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Ritual, Community and Coming of Age

March 16, 2010

In his cacique update last night, Peter elegantly described our end of orientation commencement ceremony.  And the poesy he employed for the day could not have been more apt.

To me, last night’s ceremony was an important ritual at a critical point in the semester–the students have just spent the past two weeks getting to know this place and each other.  They kayaked in the breathtaking aquamarine of Rock Sound, descended into the otherworld of the sea, ventured into the local community for a softball game, and generally acquainted themselves to the realities of living on a remote peninsula on a remote island.  So to have an official ceremony marking the end of their orientation to this place and the beginning of their full citizenship in the school community delivered a message that was both clear and necessary.

Similar rituals pervade our semester.  For example, the simple, daily act of circling up at the crack of dawn to sing the Bahamian national anthem sends a powerful reminder of the values upon which our school is built.  Most importantly, rituals like this create the spirit of community that drives our members to push their limits and expand their horizons.  They generate a sense of purpose and reinforce the belief that anything is possible if we work together.

Tonight I introduced to students an overview of the final presentations they will deliver at the end of the semester.  We call it a “Demonstration of Learning.”  Essentially, we ask the students to summarize the most powerful learnings they have realized over their 14 weeks at The Island School.  In gathering my thoughts regarding what these presentations have signified for past students,  two thoughts kept bubbling up to consciousness.

First, the DoLs, as we refer to them,  represent the culmination of the students’ semester, a celebration of all they have achieved both individually and as a community.  They provide students with a final ritual that marks the completion of one incredible adventure and the beginning of another.  However, they also represent a culmination of The Island School’s 11 years of educating young souls.  After 5 years of working here, I am starting to understand what that is.

What makes our program transformative for so many of our students is not what we teach, nor how we teach it.  Our semester journey is a rite of passage for students.  It clearly delineates the end of adolescence and their initiation into global citizenship.  And by providing this experience for our students, I believe we are truly instilling in them our vision: Leadership effecting change.  I hope you will also find this to be true by semester’s end.

Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.   Socrates

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Sandy Brown permalink
    March 16, 2010 8:49 am

    Shivers running up and down my spine. I am thrilled my daughter is where she is at this exact moment in time; this is where she is meant to be. Thank you.

  2. Mary Rita Weschler permalink
    March 16, 2010 4:09 pm

    Sandy, I couldn’t agree with you more! This is truly an experience of a lifetime, and I’m moved by every picture and every account I read. Thank you, each of you, for the thoughtfulness and meaning that you add each day!

  3. Gina Lanza permalink
    March 17, 2010 11:13 am

    wow! I have always been drawn to the Native American vision quest and it has been my deepest prayer that my son would some day be given a transformative experience that will ease him into adulthood,yet in a way that is guided, adventurous, safe , emotionally supportive and fun. Your words have given me tremendous feeling of thankfulness and have eased my anxiety about this journey he is taking. I commend you all for your deep insight into what helps a youth to grow-mind body and soul and to your ability to communicate that to us in such a profound way. Will the presentations be made on parents weekend? If not is there a way we could hear or read them? Thanks so much.

  4. justinsy permalink
    March 17, 2010 2:56 pm

    Great question, Gina. The presentations don’t fall until the final two days of the semester. However, we record every one w/ HD video and include them in the students’ digital portfolios (a DVD of all of their work) that get sent home with final grades. So you will have access to the videos once the grade packets arrive.

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