Excitement and conversational buzz filled the Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School on Thursday’s SAU 47 Opening and Professional Development Day. Breakfast was provided for the staff by the Jaffrey-Rindge Educational Foundation (JREF). President of JREF, Dr.Thomas Bennett, welcomed staff and highlighted recent grant work funded by the foundation.
Following breakfast staff gathered in the Pratt auditorium for opening remarks from School Board Chair, Laurel McKenzie and Superintendent, Reuben Duncan. McKenzie discussed initiatives the board is enthusiastic about this year including the shift to competency-based education and the energy audit for facility upgrades.
Superintendent Duncan opened the morning stating, “We come to school every day with the honor of holding the spirit of each child in the palms of our hands[…] We sense and understand the potential in each child; we believe in each child’s ability and value; we help them overcome adversity and support them in recognizing and embracing their self-worth.”
Duncan presented results from last fall when over 200 students and faculty met for two days to discuss both their needs and ideas regarding educational experiences and learning opportunities in Jaffrey-Rindge. Teachers asked clarifying questions and collaborated with students. Students drafted lists outlining their ideal learning experiences. Excerpts from the list include: an education system that allows learning experiences to be individualized, task-oriented and real-world.
Duncan explained that the actions educators take will ignite energy and engagement in their students. At the end of the day students should walk away knowing “I care about you.” In closing, Duncan quoted international bestselling author Barbara Coloroso’s Six Critical Life Messages: “I believe in you.I trust you. I know you can handle it. You are listened to. You are cared for. You are very important to me.”
Professional development began with a TED talk, by Sir Ken Robinson, detailing that our public school’s education model was built on economy and intellectualism during the Industrial Age. Robinson believes that the net result of such a model yields generations of people who falsely believe that they are not intelligent. In response to the film, staff collaborated to construct education models that they believe will foster optimal conditions for learning. Included in the models were constructs designed to build confidence in students, to let them know that they possess intrinsic gifts and knowledge, and to let them know that their teachers care about them.