40 Incredible Ideas to Connect Your EduCommunity, part 2
I’m going to say it right here:
I don’t think we can even begin the talk of innovation or redesign in most schools until we begin to act more like a community of people. More than just people who share a common parking lot.
Yeah. Tough words, huh? Someone told me once to start out with a bold statement, so…
So if you’re talking about education innovation or school redesign, would you say that your school is a connected community? I mean, sure you probably talk with other educators in your building. And maybe with a few other educators outside of your building. But are you connected?
Are your students connected? to each other? to their educators? We want to say yes, but if bullying is still an issue in your school, I’d wager to say that you might have some disconnected students…and more than you might think at first.
And all this is true before we even begin to talk about the connection between our schools and communities…and I’m talking about deep connections. I’m not talking about community clean-up-the-trash day, ball games, concerts, or the PTO donations. I’m talking about partnerships in all classrooms. I’m talking about the community taking an active role in the school. I’m talking about our kids and teachers taking a regular, consistent, active role in the community.
Maybe this sort of talk is innovation in itself.
But I think that before we spend too much more time throwing out chairs and tables and adding in too many more robots, we might consider creating deeper connections.
This is part 2 of a 4-part blog post, sharing ways we can begin to connect our schools and communities. Find Part 1 over here.
So as we look deeper into various ways to connect our education and business communities, let’s ask the question, why? To what purpose? Maybe you’re thinking that it’s not needed. That we don’t really want them coming in, telling us what to do. I get that. But still, I wonder…
Why? Why do we even want to connect our schools and communities?
I wonder what would happen if educators would, instead of putting their hands out to ask for donations of time, money, and supplies (and we all do it), if we would instead look at what we and our students, our classes, in our work of learning, could offer the community.
- Could we build websites?
- Could we run marketing campaigns?
- Could we create a new plan for the _______ <insert new thing a community or business is doing>.
- Could we research problem spots or community needs and, in our efforts to learn how to be good people and learn our content, offer our working hours to help offer real solutions back to our community — on behalf of the taxes they’re paying for us to prepare kids for the world outside of school?
I know it seems odd, using the community as our learning fodder, or curriculum as it were. But if we’re going to say we’re prepping kids for the world beyond school, then maybe we ought to get beyond the walls of school more often.
I wonder if when we start connecting educators, students, and communities, what sorts of awesomeness could happen?
So what if we started with connecting first?
Toward that end, I’ve compiled some ideas that I know have been helpful to some schools as they begin to break down the 3 isolated silos of educators and students and community. Maybe you can take a look at them. Some you may already be doing. Some you may never do. It’s ok.
I’ve dropped these 40 ideas into quarters (10 ideas each quarter) in hopes that a school community wouldn’t be overwhelmed and could choose a few to try right now. The others will be coming in blog posts soon!
Be warned: there’s absolutely no deeper meaning in how I ordered them.
The meaning comes from discussion inside your circle:
- What are the merits to these 10 in front of us?
- What ones can we try right now?
- What ones need to be put on a back burner until another time?
- Who is going to lead the charge?
- How can each member of the smaller and larger community begin to take ownership of each idea?
- and more.
Be sure your school, department, and classroom have a branded hashtag on social media. Encourage students to capture something they’re proud of and post it to all their social media channels using the hashtag.
Be sure your district, school, department, and classroom have a branded hashtag on social media. Encourage colleagues to capture something they’re proud of about the school community and post it to all their social media channels using the hashtag.
Be sure your school, department, and classroom have a branded hashtag on social media. Encourage parents to capture something they’re proud of about the school community and post it to all their social media channels using the hashtag.
Challenge a rival school to see which school can increase their social media followers on a particular social media channel (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc) over a week (or a month). Maybe homecoming week? Count the winner by percentage of increase. Or by FB post shares. Or by FB video views. Always emphasize it’s not just about numbers, but about community interaction.
Take one afternoon/evening during each grading period and do something with your colleagues that is totally not school related. Wine & painting? Miniature golf? Bowling? Get as many people as you can to participate. Next grading period, raise the number of participants. If you have a large staff, maybe offer a couple of activities that evening and divide up based on interests. Take pictures/videos and post them to social media with your school branded hashtag. Keep working to achieve or maintain 95%-100% participation rates.
Divide into teams and visit your students’ homes to say a quick hello and share something you love about this child. This can be done at any time of year.
*Consider inviting that student to join you as you go to others’ homes, gathering up a huge following as you go! Each student then can share something they appreciate about the others. Yes, this might be awkward. What would be a positive about it? And if your students aren’t comfortable speaking positively about one another, what will you do about that?
Find a business or organization that your classroom could “adopt” and find out how your students’ skills could help them do their work. Go in with a curious mind and learn more about them before you open your mouth to offer your assistance.
Flip the script and ask students a school role they’d like to have for the day. Find out from a group of kids what roles in the school could be flipped as that adult takes on either a mentorship role, or completely leaves the role in the hands of the student for an hour, a half-day, or full day. Maybe it’s the Principal. Or a librarian. Or the lunch server. Or security guard. Brainstorm possibilities and create a day or week where the script gets flipped and let’s see what life is like on the other side.
Co-teach in another teachers’ classroom. Find a teacher that teaches something similar to yours at first. Pro-level-up and co-teach with someone who teaches a class very dissimilar to yours (you make that definition). Super-pro-level-up and co-teach with a student or two. These might take some conversation, planning, and prep time beyond your typical day but you might be surprised what awesomeness happens!
Feeling frustrated with a person or a situation? Go right to the person and talk with them. Share your feelings, worries, fears, or hurts, and hopes. Before you go, create an expectation and assumption that they’ll hear you. Expect that they won’t get angry. Expect that your frustration might stem from a misunderstanding or an assumption on either your part, their part, or both. Remember you control you and how you react to a situation. You will not be able to control them.