40 Incredible Ideas to Connect Your EduCommunity, part 4/4
This is part 4 of a 4-part blog post, sharing ways we can begin to connect our schools and communities. Find Part 1 over here, part 2 here, and part 3 over here.
I hope you’ve had a chance to check out the first 30 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.
This is a compiled list of 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.
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!
School family brown bags! Each week (or bi-weekly), parents and community members will be invited to a brown bag lunch with a rotating student leadership team and a rotating handful of staff to discuss what events are coming up and school/community goals. The number of participants can vary, depending upon size of the room and number of tables for a roundtable discussion format. With practice (and a partner or two), students can be expected to lead these roundtable discussions.
Use the school’s Facebook or Twitter page as a gratitude board where staff members regularly post something positive about the school, a parent, or a student. Staff will be coached on privacy concerns regarding some students (media opt-outs or special education status), but all attempts will be made to have stories shared about school and community events featuring a variety of interests, people, and topics. Super bonus for posts with pictures of video.
Pro-level-up suggestion: after a time of staff showing the way, encourage students and community to also share positive news. It’s ok to at first incentivise them to do this.
Host a “how to dance” class before the next school dance where either the students teach the teachers or the teachers teach the students (might be age-dependent). Have fun with it and do lots of social media sharing.
Set up a self-interview booth in the hallway during any school event (parent teacher conferences, sports events, theatre productions, etc) for parents and students to answer a question of the day. Encourage responses to stay within a 10-30 second limit. If people want to record another response, that’s wonderful. Use these responses on the school website and social media. Consider using an iPad stand and have at least 2 people (students?) officially tend the booth, helping with technical needs, clarifying the question, or inviting people to participate. Question samples:
- What makes this school really awesome?
- What do you love about the teachers/staff/people here?
- What is your favorite part of this school community?
- What makes you proud to be an (Eagle)?
- What is the school working on right now that’s not quite perfect, but will be soon?
Host a school (or grade or team) picnic with staff and students. Go potluck on this if possible and have a great time together outside in the sun, playing games, and just enjoying. Have some students plan/coordinate food. Have others plan/coordinate games. Staff plays with the students more as friends and colleagues than students/teachers. Take the opportunity to relax and have fun together.
Create an informal Toastmasters-style club at a semi-formal lunch (with food as normally run) where on selected days of each week, a handful of students and/or teachers stand and each gives a 5-minute speech about a person or situation that matters to them. This might be whole-school, or smaller team, but there should be an audience of ~ 50+ and eventually most all students will complete their turn speaking. This gives an insight on one another while practicing formal speaking and listening skills. Do some deeper research on how to adapt the Toastmasters’ style to better fit your school’s set up and needs.
Participate in a relationship mapping exercise to help faculty members identify students that may be at a higher risk of not having a strong relationship with an adult in the school. Place a building roster on a wall in a location that students do not have access to. Each faculty member will place a dot next to the names of students they believe they have a positive relationship with. Identify students who do not have a dot next to their name and as a group discuss ways a relationship might be built with that student.
After completing a faculty relationship mapping exercise, invite students to participate in a relationship mapping exercise to identify what gaps might exist in your beliefs about student relationships. Give each student a faculty roster, and ask them to place a dot next to the names of any member that they believe they have a significant relationship with. Significant relationship can be defined as someone 1) they care about me as a person 2) they know my hopes and dreams 3) I would go to them with a problem. Use this information to identify strategies you might take as an individual to build more significant relationships, and as a collective group ways you might address gaps in relationships.
Take turns hosting hallway parties. These might be based on location in the building, grade level, or departments. The hosting group brings an offering of light snacks/beverages to be set up in the hallway or back of classrooms. Other faculty members are invited to stop by during their planning time for a quick informal observation. During this time chat with students about what they are working on, collect ideas of how you might collaborate with your colleagues, and/or gain ideas for areas you are personally trying to improve upon. Before you leave, jot down a quick praise for either the teacher or a student in the classroom.