Tuesday, August 26, 2008

School Environment

Every school has its own personality, a type of energy that helps define it and its environment. Last week was the first complete week of the school year. Despite my anxiety about the ability to sustain enough momentum to last a full week, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I felt great when 2:35 rolled around on Friday afternoon.

Friday was an unusual day in many ways, but I think it was the dichotomy that inspired in me a deepening respect for the school. The day began on a somber note: The entire community of more than 2,000 students, teachers and administrators gathered in the gymnasium for a memorial service that honored the memory of an elementary teacher who died the previous Sunday. She was the third teacher who has died of cancer in the past year and a half. Despite not knowing the teacher personally, I was moved by the simple beauty of the service and love that was expressed by the school community. I left, anticipating a rather slow-moving day.

When lunchtime arrived, the high school was energized in a way that was--at least to me--unexpected. As students streamed from their classes and funneled their way to the canteen, they were presented with an array of booths from 15 organizations whose information was creatively displayed around individual tables. These student-led clubs had officers on hand to answer questions about their organization and sign up students who were interested in becoming active members. In the background, a live rock band, composed of students, blared forth its rather unique brand of music, and students milled around the tables, clogging the passageway. Initially skeptical, I watched in amazement as hordes of students jammed the tables in order to sign up for such clubs as Amnesty International, Rotary International, Model United Nations, Global Issues Network, Environmental Service Club, Health Club, Robotics, Kendo Martial Arts Club, Digital Photography, DJ Club, and Forensics. I had become a bit hardened by the often less than enthusiastic response of American high school students in becoming involved in service-type organizations (although there are a remarkable core of dedicated students at every school), so I was a bit taken aback by this enthusiasm, and on a Friday no less. I have volunteered to be an assistant sponsor for two of the clubs, and am looking forward to working with these kids as they take on leadership and service roles.

This experience lifted my spirits and the rest of the day sailed by.

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