Rituals Remain Intact
Time-honored traditions are essential to independent schools. “One of the ways we build a strong sense of community is through our traditions,” says Mr. Holgate, the Upper School Director. “We have a number of traditions that have been around for decades. These activities signal to our community what we value as a school.”
Something as simple as a morning greeting with a handshake is important. “It is important for students to hear their name upon arrival and to start their day with a warm greeting. Obviously, we want to keep that ritual going, but we have to be creative within the guidelines. So a morning handshake has been replaced with a morning wave.”
“We want to continue to include jobs and responsibilities across campus for our older students. However, we have had to limit those responsibilities to adhere to the cohort system we have put in place for grade levels,” continues Mr. Holgate.
All of these things are important for students to feel a strong sense of community. “I was so very pleased to see the signature traditions from my earlier experience at Powhatan still included today,” says Mr. Peebles, Interim Head of School. “Activities such as Gathering, the Shakespeare Play, and Chapel Talks are all part of this special place’s fabric.”
Leveraging Technology: All-School Gathering
Before the pandemic, we would hold All-School Gathering in the auditorium every Monday morning. The entire school is present and it is a wonderful way to start off every week together and to strengthen the bonds of our school community.
School rituals add community, consistency and a sense of comfort to children. At Powhatan, we stress the importance of maintaining these activities, even during the shut-down in the spring. By recording a weekly video message from the Head of School every Monday morning, we were able to instil some sense of normalcy to our students during distance learning and continue our tradition of ‘meeting’ together each week.
Now that we are back on campus, we are revisiting opportunities to leverage technology to find creative ways to keep as many of these activities moving forward. A new twist to All-School Gathering is a perfect example:
The reality is that the quarantine shut-down has made schools across the nation rethink all of the on-campus and off-campus activities and traditions. Some large-scale activities, such as Upper School Retreat or the PPA Family Picnic, have been put on hold for the time being. “There’s just no way we can adhere to the social distancing guidelines with these types of activities and we are hoping to be able to move them to the spring,” says Mr. Holgate, Upper School Director. “Field trips are another tradition we are monitoring closely. We have field trips built into the curriculum at every grade level. At this point we are looking at them on a case-by-case basis and grappling with the logistics involved with social distancing, safety and transportation.”