Ten days ago I wrote about two important tasks teachers should focus on at the beginning of a new school year.
One of these tasks was to establish and adhere to a series of rituals to help students assimilate back into the classroom and connect and reconnect with their peers. This is especially important when embracing social-emotional learning (SEL) and health and wellness curriculum.
In this post, I want to highlight a daily ritual that builds trust and community among students (indeed, any group of people) more than any other I have experienced.
The Power of Dedications
I managed a very large summer camp in North Carolina for eight years. One of the most popular rituals we respected at the end of every season was the “key log” ceremony, held on the last night of camp. Sitting around a big campfire, each camper would take a stick and toss it into the fire and then offer a heartfelt dedication to someone special in their life.
It would sound something like this:
“I dedicate this stick to Sheri because they stood by me all summer long, especially when I desperately wanted to go home…”
“I learned something about myself this summer – I can’t control what others say, but I can control what I say to myself. So I dedicate this stick to my Mom and Dad who have always believed in me…”
Without exception, no one ever walked away from these sessions with a dry eye. The wide variety of stories and dedications opened a window to the souls of our campers that no icebreaker or fun group exercise ever could. Every camper looked forward to their key-log sessions, and every year we honoured their tradition.
The tears were not the point. The deep connections and the nourishing of the community were.
Start with a Dedication
Our key-log sessions were at the end of our time together, but their power can also be tapped into at the beginning of your gatherings. When scheduled at the start of my program or session, you could call this exercise a daily dedication, an unofficial start or focus perhaps.
For example, consider inviting your group to sit in a circle at the start of your day or program, pose a question and then ask each person to share. This ritual, if conducted every day, or on a regular basis will build anticipation, connection and joy.
It may only take a few minutes to complete, but it’s a prized moment of the day that can refocus your group, build community and may even motivate them to elevate their participation. This impact reminds me of the power a simple group game like Story of Your Name produces with its ability to knit a group more tightly together in the space of a couple of minutes.
Here is a list of three simple ideas that may inspire you to embrace a daily dedication:
- Dedication – invite each person to dedicate their day or efforts to someone special, and explain why.
- Words – share a short poem or something meaningful, perhaps related to the purpose of your program.
- Imagery – from the context that a picture tells a thousand words, invite everyone to share a picture, image or artwork that captures something about how they are feeling, or in response to some other provocation.
- Journalling – invite the written expression of thoughts first, and then share it with others if appropriate. Learn more about this practice here.
Other than its simplicity, a further element of this activity’s beauty is that you can present it face-to-face or in virtual gatherings. Indeed, in the current context, this is particularly useful because it also infuses a little humanity into our interactions when we are not physically present with one another.
What other useful rituals or daily dedications have you embedded in your programs?
If you have ideas, please share in the Comments section below…