By Roxanne Stansbury, Head of School, The Alexander Dawson School at Rainbow Mountain (NV)
Dawson’s school-wide throughline this year is “Level Up.” The power of a community-accepted throughline can cultivate a mindset that encourages a lifetime of improvement, growth and the joys of becoming our better selves. Read more about the intention for this year’s message in this blog.
When I was little, my parents took our family on an annual marathon road trip with all four of us kids arguing in the back of our van the entire way. My dad approached the experience as if it were his chance to win a gold medal for driving straight to our destination with the least amount of stops. Needless to say, there were no opportunities to stop and savor the journey. After exhaustive hours in the car (with no technology), my dad would pull into a Days Inn hotel with a questionable pool in the front and announce, “Get out and have fun.” It was a directive that always puzzled me, as if we could just turn on the fun meter like a light switch.
Now, as the adult who spearheads my family’s annual road trips, I have tried to improve this “have fun” directive by setting the tone and purpose for our cross-country travels. I begin each trip with a family meeting in which I convey that the upcoming road trip is an opportunity for our family to disconnect from our technology and embrace a presence where we can enjoy the adventures of travel. Everyone has to pick a part of the journey that they are most excited to see and I tell them that the hours on the road will be long, but if we adopt a lens of gratitude for areas unseen, we can savor the journey and not just steamroll to the destination. I guess you could say that I set a throughline for our trips that is rooted in the possibilities of the unknown and capitalizes on the unexpected rainbow or sunset we stumble on in this process. I shift our focus from “we have to be in the car for days” to “we get to be in the car together for days.”
In my role as head of school at a modern learning institute, I am aware now more than ever of the need for anchors that tether students to a meaningful connection. Generation Alpha students (those born in or after 2010, the same year the iPad was born) have very little patience for content and instruction that does not relate to something useful. In fact, I can almost see the invisible thought bubbles dangling above their heads saying, “So what?” as teachers talk about the phases of the moon or the punctuation needed in compound-complex sentences. Because their world is an a la carte menu of knowledge readily at their fingertips and primed for activation when a relevant situation comes their way, the role of schools was required to shift significantly.
In recent years, teachers became the curators of content that can be extrapolated when students grapple with real-world challenges, and great teachers know how to design opportunities for students to apply academic skills within journeys of inquiry and discovery. They organize these learning journeys just as an architect drafts blueprints for a building. But every adventurer needs a lens through which to see what influences and enhances their mindset when traveling an uncharted path. That is the role of the throughline.
Dawson’s throughline this year is “Level Up.” Our intention is for this simple message to inspire our students to re-evaluate everything they do with a mindset for improvement. During my summer road trip, I listened to an impactful book called “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. One specific quote made me hit pause on the recording and reflect on the gravity of this concept: “If you can get one percent better each day for one year, you will be 37 percent better by the time you are done.”
I am enamored by the thought of what our Dawson community can accomplish if we commit to this challenge. What will the outcome be if we approached every day with the goal of leveling up as a friend? What if we revise a writing piece to include more voice? How could we increase our stamina for a daily math challenge? How can we level up our contribution to a team sport? The power of a community-accepted throughline can cultivate a mindset that encourages a lifetime of improvement, growth and the joys of becoming our better selves.
After the first full week of school on Friday, August 19, we lauded our new “Level up” throughline at the All-School Welcome Back Assembly. Our celebratory community events always serve as a great reminder of how fortunate we are to work with kids. The laughter and excitement were palpable when our students and faculty engaged in interactive “Level Up” challenges. From tumbling passes to a TikTok dance-off, our students erupted in applause to see their beloved teachers and peers participate in activities that demonstrated their dedication to leveling up.
I left the Gym that afternoon with a validated sense of belief in the future of Dawson. We are on the rise, and we are fueled by a collective love for our incredible school. This throughline will pave the tracks for our journey toward greatness.
This blog was originally posted on The Alexander Dawson School at Rainbow Mountain (NV)’s website on Aug. 25, 2022.