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  • Nicholas J. Martino

School Culture Building at THINK Global School


The product of the THINK Global School Rite of Passage was the tight-knit school community that emerged. While this is visibly evident to our staff and students on the ground, the best way to portray this product is by sharing student reflections.

The sessions during the “betwixt” stage of our 10 day Rite of Passage in Botswana focused on the TGS Core Values, community building, and group development. Students were guided through workshops on Tuckman’s stages of group development (forming, storming, norming, performing), and aspects of Hershey and Blanchert’s (1993) situational leadership theory.

Class of 2020 student Julia (Mexico) explained, “The rite of passage was a meaningful experience that marked the beginning of our time at TGS and a great way for us to realize that we are now a part of this incredible community. Every activity we did had a purpose and I think we all grew a lot during these ten days, especially in the area of teamwork, communication, trust, and openness. I think it’s amazing how close our group is after such a small amount of time. I also loved feeling in touch with nature, living in the wild, surrounded by all sorts of animals.”

Effective communication was another aspect of these sessions. We carefully exposed students to giving and receiving feedback and the power of group discussions. We began by having meta-level discussions on how to properly have and contribute to a discussion. We shared with students the concept of constructivism and Vygotsky’s approach to the socio-historical aspects of knowledge and learning.

Our Zambian student, Salome, reflected “the ten-day rite of passage was an incredible experience that gave students the opportunities to learn, reflect and communicate in a way that is becoming increasingly foreign as the use of technology and social media grows. Although at times overwhelming, hopping into the closest vehicle to find a lion or navigating using clues that birds nests and termite mounds leave were all key lessons adding to the mysteries of a journey that 30 students started as complete strangers.”

She went on to write, “when you are unable to turn to Instagram or Snapchat as a form of entertainment, all of a sudden the people around you become far more interesting and your surroundings will never fail to shock you in beauty. Being tech-free certainly made me realize how much I miss when my eyes are glued to the screen, and whether that be an intriguing conversation or type of bird, it’s worth a whole of a lot more than that Facebook post.”

Salome’s reflection identifies a significant paradigm shift. Grimes explains that a rite of passage is not a small change but “a momentous metamorphosis, a moment which one is never again the same.”

How deliberate is your school in building a positive and inclusive school culture?

Comment below and share culture-building tips.

For a great read on school culture check-out Todd Whitaker's Culture Rewired, and his new book, Shifting the Monkey.

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