First Day Thoughts: The Power of a Feather

There’s nothing quite like standing in the drop-off circle on the first day of school. The faces of your children as they step out onto the curb make every ounce of planning for the year worth it. This morning, they streamed out of the cars looking excited and nervous, hopeful and exuberant, sleepy and energetic. Every face made me smile.

It’s mid-day, and I’ve finally returned to my office for a moment. Earlier today, every member of the middle school gathered in the theater for our opening assembly. I shared with your children a short video that you have to see to believe. In a dance/engineering performance that seems almost miraculous, Miyoko Shida balances increasingly large pieces of wood to create a gorgeous structure. Watch it here.

She begins with a single feather balanced on a small stick.

A feather: the quintessential symbol of weightlessness.

A feather: light enough for a simple breeze to carry it away.

But at the end of the performance, after she has added sticks taller than herself to create an expansive design, Shida gently pulls that feather away . . . and the entire creation crumbles.

My message to the students: “You are the feather.”

We don’t always believe it, but each of us has strength beyond our understanding. We have the power to brighten a classmate’s day with a kind word or wound it with a harsh one. As social psychologists tell us, behavior is contagious – from yawns to smiles to health habits. A thoughtful comment during a discussion can change the tone of an entire class. Bending down to pick up that piece of trash will prompt someone else to do the same. Inviting someone new to sit by you at lunch might make all the difference. Speaking up rather than standing by when we see someone being mistreated will make our community stronger. Believe it: You are the feather.

As I reminded our students, we have a simple motto here in the middle school that guides us in all that we do: “We leave a place better than we found it.” This morning in advisory, we talked about how this doesn’t just apply to physical spaces such as hallways or classrooms. It also applies to digital spaces such as social media.

This year, as we embark on our iPad initiative, we have decided to replace our “Acceptable Use Policy” with a “Responsible Use Policy” (RUP). This document provides practical guidelines for becoming a responsible digital citizen. We intentionally focus more on the “DO’s” than on the “DON’Ts” because we want to empower our students to make responsible choices that will support their learning and their relationships with their teachers and classmates. I am posting our RUP below (your child is also bringing home a copy for you both to sign and return). I hope and believe that these guidelines will also be helpful to you as parents. I spend a lot of time each year talking to individual parents about choices students make online. We all need tools to help guide our children, and this document offers concrete ideas to support them.

Time to head back to the hallways! Thank you, again, for sharing your children with us. This year is going to be remarkable.



Grades 6 – 8* 

Technology is a wonderful tool to help us research, connect, collaborate, and create. Using computers, iPads and other digital devices in the middle school can help us become engaged life-long learners. At Trinity Valley School, we recognize that while technology opens the door to wonderful possibilities, it requires that each of us understand and accept the responsibilities that come with it. This document outlines Trinity Valley School’s expectations as we all seek to become responsible digital citizens.

In the Middle School, we strive to live by the following motto: We leave a place better than we found it. This extends to our actions in digital spaces. For this reason, any behavior, on or off campus, that harms or negatively affects the educational environment of the school, the physical or emotional safety of others, or reputation of the community — including postings on social networking sites or applications from any device – may result in losing access privileges and facing additional disciplinary actions.

Please take time to familiarize yourself with these expectations. Some will require specific action and attention each day. Others should guide your choices as you seek to interact respectfully and use technology responsibly.

How to be a Responsible Digital Citizen

Before I can use a personal computing device at school, I must register my device with the technology office. I understand that I may only use school computers or a registered personal device on campus.

Each day I will . . .

  • charge my iPad before coming to school.
  • store my iPad safely in a protective case and place it inside my locker when I do not need to use it in class.
  • only use the TVS Student Wi Fi to access the internet; students are not permitted to use a cellular connection to access the internet.
  • only use my school-based iTunes account to download apps or other content at school.
  • keep my iPad and my passwords to myself. If I suspect that my password has been compromised, I will report this immediately to a teacher or administrator and change my password.
  • use Canvas (our Learning Management System) to check my assignments and receive information from teachers.
  • stay on task and follow my teachers’ instructions about when to use my iPad… and when to put it aside.
  • make sure that any work that has not been submitted to Canvas is saved and backed up to the best of my ability. Students may use the sync tool to save their work to the TVS Cloud.
  • keep the “Find My iPad” setting turned on. If my iPad is lost, stolen or broken, I may borrow an iPad from the technology department for a brief period of time to get my personal device in good working order. I understand that TVS is not responsible if my iPad is lost, stolen or broken.
  • follow the guidelines listed in the Student Handbook in all of my interactions.

When I use any technology, I will . . .

  • use appropriate, respectful language and content in all of my digital communications. This includes my choice of usernames.
  • respect the privacy and dignity of every member of the school community when I post online, text, email, and use other forms of social media.
  • keep my personal information private in online postings – including my phone number or other contact information.
  • respect copyright If I am unsure about what constitutes inappropriate copying or plagiarism, I will consult with a teacher or administrator.
  • ask a teacher or administrator if I am uncertain about whether a specific activity, program, or website is permitted or appropriate.
  • help maintain a safe digital environment for If I see a message, comment, image, or anything else online that makes me feel concerned for my safety or the wellbeing of another student (for example: threats or insults), I will immediately bring it to the attention of a teacher or administrator.
  • remember that I am an ambassador of the school whenever I communicate with others.

I will not . . .

  • use technology in a way that could be harmful to myself or others.
  • make, post, or share audio/video recordings of anyone without their prior permission.
  • pose/post as someone else in any digital communication.
  • search for inappropriate content/images online or download programs to my iPad that contain inappropriate content or fail to respect copyright laws.
  • use software or applications in the classroom that distract me from my learning.
  • try to circumvent the school’s safety measures and Internet filtering tools.
  • use someone else’s password or take advantage of a student who inadvertently left a computer or iPad without logging out.
  • use anyone else’s computing devices (including iPad or phone) without expressed explicit permission.
  • agree to meet someone I met online in real life (without parental permission).

If or when a mistake is made, I will . . .

  • try to correct my mistake immediately.
  • quickly contact a teacher or administrator and explain the situation honestly.
  • apologize to any individuals that may have been adversely affected by my actions and find ways to fix the situation.

*Fifth grade has a simplified version, since they do not carry iPads

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