It was no different for our Seneca Team at Rainier Valley Leadership Academy up in Seattle, Washington, except for the fact that our Student Support Counselor Jenna Kitzes, Clinical Intervention Specialist Sarah Borger, and Unconditional Education Coach Tomás Castillo, took the October Blues as a challenge. So, they asked scholars what would be fun, and scholars asked for a dance.
Now, planning a dance for both a middle and high school can feel like a risky undertaking, especially when we see challenging behaviors and unsafe interactions during the school day. When these things take place in an environment as structured as a classroom, it can make a poorly lit dance floor with energetic hormonal teenage bodies feel out of the question. Despite some very understandable hesitations, our team held fast to the belief that when we set our scholars up for success with clear expectations and engaging activities, they’ll meet us where we set the bar.
It’s a good thing that no one takes fun as seriously as our team at RVLA because a night of engaging activities meant coordinating the options to choose between the dance floor DJ’d by a high schooler, a game room for basketball/foosball players, a spooky escape room, a fashion runway, a photo booth, and pumpkin decorating, all sandwiched around a spread of fall treats. Clear expectations meant that both scholars and chaperones had explicit instruction for each of these spaces, as students moved freely between them and chaperones followed a tightly orchestrated shift rotation that would make a wedding planner proud. And that was when it happened…
Chaperones and staff locked eyes across the room and no one needed to say anything to know that we were all thinking the same thing: safety. But before anyone yelled, “Put those back!” everyone paused and just watched. One scholar was using the Pugil stick as an air guitar to the music. Another was ballroom dancing with it. Two more were pretending they were pirates. And it dawned on all of us- they were playing. Like kids. I was processing my shock at the wholesome scene in front of me when a teacher grabbed a Pugil stick and joined the two pirates. The scholars screamed with laughter and broke into a run, which is when something truly beautiful happened: everyone joined. Parents, teachers, tweens, and teens, running, laughing, dancing, and all playing with absolute unbridled joy.
Blog Post Written By: Katrina Carleton, Director of School Partnerships