students, and teachers talking about the positive aspects of two recent changes the school has made. The two topics that come up most frequently are the return of our athletics program and our traditional multi-age advisories.
Students learn things in sports that are useful throughout their lives. The following are some examples:
- Successful teams are composed of individuals who put the success of the team above their own. When people are members of a team, they commit to a goal larger than themselves.
- Being a good team member requires constant communication with teammates.
- Team members learn about time management. They have to find time to complete their schoolwork around their practices, games, and other commitments. Student athletes learn the balance and work habits necessary to sustain the grades and athletic success they and their parents expect.
- Team members learn to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat.
The kids absolutely love the challenge and the camaraderie of being part of a team. Furthermore, being engaged in vigorous physical activity and spending time on conditioning help these student athletes become more fit and sleep better. It sets a trajectory for the rest of their lives in terms of their physical fitness and overall health. Those who exercise regularly as children are more apt to exercise regularly as adults. It’s already a habit.
As for the return to the advisory organizational structure for middle school, I cannot say enough about how good this is for our children. The mix of ages within each advisory allows students to learn from one another. Younger students can ask for advice or homework help. They see the older students working. They observe for themselves which behaviors they’re seeing yield positive results and which don’t. The older students also benefit. They learn to lead by example. They learn to see themselves in the younger students and thereby build their own ability to feel empathy for others. They feel the positive social pressure of being the models from which the younger kids learn. The older students also help the teachers through their mentoring of the younger students.
Both our sports teams and our advisory groups allow students to grow in important ways that were not possible last year. I was guided in making these changes, as always, by answering the question, “what is the best thing for the kids?”
It is the partnership and commitment of the James River community that has brought us this far so successfully. We all long for “normal” to return, but until it does we--students, staff, and families--must remain committed to the overall health of our James River family. So please wear your mask when out in public and keep your distance--it protects your health and, by extension, the health of our entire school community.