As June goes in schools, it is an extremely busy month. I have been in schools where we are just trying to make it to the end, but 5 school days from being over, I was lucky enough to be a part of one of the most memorable days in my teaching career. Forest Green hosted it’s first “Identity Day” and it was a tremendous success. This was from the hard work and culminating effort from the ENTIRE school community but was led by my fabulous Assistant Principal, Cheryl Johnson. This was all her idea and she had put in a lot of work ahead of time to ensure the success of the event. She not only came with up with the idea, but she brought everyone together which led to an amazing day.
The thought behind Identity Day was that every single student and staff member would share something that they were passionate about and create some type of display or presentation to show this interest. This would be similar to a science fair, but it was specific to the interests of each individual. This was done for all grades from 1-6 and all staff. Although there was certain criteria that was expected to be met for this day, there were no marks for the projects. It was all about learning about other people in the school, while also learning about yourself. Basically, you could share anything in any way you wanted.
Since it was the first year of this school-wide initiative, our Assistant Principal went around with each class and discussed the project several months ahead of time. The process was simple; you were to collect items to show one thing that you were passionate about and write a short paragraph that said what it is you were sharing and why you were sharing it. This made it simple enough that all ages could do it, but also ensured that it was powerful for all students.
In our school today, we started the day by having all students prepare their projects for display for the first hour of school. After that, the entire school went through each classroom from youngest to oldest. This ensured that each class would have an opportunity to look at each student’s display. Teachers and Educational Assistants each had their own display in their homeroom. I was lucky enough to see EVERY SINGLE DISPLAY during this day. There was even a time when office staff had their displays set up and shared them for students to look at (I did mine on the love of the Lakers).
Through this day, I learned so much about our students and our staff. I already discussed one AMAZING student who elicited a very emotional response from myself and others with her display. I did not know that we have a grade 2 girl who is a provincial champ BMX racer and I never even knew this! We had a staff member who shared her passion and love for her grandparents (this was a touching display). I was also proud to see many students sharing their pride in their own heritage. One student shared their hope to become an inventor and built his own catapult project to show his talent in this area. Another student created a “prezi” on his love of hockey (I showed him how to do this in 1 minute and he created it on his own). I felt that with every display, I was connecting more with each person in the building and was thinking that we need to do this WAY earlier in the year.
Although I know some parents helped their students plan their display, I believe that this was great! Parents got to work with their children on their passion while connecting their learning from home to school. Ultimately each child had to stand by their own display and present.
Another reason I loved this project was because it built community. We had parents, staff, and students all connecting with one another in ways that I have never seen before. I saw so many students show a different side and one parent commented to me, “I have seen these kids at my house several times and I was blown away by what I DIDN’T know about them”. One teacher brought in her record player and shared her love of music. Although I knew she loved music, seeing how passionate she was about it was inspiring.
This was their (first) 15 minutes of fame and each child was SO proud to share what they loved. I was so proud of how each student glowed with what they were sharing. I was also proud of how they listened and learned about other students’ passions as well. This project was relevant to them and had nothing to do with marks. It was just about their passions. This has shown me that we need to continue work on tapping into students’ passions in the classroom and let them develop their leadership skills.
I want to commend my staff for not only facilitating such a great day but for also sharing personal pieces of themselves. Thanks to all the students did a tremendous job with their displays; I learned so much about each one of you.
It was an amazing day and I hope that you can do the same in your school communities.
(If you have any questions about this day, please do not hesitate to ask!)
Forest Green Identity Day on PhotoPeach