Throughout the year we’ll be featuring stories from Hope Street Fellows in Utah. Thank you for sharing your story, Brian!
As a 29-year teaching veteran I know that promoting student accomplishments and school programs can make a difference. There are so many amazing things our students are doing that are important to promote to our community. Read below to see what’s worked for me.
Besides being a classroom teacher I was a coach, specifically the head wrestling coach at my school. For every meet I had a program or newsletter in which I used to brag about the accomplishments of our wrestlers and the wrestling program. And it wasn’t just wins or losses. It might also have been about a wrestler that made a great effort in a losing cause or academic accomplishments or community service done by the athletes. I took great effort to publicize the accomplishments and other program related news through email, the morning announcements and later the school web and Facebook pages when developed. I think over time other coaches and organization advisers noticed what I was doing and these efforts snowballed across our school. It has become a regular practice by our staff members to publicize our student accomplishments.
Our school has recently stepped up to publicize the accomplishments of our students by honoring them for achievements in academics, athletics, arts and character each month. I make every effort to nominate 3-5 students in each of the areas every month. We also have added another school-wide recognition effort to focus on student growth and improvement. I specifically look for students that show growth in both academics and behavior to nominate. I enjoy doing it. When students (and their parents) see that teachers are making that extra effort to recognize and publicize the good things they are doing, I truly believe it will make the general public see our schools, our teachers and our students in a positive light.
My advice to a new teacher is to just get started. Everyone has email, Facebook, a school webpage. Find out how to access it, befriend the person who manages the content, and start small. I started with the programs I was directly involved in. Over time, this effort will snowball and other teachers will come along. Don’t worry if no one else is doing it–just go for it!
Look for Ways to Give Back to the Community
This time of year is all about our school-wide food drive, culminating with a large assembly the Friday before Thanksgiving. We’re proud that our school has consistently raised more food stuffs than any other school in the state. Our students really step up and every year we seem to do better and better. The Utah Food Bank is “blown away” by our efforts. Our kids are very generous. Our goal this year is to raise 50,000 cans. All students can work toward the same goal. And their reward? Teachers do goofy things at the assembly. My most embarrassing moment: singing Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings “death-rock style, or the time the Assistant Coach and I wrestled WWE-style in Jello. The kids love it, but the community is the big winner.
Through the “power of the pen” (or keyboard) I do what I can to publicize this accomplishment making sure our largest media outlets know what these students have accomplished. What these students are doing is really helping people. Maybe other schools will want to do better than our school and that’s more than okay — the more food to help the most unfortunate in our communities, the better. I think it is essential to let our communities (and critics out there) know that our schools, our teachers and most importantly our students are doing amazing things.
In addition, I’m proud of starting the Wrestling Against Cancer Duals. This competition opens our wrestling season and nine other schools will participate this year. The purpose is to raise money and awareness for a local family battling cancer, and there is a program that promotes the teams.
Show You Care and Build Relationships
In addition to the work we do to bring the community in and make them aware of the great things happening at the school, it’s as important to build relationship with students. One relationship-building practice that I continue today is making time to attend the non-academic events my students care about. Students love to see you at their plays, concerts, games–even things they’re doing out in the community. Pick one event a grading term- a sporting event, a musical, something happening in the community- and just go. If I can make it a family thing, we go together. It’s a great conversation starter in your classroom.
Early in my teaching career, one of our students designed school postcards and teachers were encouraged to send them out to their students. I taught about 250 students per semester and tried to make an effort to send 1000 postcards during the school year. I know that years later this practice made a difference. When you build those relationships, students appreciate that and work harder in the classroom.