I don’t drink coffee; I am antic enough without adding caffeine to the mix. Yet, I make coffee every morning for my wife, who cannot enjoy her day without her daily cup(s) of Joe.
For Christmas I bought her a new, fanicer coffee maker, a Moccamaster. Interestingly, the coffee maker has modified both of our lives. She has better tasting coffee each morning. I now partake in a coffee-making ritual each morning.
Brewing coffee in the Moccamaster is a bit more involved than our previous coffeemaker. For the Moccamaster, I grind beans each morning, I need to use a measuring cup, rather than the coffee pot to ascertain the right amount of water, and the time to brew the coffee has increased.
Surprisingly, I enjoy my new routine. Somehow it centers me. Making coffee has transformed from a job to a ritual and has reminded me of the importance of rituals in our personal lives as well as in our schools.
When I arrived at Duke School, where I was head for 14 years, the school had few rituals and little school spirit. Early in my tenure, I challenged students to write a school song and started reciting a Jack Prelutsky poem about dragons, which is the school’s mascot. The poem ended with the refrain, “We are dragons; we are real.”
We also began to meet as an entire school community monthly.
For the monthly meeting, our oldest students escorted their Kindergarten buddies to the auditorium. We sat on the floor and heard about the going-ons at the school. We started each assembly with a recitation of the dragon poem and ended by singing the school song, which also ended with the line, “We are dragons, we are real.”
These meetings allowed everyone in the community--and everyone from students to the maintenance staff were expected to attend--to remember they were part of a larger community. It helped create school bonds by sharing a common vocabulary and experience. It increased school spirit manyfold.
These assemblies became a ritual and as such were reassuring and important--even if some complained about having to attend.
And to this day if you ask a Duke School graduate from 2016 to the present, she will proudly assert that “I’m a dragon; I’m real.”