We recently spent a full day working with New Canaan’s School Climate Coordinator, Susan Bliss and 5th-8th grade-level principals, teachers and student leaders from Saxe Middle School. The objectives for the day were to develop student leaders from all grades to affect school change; to build stronger partnerships between teachers and students for school climate improvement, and to take the three specific areas identified as needing improvement by Saxe students and teachers based-on their school climate surveys (improve relationships, increase student choices, and improve school discipline) and initiate a dozen different student and teacher leadership projects that would address these goals.
Here are a few examples of the projects that students and teachers worked on:
The entire 5th grade team participated in their first Student Leaders Orientation and developed a presentation for the 6, 7, and 8th grade teachers and student leaders about everybody’s roles as effective school climate leaders.
6th grade teams worked on building more personal relationships with cafeteria staff and bus drivers by designing an interview and story telling project called, Humans of Saxe. Another group worked to highlight the CHOICES that teachers already offer students and discussed choices that students appreciate, as well as other kinds of choices that teachers could make available to students to develop more student ownership and engagement in learning.
7th grade students and teachers met in small groups to discuss ways to Amplify Student Voices at Saxe by gaining permission to make announcements about ongoing student leadership efforts and locating and using cool quotes about student empowerment to inspire students and teachers to work to provide more opportunities for student voice at Saxe. Another group working on improving school discipline planned a Clipboard Observation Hallway Research project where students will pair up with teachers to do quick observations of student interaction and behavior in hallways between classes, both when teachers are and are not standing in their doorways. The team will collect data and make recommendations to teachers based on their findings.
8th graders made a plan for communicating to their teachers about the kinds of Teaching Practices They Loved and two groups develop plans for helping make their classes more effective when substitute teachers were in their classrooms. They developed “Helping Roles for Students” to greet subs, help them navigate and use classroom technology, and made suggestions about strategies to make subs’ teaching and interaction with students more mutually respectful and effective.
Nick Cannon, one of our new staff members who helped lead these sessions with student leaders and teachers on the Adult Design Team, said in an email the next day, “Yesterday was a true highlight for me getting to work with those students. Leaving Saxe I had that amazing feeling of being thoroughly exhausted and energized ... . We just have to keep that momentum going!”
The student leaders from each grade level spent time launching their projects. They then prepared a 2-3-minute presentation of their projects to show their teachers the work they had begun and the next steps that would need to be taken to fully implement their projects. They presented all this to their adult mentors after school at what they called a School Climate Summit. All four student leadership teams and their adult mentors will continue working on their projects for the next three weeks when they meet every 6 school days on their rotating FLEX schedule. They will make final presentations of their School Climate Improvement goals, the action projects they have initiated to address these goals, and highlight the impact that their projects have had on students, teachers, classrooms and their school at a full faculty meeting next month.
Great work everybody! What an amazing group of school climate leaders! Thanks to the principals, teachers and students from Saxe! ONWARD AND UPWARD!