When we think of schools we tend to think of formal learning. Classrooms and teachers, desks and whiteboards (or interactive whiteboards), students and lockers. Certainly all of these elements exist at FJA but we are so much more than the sum of our formal learning “parts.” FJA is a unique community with a culture all its own. It is within this unique community where learning and growth takes place; sometimes learning happens on the tennis or basketball court (as well as other sport facilities); sometimes growth happens on or behind the stage; and sometimes students gain life changing perspectives on the summit of Masada or the plains of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.
Despite the challenge of fully replicating and exhibiting the FJA student experience for visitors to FJA, we commit ourselves, every year, to host a day where students and their “Grandfriends” - grandparents, parents, aunts or uncles, siblings or friends - can at least get a “taste” of what students experience in their classes every day. It is one of our proudest moments as a school, and teachers and staff throw themselves fully into the endeavor.
A former colleague often repeated this mantra in reference to student learning, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” First and foremost is the relationship - mutual respect, caring and nurturing - our teachers and staff develop with our students. These relationships form the foundation for the learning that takes place within the walls of FJA. It is further enhanced when teachers and staff serve as club advisors, coaches and trip chaperones. These relationships are the highlight of our graduation ceremony; teachers compose and deliver personal tributes to graduates that reflect the closeness and caring they have for each student. The relationship bonds are strong and elastic enough to continue while students matriculate to college and graduate school. Alumni not only take time to visit their teachers at FJA when they are back “in town,” but they even continue to reach out for advice and support related to college homework, projects, or about life in general.
We recognize we could never fully share, in a truly immersive way, what the students experience on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis as citizens in our remarkable unique community. We can’t transport FJA visitors to the top of Masada or the plains of Wyoming to witness firsthand our students' unique experiential learning. We will only be able to share the joy and camaraderie of Spirit Week, holiday celebrations, dances, and shabbatones through pictures, videos, and student reflections. We can, however, introduce Grandfriend guests to our teachers and staff, who, even in the span of two class periods, convey their passion for teaching, the depth of their knowledge, and their commitment to nurture and support the growth and maturation, learning and discovery, of our students.
Thank you to those of you that joined us, and we look forward to welcoming you into the doors of FJA, and our unique community in the future.