Annual Retreat Builds Middle School Community
of Dignity and Respect
Corbett Prep students engage in Middle School community building activities at their annual retreat.
Aug. 29, 2014 (TAMPA, Fla.) – Eighth graders jumped to their feet to applaud sixth and seventh graders as they walked into the Farish Center for the beginning of the annual Middle School Retreat.
It may seem small, but it is significant. The gesture highlights one of the many ways Corbett Preparatory School of IDS seeks to develop a supportive Middle School community, where students can take risks and be themselves without fear of judgment. Headmaster Dr. Joyce Burick Swarzman, who led the sessions along with the Middle School teachers, returned to that theme repeatedly as she spoke to students, shared motivational videos and encouraged them to reflect.
At the beginning of every school year, Middle School teachers and students gather for what has become a Corbett Prep tradition, an on-campus retreat. It takes place over two mornings and is modeled after the teacher training Dr. Swarzman has conducted for thousands of teachers worldwide. Middle School students experience a simulation of a corporate educational retreat.
The goal was to explore themes embedded in a Corbett Prep education, and students were guided through conversations on communication skills, community building and the brain’s reactions to different scenarios. Students even learned about some classroom management techniques that are included in the school’s teacher training, which more than 7,000 visitors have come to observe.
Students sat with their advisory groups at long tables, intermingling all grade levels. Students stay in their advisory groups all three years of Middle School, and the retreat establishes the groups as respectful places where students appreciate each other, said Betty George, Middle School Division Leader. The eighth graders are seen as leaders, while the sixth and seventh graders learn that their voices are honored and respected, too.
“The focus is on how to build a community of dignity and respect,” George said.
The retreat format integrated guided viewing of videos about accepting others’ differences and setting personal goals. Students were given time for individual reflection and journaling, along with discussions master teachers facilitated in advisory groups.
When finished, they came to a consensus as a group on the ideas they wanted to share with the rest of the Middle School. The messages reiterated the concepts of perseverance and inspiration:
“Encourage and help others and have compassion.”
“We must believe that we can do anything.”
“If you keep trying, excellence will come.”
“Always have hope in everything you do.”
The Middle School retreat helps establish a community of learners who value continuous improvement and honor the uniqueness of every individual. Dr. Swarzman praised the students for their insights and contributions to the retreat.
“We can do anything we want to do, either by ourselves or — more powerfully — as a group,” Dr. Swarzman said. “I encourage you to make your life at Corbett Prep the best it can possibly be.”