40 Incredible Ideas to Connect Your EduCommunity, part 3
This is part 3 of a 4-part blog post, sharing ways we can begin to connect our schools and communities. Find Part 1 over here. And find Part 2 here.
I hope you’ve had a chance to check out the first 20 ideas (10 each blog post) for connecting educators, students, and community previously published. If not, please do go check out parts 1 and 2, linked above.
These were designed and compiled so that educators could consider many different ways they could begin to more regularly and more intentionally connect teachers to teachers, students to students, students to teachers, and schools to their outlying communities. It’s hoped that a leadership team would look at these lists, consider them deeply, make personalized adjustments to best reflect the needs of their schools, and then schedule which ones they’d like to apply at what times throughout the year.
And educational culture exists, whether it be positive, negative, a mixture, or accidental or intentional. The cultures that have the greatest impact on growth and learning seem to be cultures that are intentionally positive. They’re choosing to be that. It also seems that the schools with the negative cultures seem to have gotten there accidentally. We never choose that. It just sort of … happens. And just like a lasting marriage, it takes regular maintenance and hard work to keep a positive culture thriving.
So the question becomes, “what kind of culture do you have and what do you want it to become?” Because we do have a choice. And we can change it, if that’s a desire. If we have teachers throwing knives and axes at each other; if we have parents and community members talking trash about the school; if we have bullying and/or vandalism in our schools, we know it’s time for a change of culture.
Incidentally, if you have a truly broken culture at your school where all the above is happening (true in too many schools I visit each year), I highly recommend you talk with the folks at Inspired Leadership. The work they do is truly astounding. And it WORKS, I assure you.
So if you’re ready to put on the work gloves and get to work, you might consider the following (and previous lists) as culture-builders.
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.
Consider how incorporate dance breaks during the day. Maybe they’re school wide. Maybe they’re a snapchat challenge on rotation where you challenge two people to a dance off with you. Then they challenge two others. Maybe they’re done at lunch. Maybe it’s the first 2-3 minutes of each class while we take attenDANCE. Maybe it’s just how we move down the hall one passing period.
Encourage a Compliment-Confidence Conference where students and teachers learn out how to gain the confidence it takes to hand out honest compliments to others on the reg. This conference could be created and hosted by your own staff.
Spend as much of the day as you can asking questions only. Note when you make a statement and mark it down. Then do it again the next day (or some time next week) and try to have fewer statements than you did the last time. Life becomes more interesting when we stop telling people what’s on our minds all the time and instead embrace curiosity. Also, people around us are often empowered to do more with their own creativity, problem-solving, when their input is valued.
Visit a local retirement community or local seniors’ club to learn more about how school was “back in the day.” Listen carefully because you’ll hear a lot more than about just school. You’ll hear priceless life advice. Ask them what they’d like to have done more or less of when they were your age. Ask them what their hopes are for this community now and in the next 25 years. How can you help contribute to this vision?
Create a local legends display in three parts where students learn about and become members of the community. In the first part, research and present historical figures of the community; in the 2nd part, research and present current leaders and influencers; in the third part, help kids imagine themselves as adults who are leaders and influencers in the community. Research and interview the leader as well as his/her friends and family to learn about the early life, education, and path to current life. You can hold the event all in one night or better, hold it one part at different times across the span of the school year. Invite the community to participate.
Hold a “human oddities” showcase within a small group (class or club). Showcase who can do something with their body that is different than what most can do. Who can roll their tongue? Who can flip it over? Can you do something else odd? Maybe someone has really flexible joints. Or can make a cool cricket sound. Don’t make people share, but celebrate the fact we all have things that make us unique and that it’s ok to be you! This is fun and should create a lot of laughs together.
Alongside students and families, create a community resource map for students at your school. Find out what maps already exist (if any) and find out how to build/enhance the maps beyond the typical “basic needs assessments.” Maybe there’s a “safe weekend entertainment” map (what exists in our community that we can take advantage for for safe weekend entertainment?). Or a physical fitness map (what exists in our community if we’re wanting to build our physical fitness?). Or a learn & do cool things map (what exists in our community for learning/doing cool things). Or another kind of map that students might like to have at their fingertips for their needs. How can this be built so that students find out and share about it? Can this live online?
Each teacher (or department) creates a crowdfunding project to improve their classroom or school. Students vote up one project for each month and during that month, the entire community gets behind getting that project funded. Find ways to get it funded by OUTSIDE the community resources instead of continually hitting up the same people again and again.
Create an online store (eg, Cafe Press or Print Aura, etc) where your rival school’s mascot and school colors are featured on a variety of products. Add their school name, motto, etc, and begin selling that community some terrific school-spirit products. And then put the money in your own school’s community chest!
Create a monthly “open house” where students showcase various technology tools and apps they’re using on a weekly basis. They can teach parents how to use the tools and what to look for in terms of good digital citizenship. This can be done by a student technology team, but for best parent participation, all students will participate at some time throughout the year. Google Docs in one room. Skype in another room, Snapchat in another, etc. Parents and community are invited in (with their own computers and phones) to learn how to use the latest technology tools!