September 8, 2011
McGraw’s opening day builds character
School district starts year with new emphasis on leadership, integrity and teamwork
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Seventh-grader Allysen Rainbow passes a rubber chicken to classmates Wednesday during a team-building exercise at McGraw Junior-Senior High School.
McGRAW — The challenge was to pass a key from person to person while holding hands with the students on either side of you.
The lines of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders giggled at the idea, as they stood in the McGraw Junior-Senior High School gymnasium Wednesday. Then they did it.
The sixth-graders won.
The goal was to push students out of their comfort zones, to learn more about each other, even fellow students they have known for years, said physical education teacher Justin Teter.
“The focus today is to learn values and get to know each other on a different level,” said Teter, who led a 40-minute period of team-building exercises with fellow teacher Kathy Rutan.
One of them asked one group to pass a rubber chicken down a line while another group stood in a tight cluster, with one student running laps around it.
McGraw began the 2011-12 school year with a morning of character education.
Besides the physical activities in the gymnasium, they had a lecture about bullying and harassment in the school auditorium, and a discussion of leadership and goal setting in the cafeteria.
It was the first time the district has started the school year without a day of classes. Superintendent of Schools Mary Curcio said she has always wanted to begin the year with discussions of bullying, integrity, being honest in school work and being a solid citizen in and out of school
The day marked the arrival of not just new seventh-graders to the school but new sixth-graders, as the district formed a middle school last spring and moved sixth grade to the building.
Cortland, Homer, Marathon and Cincinnatus schools began Wednesday as well.
Students went through all three presentations, with ninth- and 10th-graders together and 11th- and 12th-graders together. They then went to their classes, starting in the fifth period.
Teachers spent the class period discussing one aspect of the character education sessions, then introducing the courses and their expectations for students to do their own work.
Two National Guard officers, Staff Sgt. Michael Richardson and Pvt. Thomas Frost, a 2010 McGraw graduate, led the cafeteria sessions. They showed brief video clips of high school students discussing why everyone should help with a project, then Richardson and Frost asked the students why it was important to set goals and how to lead others.
Richardson said a leader uses compliments and a positive attitude, builds credibility, empowers people and shows people the answer when they ask, “What’s in it for me?”
Social studies teacher Joe Seamans told his Advanced Placement U.S. history class, composed of 12 juniors, that he would set a goal of having more than 75 percent of them pass the final exam. He said the national average is 55 percent.
He said the central question for the students would be, “Is history true?” as they explored such things as the economic reasons behind wars.
While Seamans outlined the year, junior Aaron Hitt asked, “What’s in it for me?” Once the laughter died down, Seamans said the exam is in May, so the students could choose and analyze a movie during the last few weeks of the school year.
Exploring the topic of integrity, Seamans said an August news story talked about a Minnesota boy who fired a hockey puck into a net to win $50,000. His father admitted the person who had been invited to make the shot was the boy’s twin brother, so they did not claim the money.
The promotions company gave $20,000 to the boys’ hockey league instead. Students wondered if they would have been so honest.
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