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Young Learners Exemplify Portrait of a Graduate

Young Learners Exemplify Portrait of a Graduate

The Oaks Christian Portrait of a Graduate (PofG) has been part of the high school culture since it was first introduced in 2018, but this year it has become a schoolwide distinctive, beginning with the youngest OCS learners in Grades 4 and Academy V.

Five years ago, the academic leadership team developed three benchmark categories an OCS graduate would embody upon leaving Oaks Christian – Knowledge and Wisdom, Well-being and Community, and Leadership and Character.  

With the launching of Grade 4 this year, traits such as discernment, humility, joyful, and others (which are part of the overarching three categories) are being introduced to the lower grades through new Monthly Community Gatherings. At the gatherings Grade 4 and Academy V celebrate students who exemplify the PofG traits. Monthly awards are given to students based on that month’s attribute.

Academy V Teacher Holly Wolford was a key influence in crafting the gatherings as part of her master’s degree project. Wolford was in talks with the Director of Grade 4 and Academy V/Middle School Dean of Student Life Brant Childers about a focus for her master’s assignment to create a professional development presentation for an intended audience (Grade 4 and Academy V team).

After speaking with him about some ideas, PofG seemed the most relevant and was a clear area of need for the 2023-24 school year.

“Our community gathering assembly has been a great opportunity to bring our portrait of graduate traits to life. The students gain a deeper understanding of these traits each month through morning meeting activities, connections to classroom content, and examining what scripture says about each one. Students have learned that our community becomes more unified, pleasing God when we exhibit these characteristics daily. It is such a joy to recognize students for their excellent character in front of the school community,” exclaims Childers. 

PofG had been a poster on the wall for many of their students, but the team wanted to make the language accessible for students by focusing on the traits that make up the three broad categories.

They also wanted to be intentional with the monthly attribute designations and curricular connections. It took several months, primarily working alongside Childers, during last spring and summer.

Wolford’s main job was to create an implementation schedule and assign an attribute or two to each month. She also made a curriculum guide listing a morning activity for every Monday tied into that month’s attribute. Month-long meetings were typically hands-on activities or class discussions.

Some of the considerations to create the schedule were the themes in the novels students were reading, holidays, retreats, service months or other connections to each attribute. For example, October was assigned "discernment" because this topic was a focus for the spiritual life retreats during that month. December was assigned "humility" since Jesus came to earth humbly as a baby.

"My hope for these gatherings is that students would be encouraged by seeing their peers recognized (or themselves) for showing these attributes. These monthly gatherings send the message to students that our personal character and school culture matter," explains Wolford. 

To select a student for an award, the Grade 4 and Academy V teams consider each student’s progress toward demonstrating the monthly attribute. They sometimes confer with one another or ask outside supervision what they have noticed. They then narrow the list to one or two students from each of their homerooms. 

Wolford adds, "My hope is that the rest of the school will be intentional about creating space to discuss these attributes and infusing it into daily curriculum. I have absolutely seen the positive impact PofG has had on elementary students, both in the monthly awards and in discussing them during our morning meeting time."