Honesty is the best policy and here it is: Students rule our schools. We all know it. There are more of them than there are of us and as a veteran middle school teacher who has been lucky enough to be in a PBS building for the last seven years, the way the students react to presentations, activities, rewards, consequences affects EVERYTHING. And when done right, that effect is not only positive to the school climate, it’s contagious! Once staff buy-in is secured – even if some are on the fence – and a PBS team is functioning - the PBS committee must consider authentic strategies to develop strong student buy-in by forming a PBS student leadership group. During this last part of the session, I’d like to share with you how you, too, can move into the heart of every school’s PBS program – the students.
Be sure that whatever the group is called, not only should it relate to your guiding mission, but those first students involved should have a say. After all, it is their voice being projected… their ideas that are going to be shared… the faces of PBS! I will regularly refer to FISH and FISHES in reference to Redding’s PBS student group.
Students are constantly screaming! Well… hopefully not literally, but in essence they do. At the top of their lungs, they talk about what’s not fair, what’s not interesting, what’s not FUN! While at the same time wanting a challenging learning environment along with freedoms, privileges and FUN! Creating a student group will help your PBS team achieve its goals because through them, you will Know. It. All.
Every PBS school has their building-wide rules. These five are the basis for most of yours and how the members of any student group should try to live theirs. Know that those you choose are filling the position of student role models.
There are some rules I try to live by when going through the year with my students: PLAN. As when organizing anything, when looking to improve the climate of a school, planning is essential: Knowing your who, what, when, how, and why will guide you to creating the leadership you need for the building you want! You have to know what you want and where you are going with it… It is often best for the staff-based committee to talk about what they see as needs in the building. Then bring those ideas to the students… with a plan in mind. Because even though it is ultimately their voice, sometimes they needs guidance and ideas on how to make their ideas a reality. Yes. It is best when you can show up to a meeting, give them a topic or ask them a question that generates a topic and let ‘em loose! There have been times that I’ve gone in to meetings with an agenda and students have spoken up and said NO, I really think that THIS is more important now. That is not always the case. The more prepared you are, the better BE FLEXIBLE. Changing an agenda is sometimes a must! And teaching the same flexibility to the students is also a must. Sometimes their voice is heard in the execution of the idea and not the idea itself. Sometimes the flexibility of change is more dramatic. My district is growing – a lot! Nine years ago, we had one middle school – a 7,8 building. This year opened our third 6, 7,8 building. Out of my core group of students CLICK all but 10 either moved on to high school or off to one of the other middle schools due to the new feeder patterns. I was starting anew. It’s been hard taking steps backwards, but we are growing once again! MAKE IT MANAGEABLE. If you are taking on more than you can handle, it is time to take a step back and start back at the planning stage again. And if there are directions that either the staff-based or student-based group wants to move and you cannot, ask for help. I’ve found it interesting how few people will join a committee full-time or respond to an e-mail that is sent to the whole building, but if you ask someone for their help, their expertise… most are willing to step-up. Even if only temporary.
Our team worked together for nearly a year in 2002-2003 as a PBS pilot school in Delaware before taking on students as part of our team. Along with one other school in the state, Redding set out on the mission of testing the “waters” of the PBS program. We believed then, as we do now, that a positive climate in schools is necessary to staff morale and student success. Toward the end of that first year, the PBS committee decided that a student voice was needed. Although at times we felt like “fish out of water” there was one surefire way to help us – our kids! The student say in what happens in your buildings makes all the difference NEXT
When first beginning a student group, you would want to be sure that your PBS team is in place and that you are aware of what your goals are and who can help your team meet them. Who is going to choose? Choose to do what? Lead the group. It needs to be staff members who are dedicated and on some level has time to spare on a consistent basis. As the group will undoubtedly grow from year to year, having more than one staff member willing to work with these students is the best of ideas! I know that there are many groups who try to function within the school day. For many, due to teaching responsibilities, this is not an option. For some, especially starting out, this is quite possible. Take a moment to list some staff members that could be good leaders for this group. Consider their known reputation with the student population as well as extra-curricular availability. Choosing who will…Be in the group. At the end of the 2002-2003 school year, students were hand-selected from the outgoing 6 th and 7 th graders and given invitations to attend a summer “training” at our District Office building. We had about 15 students there. That day consisted of team-building activities and coming up with ideas on what could be done in the building to promote a more positive environment. For a first time around, I do suggest staff members making this choice. Right now the kids don’t really know what the group is all about. Those with the clearest vision should share that vision with the staff members what they are looking for in these leaders. Leadership within the group is really up to you and the students. The 2006-2007 group wanted a designated secretary and meeting leader and insisted that the meeting leader liaise between the staff-based team and the student group. That worked well for them, but has not been used again since… just hasn’t been the personality of those involved. Sure, we automatically think of those with the best grades and those that just give us warm fuzzies all over. Those kids are great, but if you really want a sample of the audience, you NEED a true sample. Invite those kids who might not fit the bill for any other student leadership group but have HEART. That is the greatest trait of a leader. The kid some see as a punk but always asks you if they can help wash overheads, straighten desks, take attendance to the office. You sometimes also see that student help pick up another’s dropped books… The other who rarely comes in with work done but in class is on fire – mostly because in your space, they feel wanted. Accepted. The student who is has ideas spouting from every orifice… who needs a harness for those ideas. Using them for the greater good! I had a student who fit the bill for all three of these examples… One of the most amazing students that I’ve worked with, in the classroom and this group, took five years to get through three grades! He is the target – dodging the home life that made him so powerless and bitter to now be a sophomore in high school with aspirations of joining the military upon graduation. I see some of you nodding your heads – knowing that *top of the triangle* kid, who is friends with most of the red and yellow sections… Ask yourself: What is putting this student at the top? Do I know that this young man is the exception? That not all students like him will come out on top? Absolutely. But I knew he had heart. Anyone could see. He wanted something more… Yes, you will naturally have the cream of the crop and will want to have them… but the biggest asset to your school are members of the group you are trying to reach. Leadership has many faces. Look at them all when creating your group… I know some of you may be trainers for your districts. But teachers and other school staff… You know there are kids’ names jumping around in your mind. Take a moment to list them.
What do you want this group to accomplish? There will be a lot you want, want, want! But remember one of the rules: Make it manageable. The roles FISH have fulfilled developed over the last six years… They came out of the needs seen by the staff, PBS committee, and PBS student leaders Once those needs are established, the group sets expectations. What outcome do we want? How can we meet that outcome? We’ve been lucky enough to have so many resources at our fingertips… mostly due to FISH skills and their vision for meeting the needs stated at the start.
During the first year, our role consisted of a lot of feeling like we were assisting instead of creating. Our presentation group… the whopping 15 student who came to our little summer retreat at District Office, started out in Fall 2003 helping the teachers prepare for the activities around the building that would teach Redding students what to do and what not to do in each area of the building. These students came in once more on teacher inservice days to become part of what would be our opening day presentation to the students. This consisted of classes of students moving to parts of the building (bathroom, library, office, cafeteria…) to see and learn how to follow the Code of the Knights at the given locations. FISHES took part in the presentations with the participating staff members. That empty feeling that came with strictly assisting changed when this first group of students decided at the end of the year that middle school bullying was an issue and it was time to take action. That summer, the group created a survey, tested it, and presented it to the staff for approval. 2003-2004 school year had a lot going on, but the findings of this FISH-generated research led The opening days are still designed during summer meetings by the FISH: School tour, game show, seminar, questionnaire, skits … even to the point of planning the first day (or two) schedule. This year, students created and led a game show, an anti-bullying seminar, and created videos for everything from following the Code of Conduct to PBS’s beginning of the year fundraiser. SHOW FUNDRAISING VIDEO All of the information shared on those days were either created or made kid-friendly by this PBS student group. They advertise for school-wide activities, agree that certain field trips and events are good for the current population of students, A blitz is probably what you are thinking – classrooms are “unexpectedly” entered by small schools of FISH to check for preparedness (agendas, pencils, HW…) These were not unexpected by the teachers. They actually let us know ahead of time what to ask for when entering the room. That way, something like this could fit nearly whatever is going on in the classroom. These were really neat because the FISH started to have more of a “face”. The last few years, the BLITZ became “Goin’ Fishin’” where PBS staff members would do the same thing – most often for grade levels where they didn’t teach. This had a positive effect on the students. This has been discussed to return with the students at the forefront again... It will be a great way to re-establish the FISHES. FISH also helped the PBS leaders generate ideas and actually set up the games and activities for the end of the year carnival. This event was, and continues to be a lot of fun! Its purpose is to celebrate another successful year coming to a close. Every year is better than the one before it because the students from the year before look forward to it and so they talk about it making new students excited about it too. Last year, once again listening to the voice of students, there was a game room. Teachers brought in their gaming systems and the kids were able to come in and play favorite games (mario kart, rock band, dance dance revolution). Boy, we have come so far! Many of the students who helped begin this group are Seniors in high school now…
Last school year, the students decided to create another school-wide initiative with recycling! Schools are so wasteful with paper! We know it, our budgets know it, the kids know it… and lucky us – the Delaware Solid Waste Authority already has containers behind the school for recyclables… So now each classroom has a bin – usually the boxes from reams of paper – and we “created” a 6 th school Code: BE GREEN. Because we live in a society that is getting “greener” by the moment, even students this year were excited to continue the initiative and volunteered to adopt-a-room where they are responsible for taking care of the recycling in that room. It’s great! The technology roles came up because more and more frequently, the students want to create skits and put them on DVD. We need people who can do that… a set of students – brothers – videoed and edited the flower bulb ad you saw earlier… And because the students LOVE the videos (FISH and audience alike), we need to look for student leaders who have computer-based AV skills. Really, the sky’s the limit! It is dependent on your school’s needs, which as you can see, is ever-changing. Take your thoughts… about what you see your building needing… write them down. Some of you might be considering activities particular to a staff member’s expertise, or even a student’s…
The best time to get a group started is as the current year ends...right about now is good. This will allow that group to make preparations for a big kick-off the following year. To create a larger membership, choose points during the school year for kids to be nominated: By teachers By others in the group By themselves. This last one, self-selected, is WONDERFUL once the group has been established. Kids WANT to do it! In my building, a student is more likely to know who is a FISH than who are the student council officers. Meetings are often best on a pretty regular schedule… especially if the are before or after school because there is only so much that can be done in a 40-minute meeting. I tend have weekly meetings before school. Our building is currently on the elementary schedule. Next year, our day will start by 7:15. Afternoons… here we come! Depending on your goals, your meaning of “regular meetings” will vary. Sometimes from month to month. Sometimes from year to year. Sometimes with a very small group so you can concentrate on a particular activity or goal.
How are they going to be chosen? Honestly, I like an application process. Ask them questions like “Who do you admire?” This is a personal favorite of mine because I really get to see part of that student What ideas do you have to promote our school rules? What qualities do you have that would make you a good member of this group?” I find that those who take the time to fill out the application and get a teacher and parent to sign off, they want it. As far as keeping members is concerned, I say, “Once a FISH, always a FISH.” It is up to the student whether or not they wish to continue participation. How do we help those in need? There will be transgressions – academic and behavioral. It is up to us as PBS leaders to make professional judgments when those mistakes are made: Does this warrant probationary status or giving a kid the boot? I am a big fan of the probationary measure and it works for most students and their situations: Grades dropping, “attitude”, you know… middle school issues that are easily corrected if the student wants to make the best choices. Having staff members and other PBS students ready to help those in corrective need is ideal – allowing the student to prioritize. Some are severe enough that a student is relieved of their membership. In six years…This has only happened twice.
And with all this effort and the ideas I can see rushing through your minds about how to do this with your student… the most important question is WHY? Why the effort? Why the time? After all… we are strong as education professionals. We have ideas and ways to execute those within our buildings. WHY?!?!
Asking the students about what the issues are in the school is how you will create the best partner group to your PBS program. After all, they know your population better than you do. Once you put together a sampling of the building’s population, you will then have your finger on the pulse of the school. And that’s key. Because these kids will be honest with you about reward programs, discipline problems, perceptions about said discipline problems, what they’d listen to and not listen to when talked to about the school climate. Use their expertise. Sure, we were teenagers once upon a time… in a land far far away…
We have grown so much as a group in the last six years. Membership, which will hopefully be able to grow even larger, continues to have teacher, FISH and self-recommended additions. The size of the group needs to increase with the more we do. Last summer, we came for two full days to prepare for just the first two days of school. The first day we had a revised version of last year’s game show... Just like “Are you smarter than a 5 th grader?,” we pitted teachers against students. The FISH themselves came up with the questions that were asked based on what they had learned during the school years at Redding. Boy oh Boy! Asking an 8 th grade Math teacher about the five characteristics that make a culture? Priceless! Building from our first major goals as a PBS student group, bullying seminars continue to develop. We’ve had surveys to determine school-level issues, FISH-led workshops to build empathy, CLICK And additional activities, led by the students of course, to help; the students to further understand the power of numbers and that the bully does not have to be the one with the power! Tying those concepts to the *crime clock*, or the frequency of national crime, were all decisions the PBS student leaders made! We have been very lucky to have other visitors because of these students’ openness to accept responsibility for the world around them… Some local as well as educators form as far away as Japan have come to talk to the students about their impression of the school climate and what can be done to change it. Apparently, Japan’s bullying rates are skyrocketing…
Though every year, the student group varies, they are all eager to make this world a better place… starting with their own. Many like to present to a large group… or at least in something the group will see! Like me, some prefer power points. While others like performing live in front of an audience or find their true selves in the safety of a video audience. What’s great about any student group, PBS or otherwise, it can become anything! Sometimes the students are even nice enough to think of ways the teachers can be seen in a different setting, in a different light.
Choosing positive people is often the easy part. Diversity is difficult because you can’t force anyone to do something they do not want to. Although we consider differences in race, genders, academics, and other abilities, we do not always get responses from those who are invited. Because what we are dealing with does require a lot of maturity… while still able to have fun and help others learn important life lessons while having a good time. Students who have been part of FISHES already had leadership skills. Many, though, developed them further … more consistency as well as building a high tolerance threshold. After all, they are presenting to adolescents, their peers.
Having attainable goals creates success! Keep member numbers at what is comfortable Staff and Administrative support are key At least two staff members that can regularly attend
1. OPEN NOTES TO SEE WHOLE OF PRESENTATION Student Leadership + PBS Goals = Jessica Lauver Louis L. Redding Middle School Appoquinimink School District Middletown, DE Great Schools
2. What’s in a name? <ul><li>F riends </li></ul><ul><li>I n </li></ul><ul><li>S chool </li></ul><ul><li>H elping </li></ul><ul><li>E veryone </li></ul><ul><li>S ucceed </li></ul>
3. At the top of their lungs!
4. Our Mission <ul><li>To promote a safe environment while encouraging personal and academic success based on the Code of the Knights: </li></ul>Be Respectful Be Responsible Be Safe Be a Good Citizen Be There – Be Ready
6. How do we choose? <ul><li>Who? </li></ul><ul><li>What? </li></ul><ul><li>When? </li></ul><ul><li>How? </li></ul><ul><li>Why? </li></ul>
7. Who? <ul><li>Staff leadership </li></ul><ul><li>Group members </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Academics </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Interpersonal relationships </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Home life </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Other extra-curricular activity involvement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Behavior in class </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Behavior out of school </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Student leadership within the group </li></ul>
11. When? <ul><li>Start the group </li></ul><ul><li>Create membership </li></ul><ul><li>Meet </li></ul>
12. How? <ul><li>Choosing members </li></ul><ul><li>Keeping members </li></ul><ul><li>Helping members </li></ul>
14. Ask them!!! <ul><li>Who wants what </li></ul><ul><li>What the problems are </li></ul><ul><li>How to address issues </li></ul>
15. What have we done? <ul><li>Game show </li></ul><ul><li>Bully surveys, presentations, hotline and e-mail reporting </li></ul><ul><li>Japanese teachers </li></ul><ul><li>Other PBS team visits </li></ul><ul><li>State-level presentations </li></ul>
17. When you are ready to begin, you need to… <ul><li>Choose staff </li></ul><ul><li>Choose students </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Diverse and positive </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fun while still mature </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Leaderships skills </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Choose goals </li></ul>
18. Remember <ul><li>Start Small </li></ul><ul><li>Have support </li></ul><ul><li>Be flexible with EVERYTHING! </li></ul>
20. <ul><li>Please contact me about anything you’d need to help PBS and student groups in your school. </li></ul><ul><li>Thank You! </li></ul>For questions or information regarding this student group, please contact Jessica Lauver at email@example.com.