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Connect Your EduCommunity!

published by Ginger Lewman

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School Connections Every Week of the Year!
Awesome ideas for
Pick one of these ideas each week to help connect educators, students, and your community for a fully connected learning environment!
COMMUNITY
STUDENTS + FAMILIES
EDUCATORS
QUARTER 1
Here, you'll find a variety of ways to get your students connected with students; your teachers connected with teachers; your students and teachers connected; and your school community connected with your wider community. It's all about finding ways to build deeper and more meaningful relationships for the benefit of lives in your area. Use these in any combination 
or order you like. Just use them! 
INTRODUCTION
Ideas for
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.
LET'S GET STARTED!
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.
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 as you can 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? Potential "what if" topics for discussion:
  1. What if we didn’t have bells?
  2. What if we didn’t serve school lunch?
  3. What if we had varying starting/ending times to the day?
  4. What if we started the school day at 10am? Or ended it at noon? Or 6pm?
  5. What if had no “classes” in the traditional sense?
  6. What if all our classes were career-oriented first?
  7. What if we were required to hold class at/inside a location that might use the class content as a career?
Brainstorm more "what if's" for 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. 
WANT MORE IDEAS?
Contact 
Ginger Lewman or Katie Perez
@GingerLewman @perezhasclass
www.essdack.org
QUARTER 2
Ideas for
LET'S GO!
Be sure your school, department, and/or classrooms have a branded hashtag on social media. Encourage students to capture something they’re proud of and post it to all their social media channels using the hashtag.
Be sure your school, department, and/or classrooms have a branded hashtag on social media. Encourage COLLEAGUES to capture something they’re proud of and post it to all their social media channels using the hashtag.
Take one afternoon/evening during each grading period and do something with your colleagues that is totally not school related. Wine & painting? Miniature golf? Bowling? Get as many people as you can to participate. Next grading period, raise the number of participants. If you have a large staff, maybe offer a couple of activities that evening and divide up based on interests. Take pictures/videos and post them to social media with your school branded hashtag. Keep working to achieve or maintain 95%-100% participation rates.
#1
Divide into teams and visit your students’ homes to say a 
quick hello and share something 
you love about this child. 
This can be done at any time of year.

*Consider inviting that student to join you as you go to others’ homes, gathering up a huge following as you go! Each student then can share something they appreciate about the others. Yes, this might be awkward. What would be a positive about it? And if your students aren’t comfortable speaking positively 
about one another, 
what will you do about that?
Flip the script and ask students a school role they’d like to have for the day. Find out from a group of kids what roles in the school could be flipped as that adult takes on either a mentorship role, or completely leaves the role in the hands of the student for an hour, a half-day, or full day. Maybe it’s the Principal. Or a librarian. Or the lunch server. Or security guard. Brainstorm possibilities and create a day or week where the script gets flipped and let’s see what life is like on the other side.
Co-teach in another teacher's classroom. Find a teacher that teaches something similar to yours at first. Pro-level-up and co-teach with someone who teaches a class very dissimilar to yours (you make that definition). 
Super-pro-level-up and co-teach with a student or two. These might take some conversation, planning, and prep time beyond your typical day but you 
might be surprised what 
awesomeness happens!
Feeling frustrated with a person or a situation? Go right to the person and talk with them. Share your feelings, worries, fears, or hurts, and hopes. Before you go, create an expectation and assumption that they’ll hear you. Expect that they won’t get angry. Expect that your frustration might stem from a misunderstanding or an assumption on either your part, their part, or both. Remember while you may not be able to control 
how they react, 
you can always control you.
Challenge a rival school to see which school can increase their social media followers on a particular social media channel (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc) over a week (or a month). Maybe homecoming week? Count the winner by percentage of increase. Or by FB post shares. Or by FB video views. Always emphasize it’s not just about numbers, but about community interaction.
Find a business or organization that your classroom could “adopt” and find out how your students’ skills could help them do their work. Go in with a curious mind and learn more about them before you open your mouth to offer your assistance.
WANT MORE IDEAS?
Contact 
Ginger Lewman or Katie Perez
@GingerLewman @perezhasclass
www.essdack.org
QUARTER 3
Ideas for
LET'S GO!
Encourage a Compliment-Confidence Conference where students and teachers learn out how to gain the confidence it takes to hand out honest compliments to others on the reg. This conference could be created and hosted by your own staff.
Spend as much of the day as you can asking questions only. Note when you make a statement and mark it down. Then do it again the next day (or some time next week) and try to have fewer statements than you did the last time. Life becomes more interesting when we stop telling people what’s on our minds all the time and instead embrace curiosity. Also, people around us are often empowered to do more with their own creativity, problem-solving, when their input is valued.
Hold a “human oddities” showcase within a small group (class or club). Showcase who can do something with their body that is different than what most can do. Who can roll their tongue? Who can flip it over? Can you do something else odd? Maybe someone has really flexible joints. Or can make a cool cricket sound. Don’t make people share, but celebrate the fact we all have things that make us unique and that it’s ok to be you! This is fun and should create a lot of laughs together.
Visit a local retirement community or local seniors’ club to learn more about how school was “back in the day.” Listen carefully because you’ll hear a lot more than about just school. You’ll hear priceless life advice. Ask them what they’d like to have done more or less of when they were your age. 
Ask them what their hopes are for this community now and in the next 25 years. 
How can you help contribute to this vision?
Create an online store (eg, Cafe Press or Print Aura, etc) where your rival school’s mascot and school colors are featured on a variety of products. Add their school name, motto, etc, and begin selling that community some terrific school-spirit products. And then put the money in your own school’s community chest!
Consider how incorporate dance breaks during the day. Maybe they’re school-wide. Maybe they’re a snapchat challenge on rotation where you challenge two people to a dance off with you. Then they challenge two others. Maybe they’re done at lunch. Maybe it’s the first 2-3 minutes of each class while we take attenDANCE. Maybe it’s just how we move down the hall one passing period.
Create a local legends display in three parts where students learn about and become members of the community. In the first part, research and present historical figures of the community; in the 2nd part, research and present current leaders and influencers; in the third part, help kids imagine themselves as adults who are leaders and influencers in the community. Research and interview the leader as well as his/her friends and family to learn about the early life, education, and path to current life. You can hold the event all in one night or better, hold it one part at different times across the span of the school year. Invite the community to participate.
Create a monthly “open house” where students showcase various technology tools and apps they’re using on a weekly basis. They can teach parents how to use the tools and what to look for in terms of good digital citizenship. This can be done by a student technology team, but for best parent participation, all students will participate at some time throughout the year. Google Docs in one room. Skype in another room, Snapchat in another, etc. Parents and community are invited in (with their own computers and phones) to learn 
how to use the latest technology tools!
Each teacher (or department) creates a crowdfunding project to improve their classroom or school. Students vote up one project for each month and during that month, the entire community gets behind getting that project funded. Find ways to get it funded by OUTSIDE the community resources instead of continually hitting up the same people again and again.
Alongside students and families, create a community resource map for students at your school. Find out what maps already exist (if any) and find out how to build/enhance the maps beyond the typical “basic needs assessments.” Maybe there’s a “safe weekend entertainment” map (what exists in our community that we can take advantage for for safe weekend entertainment?). Or a physical fitness map (what exists in our community if we’re wanting to build our physical fitness?). Or a learn & do cool things map (what exists in our community for learning/doing cool things). Or another kind of map that students might like to have at their fingertips for their needs. How can this be built so that students find out and share about it? Can this live online?
WANT MORE IDEAS?
Contact 
Ginger Lewman or Katie Perez
@GingerLewman @perezhasclass
www.essdack.org
QUARTER 4
Ideas for
LET'S GO!
Use the school’s Facebook or Twitter page as a gratitude board where staff members regularly post something positive about the school, a parent, or a student. Staff will be coached on privacy concerns regarding some students (media opt-outs or special education status), but all attempts will be made to have stories shared about school and community events featuring a variety of interests, people, and topics. **Super bonus for posts with pictures of video. 
****Pro-level-up suggestion: after a time of staff showing the way, encourage students and community to also share positive news. It’s ok to at first incentivise them to do this.
Host a “how to dance” class before the next school dance where either the students teach the teachers or the teachers teach the students (might be age-dependent). Have fun with it and do lots of social media sharing.
Create a monthly “open house” where students showcase various technology tools and apps they’re using on a weekly basis. They can teach parents how to use the tools and what to look for in terms of good digital citizenship. This can be done by a student technology team, but for best parent participation, all students will participate at some time throughout the year. Google Docs in one room. Skype in another room, Snapchat in another, etc. Parents and community are invited in (with their own computers and phones) to learn how to use the latest technology tools!
School family brown bags! Each week (or bi-weekly), parents and community members will be invited to a brown bag lunch with a rotating student leadership team and a rotating handful of staff to discuss what events are coming up and school/community goals. The number of participants can vary, depending upon size of the room and number of tables for a roundtable discussion format. With practice (and a partner or two), students can be expected to lead these roundtable discussions.
Take turns hosting hallway parties. These might be based on location in the building, grade level, or departments. The hosting group brings an offering of light snacks/beverages to be set up in the hallway or back of classrooms. Other faculty members are invited to stop by during their planning time for a quick informal observation. During this time chat with students about what they are working on, collect ideas of how you might collaborate with your colleagues, and/or gain ideas for areas you are personally trying to improve upon. Before you leave, jot down a quick praise for either the teacher or a student in the classroom.
After completing a faculty relationship mapping exercise, invite students to participate in a relationship mapping exercise to identify what gaps might exist in your beliefs about student relationships. Give each student a faculty roster, and ask them to place a dot next to the names of any member that they believe they have a significant relationship with. Significant relationship can be defined as someone 1) they care about me as a person 2) they know my hopes and dreams 3) I would go to them with a problem. Use this information to identify strategies you might take as an individual to build more significant relationships, and as a collective group ways you might address gaps in relationships.
Participate in a relationship mapping exercise to help faculty members identify students that may be at a higher risk of not having a strong relationship with an adult in the school. Place a building roster on a wall in a location that students do not have access to. Each faculty member will place a dot next to the names of students they believe they have a positive relationship with. Identify students who do not have a dot next to their name and as a group discuss ways a relationship might be built with that student.
Create an informal Toastmasters-style club at a semi-formal lunch (with food as normally run) where on selected days of each week, a handful of students and/or teachers stand and each gives a 5-minute speech about a person or situation that matters to them. This might be whole-school, or smaller team, but there should be an audience of ~ 50+ and eventually most all students will complete their turn speaking. This gives an insight on one another while practicing formal speaking and listening skills. Do some deeper research on how to adapt the Toastmasters’ style to better fit your school’s set up and needs.
Host a school (or grade or team) picnic with staff and students. Go potluck on this if possible and have a great time together outside in the sun, playing games, and just enjoying. Have some students plan and coordinate food. 
Have others plan and coordinate games. Staff plays with the students more as friends and colleagues than students & teachers. Take the opportunity to relax and have fun together.
 
Question samples:
    1. What makes this school really awesome?
    2. What do you love about the teachers/staff/people here?
    3. What is your favorite part of this school community?
    4. What makes you proud to be an (Eagle)?
    5. What is the school working on right now that’s not quite perfect, but will be soon?
WANT MORE IDEAS?
Contact 
Ginger Lewman or Katie Perez
@GingerLewman @perezhasclass
OPEN HOUSE!
Welcome!
Set up a self-interview booth in the hallway during any school event (parent teacher conferences, sports events, theatre productions, etc) for parents and students to answer a question of the day. Encourage responses to stay within a 10-30 second limit. If people want to record another response, that’s wonderful. Use these responses on the school website and social media. Consider using an iPad stand and have at least 2 people (students?) officially tend the booth, helping with technical needs, clarifying the question, or inviting people to participate. 
www.essdack.org