By Sophie Fisher ‘21
In a recent grade meeting, juniors were introduced to “#ask,” the grade theme of the year. “I think there is value in a grade having some sort of rallying cheer or word or something that pulls people together,” said English teacher and 11th-grade dean Austin Davis.
The practice of fostering a grade’s culture through the use of a single word was first implemented last year, when Davis, in his first year as 11th-grade dean, decided to choose a word to empower last year’s junior class. Sensing that the then-juniors could strengthen their morale and become more unified, he introduced the theme of “#rebrand” in an effort to make students feel that the start of junior year was a good time to try something new, to talk to people they hadn’t yet spoken to, and to figure out how they wanted to be perceived by other grades. “By the end, I think people were really talking about #rebranding,” Davis remarked, adding that the grade was successful in forming a shared culture.
After resolving to create another one-word mantra this year, Austin consulted this year’s junior grade reps and several teachers to find out what aspects of the grade they thought could improve. What many people answered, and what Davis reports observing himself, was related to the large number of leaders in the grade. He explained that from the opinions he collected, it was evident that the 11th grade is full of “very successful people,” but he also found that students rarely shared their accomplishments, adding, “One of the grade reps said everybody’s kind of in their own lane.” It seemed that these students never got to have a moment of applause from the school, or at least from their grade. Therefore, the aim of #ask is to spotlight juniors’ interests and push them to find out more about their classmates.
So far, the juniors have participated in one #ask inspired activity. In a grade meeting on October 24th, they played a game of “human bingo” wherein they were given sheets of paper with descriptions, such as “lives close to school” or “is scared of heights,” in boxes. The juniors scurried around the room asking classmates what information applied to them and had that student sign their name under the description. At the end, the descriptions were read aloud and students had to call out whose name they had down for that detail. “It was a really fun and easy way to learn more about each other, and it seemed like everyone got into it,” said 11th-grade grade rep Dani Bregman.
In future grade programs, Davis imagines that the grade will listen to student speakers and announcements about student achievements. He added, “It’s also helpful for me in planning grade meetings and grade programs to think about how I can incorporate this recurring theme into things.” Although he understands that some students may be initially resistant to #ask, Davis believes that if the idea is stressed in various contexts, it will soon resonate with students. He hopes to have a rallying word or idea for every year that he is dean.