March 20, 2023
By Jenna Fournel, Director of Teaching and Learning
Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students.
You can now listen to Hooray for Monday on Spotify! Check out our podcast here.
You know that feeling when a family member can’t open the jar so they ask you for help and you pop off the lid? Or you’re walking through your town and a tourist asks for directions and you can point them right where to go? Or a friend is super down and you can feel your words lift them up?
Who doesn’t love that feeling? It feels amazing to be helpful, to be needed, to see ourselves rise to the occasion, to belong in a useful way to our home, our community, and our relationships.
What does it look like to create space for that feeling in our schools? It’s a worthy question to explore because when we do create that space, school connectedness grows.
Last week I jammed the copier at school. I first resorted to my usual tactics of trying to force open doors. But I don’t really know this fancy copier and the offending jam was in a place my tactics could not reach. Down the hall sat a group of students with whom I’ve had my struggles. In a moment of desperation, I asked them if they knew how to fix this machine. To my surprise, they immediately jumped up to help. “We don’t know how to fix it,” one said, “but we’ll try.” And I thought, “shoot, what if they take to it the way I just did, but with youthful force?” Instead, calmly, almost reverently, one student tapped the “help button” on the screen. Then they all worked together to follow the series of intricate steps that showed up on the screen. After a few minutes, they gently opened the copier door and extracted the paper. “There you go,” one of them said nonchalantly as the group walked back to their gathering spot. I noticed they seemed to be walking a little taller as I stood there, mouth agape, grateful, and in awe.
This isn’t to suggest we should make our students responsible for school repairs, but look what they can do! What else might be possible when we involve them in “making things work” in our school communities? Here are a few ideas:
- When you have a chronic classroom issue (pencils disappearing, assignments all coming in late, dirt being tracked in from recess, students interrupting each other when speaking) try asking the students to help you find a solution. This builds buy-in and deepens a sense of belonging to the classroom community.
- Classroom jobs are one way we typically foster student leadership and shared responsibility for the community. Take a look at the jobs you offer and consider some that would specifically build school connectedness. How about a team of weekly problem solvers whose job it is to help the class wrestle with issues that arise in the community? What about a keen observer whose job it is to find and share examples of care and support exhibited by classmates? Try appointing a daily scribe whose job it is to summarize and write up the most important activities the class engaged in each day.
- Schools often have student councils to plan spirit days and dances, but what about student advisors for the administration? In this approach, you’d choose a different student from each class each month, or quarter, who meets as a group with other selected students to talk with administrators about what is and isn’t working in the school. These students could bring concerns from their class to the group, and through their feedback, they could help the administrators think about solutions to the problems.
Adults are almost always outnumbered in schools. So it’s easy, particularly at the end of a long day, to feel that the students and their problematic behaviors are what get in the way of school connectedness. But what if they actually know things we don’t about how to solve the problems? See what happens this week if you ask your students for help.
What We’re Curious About
Each week a member of the Inspired Teaching community shares something that’s currently piquing their curiosity. Maybe it will spark yours too!
Leal Abbatiello, 9th-grade student and son to Jenna (Director of Teaching and Learning)
I’m curious about side hustles. I recently found out about curb painting which is where you paint the house numbers onto the curb in front of a house. People do this to help first responders identify or verify where your house is if it’s hard for them to see the house number elsewhere. Similarly, it can help a friend who is coming over figure out where you live if they can’t see the numbers by your door.
I thought about this yesterday because I was walking through a neighborhood doing fundraising for my sports team and saw that some houses had their curbs painted and others didn’t. I thought that I might be able to turn this into a profitable side hustle that would also help the people in the neighborhood and put money in my pocket. In order to do this I would need spray paint, stencils, and a knack for door-to-door sales. If I did a few houses and did it well, I could take pictures and build a portfolio to share with future clients.
These days I’m always wondering about how to make money as a teen without a car. How can I apply the skills and resources that I have to help others and create an income stream?
In today’s post we offer a few fresh classroom job ideas, this podcast from Cult of Pedagogy includes many more and some neat ways to introduce these roles to your students.
As you find more ways to have students help you out, notice the language you offer in response. Rather than “good job,” noting what the student did to accomplish the outcome orients students toward both their learning process and intrinsic interest in learning.
We shared this last week, but it’s worth sharing again in this new context. Invite your students to be the scribes as they share what they’ve learned in class. It’s a great way to enlist their help and center their voice in the process!