40 Incredible Ideas to Connect Your EduCommunity, pt 1
I freaking love my job! You know why? Each week (and sometimes daily), I get to work with schools and leaders who are working to redesign what learning means inside their own community’s modern learning environment. These are days where I get to do very customized work because no matter what ideas are being tweeted from <insert cool book of the moment> telling us that “all schools must…” and “all children should…“, everything eventually is filtered down into what is best for that particular community.
What are the expectations of that community? What are the values and norms? And while some of these expectations may shift over the years, and while some of these values are similar to other communities across the globe, it’s quintessentially human to build what your community needs and believes in.
So when I’m invited into the education side of these communities, I bring my bag of goodies and ideas, but truly, it’s about helping them look through their own bags. To see who’s on their team. And help them connect with one another.
That last bit…to connect with one another seems to be the biggest bridge to innovation & redesign I’ve found.
To see how the education community can become less siloed in their grade levels, departments, content areas, cliques, groups, teams.
To find ways to connect teachers to teachers. To connect students to students.
To find ways to connect educators with students.
To find ways to connect the education community to the rest of the community.
We can do that. But if we’re literally only moving walls or chairs around or just adding more technology, we’re not truly redesigning education as a system, are we?
How do we connect with each other? To see others as simply humans? To see others as we are: vulnerable, and wanting to do better; to be better. As we begin to tackle that challenge, I believe all other pieces can begin to fall in place.
So I’ve been spending a good deal of time thinking about how to begin to connect our dots. And I don’t think it has to be as complicated as some might think it is. I think we can start with a few easy activities and grow from there.
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 idea 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 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.
Visit another classroom OUTSIDE your content area to find 3 things that will help your teaching environment or practice in your own classroom. If you didn’t find 3 things, tell the teacher 3 things you liked, and then find another classroom. Keep your eyes, mind, and heart open to possibilities.
Find a teacher who the kids talk positively about and tell them what the kids are saying. Then ask them one question about teaching or education that you seriously would like the answer to. And listen deeply.
Ask students to find a peer no one mentions. Brainstorm with a small group of student leaders to consider how to include that student and other in a similar situation deeper into the community.
Start a book study group or get involved with one inside your school. Invite students to participate if you’re at the Middle School or High School levels. Invite parents to participate if you’re at the elementary level.
Take a professional day to take a “teacher field trip” to a business or organization that will enhance your understanding of how your content area is used by people outside of an academic setting. Find as much of your content there. Note what content, skills, or expectations are NOT used beyond an academic setting.
Offer a quick 1-hour class to your colleagues before or after school. Maybe it’s about cooking. Maybe it’s about how to solder or change a tire. Maybe it’s a teaching/learning strategy. Whatever it is, make sure it’s not a topic you teach.
After you’ve run your 1-hour class, offer to bring drinks/snacks to someone else’s class for them.
Create a 2-week Voxer group where each day, participants share what they’re doing that day (work related) and one celebration about the day before (work or personal related). Do this each day for 2 weeks and meet to discuss what the exercise’s + and – effects were on the community. Consider having 5-8 people in each group.
Create a weekly work-out group where participants do a physical work out (based on similar fitness interests/challenge) and discuss a professional learning “what if” topic, determined in advance. Maybe this is a 30-minute walk. Maybe this is a weight-lifting session. Maybe it’s golf putting practice or something else. This is a chance to consider a different what-if scenario about education. And sometimes it might not. Try to balance the conversation with the physical so one isn’t dominating the other. What are potential positive and negative outcomes?
- What if we didn’t have bells?
- What if we didn’t serve school lunch?
- What if we had varying starting/ending times to the day?
- What if we started the school day at 10am? Or ended it at noon? Or 6pm?
- What if had no “classes” in the traditional sense?
- What if all our classes were career-oriented first?
- What if we were required to hold class at/inside a location that might use the class content as a career?
Brainstorm this list and hold the conversations with teachers, students, and parents for a super-level-up experience.
To be prepared in today’s world, we have to know how to maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses. A great way to do that as a staff or department is to share a weakness you have and ask how someone can help you with that issue. Then offer to use your strengths to help someone else’s weakness. For this exercise to be truly effective, get vulnerable. You may get better traction at first in small groups, but work to expand it when possible. You never know when someone has the key to your lock.