Our Futures Are Bright At Milton Hershey School
By Danielle Peirson, MHS Fourth Grade Teacher
Over the summer, I found myself thinking about the new school year. As questions lingered about what our new normal would be, I still found myself excited for all of the things a new school year brings: building new relationships and nurturing old ones, making a fresh start, and taking on new challenges for student’s futures.
I am always most excited about building new relationships and working together with my new group of students to create memories. I want to help my students achieve things that they never thought they could, while watching them grow mentally, emotionally, and academically throughout the year.
As Monday, Aug. 17 got closer, the reality sank in that the Opening of School Assembly we all look forward to at the Giant Center would be put on pause. There is something really special about the entire MHS community being in one place and celebrating the opening of a new school year. It is electric, inspiring, and thought-provoking.
Instead of an Opening of School Assembly, MHS decided to put together an Opening of School celebration that took place over several weeks and included socially-distanced, themed activities for MHS students to participate in. These activities and surprises kept the enthusiasm high for students as they prepped for their first day of classes.
The pandemic may have halted our annual tradition of an assembly, but it did not dampen the feeling you get from the first day of school at Milton Hershey School. Each elbow tap, and wave set into motion that special MHS feeling of being back and doing this together.
As our theme for the 2020-21 school year was announced, Our Future in Focus, it caused me to look inward and reflect on my own personal focus. I found myself reflecting on how my focus had helped me achieve some of my goals, while also recognizing that this year I would need to focus more than ever on my students. I knew I needed to find a way to help the theme resonate with my class.
In the first week, we used our daily, mindful morning meetings to connect with the theme, and after our greeting and sharing, we read picture books that embody this year’s theme. We then discuss our future goals, promises, and how we can help our greater MHS community.
It is truly inspiring to hear some of our littlest students have the most profound things to say. My favorite response so far has been, “My future is bright as long as I am at MHS.” I see the theme as something I will continue teaching all year long. We will continue to read, create, and write about Our Future in Focus. The more we focus on our future, the clearer our path is–if my fourth graders can grasp onto this now, look out 2029!
Despite the challenges that this year has and will continue to bring, I have seen students and staff rise up. We have taken on the new guidelines with understanding and flexibility. We continue to support each other, whether that means teachers giving up their planning time to help other classrooms at lunch or our principals spending their lunch wiping down tables. We are all in this together–I have seen that firsthand.