Saturday, July 26, 2014

Freshmen Orientation at Hoover High School

This week has been a busy week at Hoover High School. Along with football practices, math prep classes, summer school, and band camp, we've had 3 days of registration plus freshmen orientation and freshmen tours. 

Since I'm the ninth grade assistant principal, I want to share our freshmen orientation with you, and hope that you will have some ideas for us, too. We've had construction going on at our school for the past 3 summers, so this is the first year that we've had a "Freshmen Orientation" day since the freshmen moved back to our campus from the ninth-grade building. (Our ninth graders used to be on their own campus about a mile from our main campus.) So this is the first year that we've done orientation on our campus in a long time (since the freshmen moved to their own campus about 8 years ago.)

We began the day by having the cheerleaders welcome the new freshmen as they arrived to the school. They then went to the courtyard where they could hang out, visit with friends, and take selfies in the photo booths we set up.

Our Peer Helpers (in the selfie above) led the small-group sessions in the classrooms. We divided the kids up into classroom where at least 2 Peer Helpers got to know them, answered questions, and reviewed school-specific topics with them. Our goals for the day were for kids to connect with each other (we have two feeder middle schools), with HHS students (peer helpers), and with adults (Debbie Grant, the 9th grade counselor, and me). We also wanted them to learn about our expectations and procedures prior to the first day of school. Most of all, we wanted them to have FUN!

Dr. Grant and I got to spend some time with them in the auditorium. The first thing I had them to do was to put away their cell phones. The second thing I shared with them is that "we don't usually say that at HHS." I talked to them about the connectedness we have at HHS and how we encourage students to share the great things that are going on at Hoover High via social media. Digital citizenship and cell phone etiquette was discussed, as well as creating a digital footprint. 

I explained that for the next 20 minutes or so, Dr. Grant and I had some important things to share with them and that we wanted their full attention. 

Here's what we shared:
  • Dr. Grant told them that she is one of their biggest advocates. They are welcome at her office any time. Email her, leave her a note, drop by... just to say hi, or to talk with her.
  • Dr. Grant also encouraged them to act early. Don't wait until a problem gets huge to ask for help. 
I shared
  • I, too, am in their corner, but I happen to be the one who sits at the desk where I give consequences to those who make poor choices, and it happens out of respect for the ones who are doing what they are supposed to be doing.
  • Bullying is not tolerated at HHS. I shared with them that I know that our freshmen look out for each other. Students come to my office to tell me about something that happened in one of their classes or in the hallway, locker room, or on the bus. Sources are never revealed, and bullying will be addressed and stopped.
  • There are lots of ways to get involved at HHS. Over 85% of our students belong to a club, and they will learn about the clubs and choose one within the first month of school. 
  • Being in a club is a great way to be a leader at Hoover High. I encouraged them to be a leader, telling them that leadership has nothing to do with age. (When school starts, we will have conversations about what it means to be a leader and what they need to do to be a leader at HHS.)
  • High school is the beginning of their GPA. I shared with them that in 20 years, I've never heard a former student say, "Darn, I wish I hadn't studied so much!" or "Man, I wish I hadn't made straight A's when I was in high school." BUT, I have heard kids say, "I sure wish I had studied more when I was in school." or "I wish I had worked harder my freshman year." I want them to start strong and finish strong.
  • I ended the session encouraging them to take pictures and tweet using the school hashtag, #HHSiBucs.
The day ended with popsicles and music in the courtyard. On a hot day, the popsicles were a perfect treat!

As part of freshmen orientation, we offer Freshmen Tours on a separate day, after registration and when the students have their schedules. This year we did it on Friday, which was great because the offices are closed and there's not extra traffic in the building. 

Freshmen and their families are welcome to come any time during the scheduled hours, and they receive a personal tour from an Ambassador or Peer Helper. The leaders are able to "walk the schedule" of the freshman so that the 9th grader will know how to navigate our campus from class period to class period. We also have a separate building on our campus called Hoover Hall that uses a shuttle to get back and forth from our main building. Several of our academy classes are housed there, so students who go there need to know where the busses pick up and drop off. Also, our ninth graders have a separate lunch from 10th - 12th graders, so navigating it in their schedule is important on the first day.

Offering Freshmen Tours is a wonderful way for 9th graders and parents to have one-on-one time with an upperclassman who can answer questions, alleviate concerns, and create a positive relationship with a family. Even with almost 2,800 students, we try to make the school feel small and personal, emphasizing connections and relationships.

1 comment:

  1. Jennifer,

    You have genuinely created an open-door atmosphere. The orientation sounds thorough, positive and purposeful. It makes me proud as an educator to hear the effort others put into their schools. Thank you for your dedication to kids. I'm confident in saying, Hoover is better because you are a part of it.