Celebrating Character in our Community on Core Day

On September 22, AIS students celebrated the first Core Day. 

A cornucopia of tie-dye patterns and themed class colors was on display last Wednesday as the Agnes Irwin community united to reflect upon the foundational core values of our school. The inaugural Core Day focused on the value of character, and kicked off with an all-school assembly and inspirational charge from Sally Keidel, Head of School. “Our guiding principles are led by the mission of empowering girls to learn, to lead and to live a legacy. This mission is supported by our Core Values of Community, Character, Excellence and Respect.” At this point, Keidel asked each student to pause and look at the themed t-shirts worn by our entire community, pointing out that “these Core Values are our school's compass—they guide the work that we do each day. Each of your shirts has an illustration of a compass, detailing the core values. A compass is something that helps us to find our direction to help us follow our north star.”

Morning assembly also included a pertinent reminder of the lessons of our founder, Miss Agnes Irwin. Neveen H. Mahmoud ’07, production manager for The Agnes Irwin School’s 150th Anniversary, spoke and shared findings from original research conducted with Julie Diana, Director of Libraries and Humanities Innovation.

Helen Keller, a leader in disability rights from her own seat as a deaf and blind woman, had a direct connection to Miss Agnes Irwin, who made a promise to Keller to vouch for her admission and support her educational journey through Radcliffe College in the late 1800s. As a sign of her own character and honesty, Miss Irwin followed through by personally paying for the special proctors that worked with Helen Keller as she successfully completed the Radcliffe course of study.

Mahmoud included this inspirational message in her remarks: “Just as Miss Irwin’s decisions about how she would show up in the world impacted the stories of other girls and women, I want to highlight that each and every one of you are working together to co-create each other’s living histories...it is your character that will write the forever remembered history of this school.” 

Following the all-school assembly, a day of character-related programming followed across all three divisions. Students and faculty alike hummed along to a themed Spotify playlist as they collaborated on various projects designed to introduce and amplify the meaning of character in the AIS community. This included hands-on, interdisciplinary activities, workshops, panel discussions and other special programming. 

In the Lower School, students were introduced to the Leadership Toolkit, and discussed the meanings of integrity and honesty. “Why does Honesty matter?” was asked, with sample answers including: “Being honest helps to model for those around you how you should act,” and “Honesty builds trust, and trust creates a healthier community.”

In the Middle School, 5th and 6th grade parliaments asked students to create collages on foamboard letters making up C-H-A-R-A-C-T-E-R. Groups used words, phrases, drawings, and photos to convey what character means to them. Their 7th and 8th grade counterparts created and rehearsed skits that were showcased in the afternoon in the West Wike Theater.

In the Upper School, Jackie Henerichs ’22 created a video that featured student perspectives on the meaning of character — and it was shown to students across all three divisions. US students also debated whether or not choices are more important than inherent gifts, and reflected upon examples in their personal lives where they observed choices that demonstrated strength of character. Later, students learned their own top character strengths from the VIA Character Strengths Survey, with the unique traits learned utilized later in the day for group discussions.

The day closed on a sunny and buzzing-with-energy Phelps Field, where students across the school lined up for a turn at the podium to share their reflections with the school community. 4th grader Aubrey shared that to her, “acting kind, responsible, and [being] resilient and independent-minded” are part of her character definition. 8th grader Lizzie shared this important lesson: “I learned that character isn’t your personality, but who you are when no one is watching and who you are when challenges arise.” 12th grader Golda said, “every day, you have an opportunity to make good choices and demonstrate good character.”

Looking ahead to our next Core Days
Three additional all-school Core Days will follow this year. According to Camille L. Seals, Assistant Head of School for Academics & Inclusive Excellence, “I’m so pleased with the work of our dedicated planning committee as well as our faculty and staff for the success of our character-themed day. Our ongoing goal for our remaining Core Days will be to unify and build community among our students, faculty/staff and administrators, utilizing our expertise in academic and co-curricular excellence to build programming centered on our school’s core values.” 

In December, we look forward to continuing the mission of Core Days by:

  • Building relationships across grade levels, divisions and departments
  • Sharing joy and celebrating school spirit
  • Articulating a clear understanding of our school’s core values
  • Having fun and learn by doing
  • Operating as one school community

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