Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Are you scared by risks?

As I begin this blog, one day before taking a risk with all 430 of our students, in the gym, with limited supervision, my heart begins to beat faster and I begin to sweat just a little bit.  I am nervous, but I'm also excited for what might be the biggest risk I've taken with our students in my seven years as their principal.  Ask my wife and daughter and they will tell you that I live to be at school every day.  Even the worst day at school is better than any other day at any other job I could have chosen for my career.  I have shared the risk I am about to undertake with my PLN, in person, on twitter and on voxer, and their support and suggestions have been overwhelming.  I even have some staff members who have volunteered to help me supervise the experience tomorrow.

Here is a little background on how this came to be.  Every second Wednesday of the month during school, I spend 30 minutes with the students to start their day.  We started these late starts for the students so that the staff had an extra hour and fifteen minutes of collaboration time, at no cost to our district.  After doing these assemblies since 2011, I realized that I'm the one who is sharing information with them that I think will have an impact on them.  Sometimes the students provide me some ideas, sometimes the families provide me some ideas, and sometimes the staff provide me some ideas.  But, for the most part, the ideas and ways of sharing information are mine.  This means there is limited student voice in those precious 30 minutes that I spend with them once a month.  So this month I have decided to do something that focuses on student voice.

This is my plan for tomorrow.  The students will all come in to the gym as normal, but they will not be seated in the bleachers.  We will sit on the gym floor and I'll do announcements and the pledge of allegiance.  After that, I will give them two tasks for the rest of our time together.

  • First of all, the students will get into groups and design learning spaces they would like in our school.  There will be no pictures or ideas shared.  I want them to do this on their own.  They will be able to provide suggestions for classrooms, other learning spaces, our gym, and outdoors.  I want them to be creative and not be limited by any factors such as cost.
  • Second of all, they will be asked to complete an exit slip which consists of three questions.
    1. What would you like us to keep doing?
    2. What would you like us to stop doing?
    3. What would you like us to start doing?
Before we begin, I will let the students know that we will take all of their suggestions seriously and do whatever we can to adjust the learning spaces to match their ideas.  I will be putting these ideas up throughout the commons for all to see.  As for the exit slips, I will read each one of them and take their responses seriously.

This is a big effort, and a big risk, to include student voice in what we do in our school.  I have promised myself, and I will promise the students, that I will read all of their suggestions.  I am planning on meeting with the Student Senate at some point to discuss these ideas.  But I have to admit, my heart is beating faster and I'm starting to sweat again just thinking about tomorrow.  I will let you all know how this turns out in a future post.  I can't wait for tomorrow!