And so it begins.

Blue Key 2Monday, September 7, 2009. Labor Day.

8:45am: The first Blue Key Tour Guide arrives on campus and so it begins. Shortly thereafter, another arrives and by 1:00pm we have 20 exuberant girls playing an enthusiastic game of “Move your Feet” in the Oval.

“Move your feet if you’re excited to be back at SBS” I shout. They all run to a new spot in the circle. Blue Key

The opening of school is always exciting and a bit nerve-wracking. You never know what to expect when you welcome 125 teenage girls to campus. The student body will be different than it was the previous year. The seniors have graduated and are already beginning their first year of college and all across the world new students are nervously awaiting the day they are scheduled to move in.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009.

9:00am: Our first new international student arrives. She comes with her family in tow and slowly climbs out of the car they rented at the airport. She’s nervous until the Blue Key Tour Guides begin calling to her.

“Welcome to SBS, what’s your name?” they shout, nearly in unison.

The common bond shared by teenage girls, the one that makes them think that dancing around in their dorm rooms and shopping on weekends is fun, takes over and soon our new student is whisked away to registration and her dorm room.

“That was hard and we’re tired but she’s all moved in,” the Tour Guides tell me when they have finished helping her carry her belongings to her new room on one of our residential hallways. “We’re going outside to meet someone else and help her move in.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2009.

4:30am: Our Athletic Trainer meets some of our new students as they arrive by shuttle. He greets them and gets them settled into their rooms. Late (well, early) arrivals are a hallmark of Opening Week.

8:45am: The Blue Key Guides flood campus and we open registration a The Luggagebit early. Our new students look excited and nervous all at the same time. The luggage pile near the front door slowly turns from a molehill to a mountain. With the arrival of each new student it grows a bit more.

11:30am: One of the Blue Key Tour Guides helps me fill water balloons for one of the activities scheduled for that afternoon. Shrieks of laughter emanate from the 1st floor bathroom we’re using to fill the balloons.

“This one’s a monster” she yells…before dissolving into giggles as it pops in her hand and explodes all over her. These are the sounds of the new school year.

2:00pm: All our new students are gathered in Emerson Hall. It’s new student orientation and nervous energy fills the gymnasium. I introduce myself and the Blue Key Guides helping me run the event.

“We’re going to play games and I promise we’re going to have fun,” I tell them. Their faces indicate that they doubt I am right. We begin tossing around the Finding Nemo beach ball that I’ve covered with “getting to know you” questions. One of our international students catches it.

“What are you most excited about for this year?” She pauses. “Being a member of this community and school.” She tosses the ball into the air.

Blue Key 1“What do you want to be when you grow up?…Either something with horses or on T.V.” I smile and tell her maybe she can become a reporter who exclusively covers horse shows. The girls giggle a bit and tell me that’s silly. I can tell we’ve broken the ice.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

10:00am: I meet our new students in the library. We’ve got another morning filled with orientation games and activities. We head outside to the fields beside the tennis courts. I instruct the girls to count off by four. It takes two attempts and lots of giggling, but finally we’ve got four groups of 10 girls each. I explain the human knot to them and watch as they duck and dive through each others’ arms to untangle the knot. Laughter fills the autumn air as they try to figure out who has to go where.

“You go under — then we’ll be able to untangle…ahh! My arm can’t bend that way!” Gone is the nervous silence that filled the gymnasium yesterday.

11:00am: The halls are filled with shouting and laughter. “Hey, how was your summer…I missed you!” one student calls out as she runs toward a friend.

6:00pm: Everyone is gathered in the dining hall for the first Formal Dinner of the year. The first Formal Dinner has always had the same theme—it is the first time many girls will officially meet their “Big Sisters”. After dinner we adjourn to the Capen Room for the first Housemeeting of the year where each member of the senior class introduces her “Little Sisters”. This evening is just the first of many traditions our girls will take part in over the course of their time here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

8:00am: We have gathered in Geissler Gallery for Convocation, the official opening of the 2009-2010 academic year. It is during this ceremony that we sign the honor code, the document that reminds us we must have respect for ourselves, respect for others, respect for academic honesty and respect for property. Head of School Sally Mixsell opens the ceremony.

“Welcome to the 2009-2010 academic year! We have been working hard to make this the best year any of you returning students has had to date, and the best first year any of you new students could possibly experience…It is not your job just to be here and to do school; it is equally your responsibility to develop an understanding of who you are and where you’re going. We will help you find your voice and use it appropriately to navigate your place in the world.”

Soon after, Kim Balk, Senior Class President and the first official speaker in the Paul Bassett Speaker Series, steps to the front of the room.

Kim Balk“During the summer Sally Mixsell emailed me asking if I would speak at convocation. I, a person who is really nervous when it comes to giving speeches, first thought I should say no–but then I realized this was something I had to do…I realized this is something that our school prepares you for.”

Convocation comes to a close and the recessional begins. Students and teachers alike nervously return to their classrooms for the first period of the day.

As the day draws to a close, gone are the quiet hallways and empty dorm rooms. Instead the halls are filled with laughter and excitement as the faculty breathe a collective sigh of relief. First-day jitters are gone and Opening Week has ended. A new year has begun.

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