Ritual, Community and Coming of Age

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