Be Bold, Be Brave...

Posted by The MindScape Team on 11/14/2022

Be Bold Be Brave 1

What does it mean to be bold, to be brave? The answer can be found in Principal Steele’s welcome speech on the first day of Freshmen Orientation. In this long-standing tradition, he invites the freshmen into our unique community with its strong sense of belonging and a culture of pride, passion, and professionalism. Like a playbook, he sets the tone for their next four years. He challenges them to leave behind the childish ways of grade school, take responsibility for their actions, and most importantly, be respectful of others and our school.   

Last year, as students transitioned back to in-person learning, there was a dramatic shift in the energy on campus. We noticed the younger students were struggling to embody the expectations of our school culture. There was an uptick in peer conflicts, social media bullying, and vandalizing bathrooms. It was eye-opening when not only our staff noticed this shift, but also the upperclassmen. They were baffled at the behaviors they witnessed and wanted to work together with the administration to find solutions that would teach the younger students what it means to be a BVT Beaver.  

One can always point to the pandemic as playing a major role in magnifying the stress and anxiety among adolescents today, but it was not the sole cause of these types of behaviors. A likely attribute is the pressure of growing up in today’s technology-driven world and the never-ending allure of social media. Teens, and adults alike, are drawn in, unable to truly hit the “off” button, and step away. We knew our students were excelling in their vocational and academic pursuits, but there was another piece to the puzzle. We needed to take their education one step further and explicitly teach them how to foster respect for themselves and others. These types of skills fall under the umbrella of social-emotional learning and character development.   

In true BVT fashion, we jumped into action, researched existing curriculums, and ultimately chose a program called Character Strong. This research-based, social-emotional learning and character education curriculum was the most natural fit for our students. The juniors played a vital role in working with the freshmen during shop as they adjusted to our campus culture. We couldn’t have been more excited to collaborate with our student mentors to help them educate and inspire our freshmen.   

What Does It Mean to Be Character Strong? 
The Character Strong program is aligned with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning standards. The lessons are fun, interactive ways to build a strong school community, help our students develop positive relationships with their peers, increase a sense of belonging, and improve self-awareness. As we prepare our students to be career, college, and life ready, this program will continue to enhance that effort by encouraging our students to practice everyday skills that will support their future endeavors.  

Character Strong in Action!
There was a buzz around campus on September 22nd as students hurried through the halls looking for their assigned classrooms. With a bit of nervousness and excitement, students found themselves randomly grouped with peers in their grade, along with one academic teacher and one vocational instructor.   

The new gathering served as an exercise in dealing with discomfort in a safe setting while building comradery within the group who were sharing the same experience. In our fast-paced culture of constantly connecting through technology, it is easy to get stuck in a routine, foster the same connections, and be on autopilot throughout one’s day. This break in routine provided a unique experience for our students and teachers, who brought their unique style of engagement to the learning setting.   

In the first lesson, students were introduced to the curriculum and how they would benefit from the experience. The setting allowed students and teachers an opportunity to learn about each other. Some students were nervous, some reluctant, and some jumped right in and met the challenge to be bold, be brave, and shared their stories with the group:

“I liked being able to share my thoughts with students in my grade I haven’t met before.”

“It was kinda awkward at first, but I think that’s how all things are at the beginning.”  

“It was pretty cool!”   

Our staff also said they enjoyed the curriculum, meeting new students, and how authentically they showed up. Some even asked for more time with our students in this casual environment, creating genuine conversation and connection.
Consecutive lessons will focus on topics such as empathy, leadership, and wellness. As our students and staff embrace the experience and share more of their insights and stories, it is our hope that they encourage each other to take a leap and Be Bold, Be Brave, Be Beavers, as we navigate this new journey together!