Interestingly, yesterday's ASCD SmartBrief came out with the results of an Ed Pulse survey on which school health issue is of primary concern for schools and districts. The results showed physical activity and movement during the school day as a key concern among ASCD SmartBrief readers, second to bullying and other safety concerns. Just over 20 percent of respondents listed physical activity as their primary school health issue.
Why do we have a month devoted to anti-bullying? Do we have a math month or a language arts month? OK, I take that back— it turns out we do have a "Math Awareness Month" and it is in April. Who knew?
So why do we have these months dedicated to an issue, or a subject, or an idea? It's because there isn't enough attention paid to the issue or it's because an issue exists. So what should our aim be for this dedicated month? Simply it should be to do away with the need for an Anti-Bullying Month altogether.
After months of what has seemed and sounded to many as "teacher bashing," "teacher blaming," and "teacher scapegoating," maybe the tide is changing. Last month the Save Our Schools March saw several thousand public school teachers and supporters descend on Washington, D.C. There has been scrutiny of schools and districts—notably Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; and Los Angeles—that reported stunning improvements of standardized test scores. And today there are op-eds and articles praising teachers.
In-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, long-term suspension, suspension for minor infractions, lack of counseling, adoption of zero-tolerance policies: are these just the rhetorical appearance of toughness instead of what is actually tough to do?
And for what end? To be a deterrent for others? Well if that's the case, it ain't working.
During the inaugural Healthy School Communities Virtual Conference held May 10–13, what came across loud and clear by each of our mentor sites was the need to connect with their communities. However as the week drew on, what became even clearer was that these sites didn't just connect with their communities; rather they sought to empower their communities. They brought them in, asked advice, listened, and distributed leadership and ownership, and were able to engage their community stakeholders in meaningful, purposeful activities. These sites were demonstrating how they were in fact moving along a continuum from community connection to community empowerment.
Parents are a vital part of this Iroquois Ridge school community ... absolutely vital for a thriving community.
It's not only a learning community for our children, but for our staff, our community, and our parents.
Let's have these parents have a leadership role. Iroquois Ridge is founded on the principle of engagement so just as our youth are involved in school as decision makers and as participants in every program that happens, so we felt our parents could do the same.
By getting people in and seeing all the things that were happening in the school and after hours it really increased awareness of the high school and at the same time say we are part of this. ... We've seen as much engagement within the personal physical commitment that we’ve seen in a long time. This is an event that could kind of jump start people.
The term community is especially important ... getting various stakeholders from the community.
A structure was created that could sustain itself and so the first thing was creating this corporation council. And we did it by getting various stakeholders from the community; we have about 25 stakeholders on our council, including students. Its responsibility is monitoring and implementing the Healthy School Improvement Plan.
Part of our action was gathering our community partners. That phrase "healthy school community" meant we really needed to ask for the support in the context we were working with. We needed to work with the Community Hospital East, who hosts our in school clinic ... Urban League who specifically addresses issues of race within our building ... the Chamber of Commerce who now have graduation coach in our building ... Shepherd Community Center who work with our homeless students. But we knew we had to pull all those partners into the mix to be successful.
We didn't just go to the community, and we didn't just start programs without having a firm plan underneath us.
Mental health may in fact be the one remaining "health" that stills holds somewhat negative connotations when discussed or highlighted. Simply Google the phrase "mental health," and the results indicate that this particular phrase may still be the "health" outsider.
Now, it's true that people hear and pick up what interests them or what sparks their memory, but my takeaways were very whole child. Just like the summaries from the Department of Education's Bullying Prevention Summit held in August, terms like school climate, school-community collaboration, systemic approach, and baseline of care were key and prevalent.
What does a digital high school look like? Or for that matter—as was pointed out by Huffington Post blogger Tina Barseghian—what does a "School of the Future" look like?
The article gives us a look into a working, functional, and quite exceptional high school, Napa New Tech High. Yes, there's technology and one computer for every student, but what is also interesting is the use of technology to assist pedagogical aims—teaching critical thinking, responsibility, and collaboration. It's a school that aims to develop useful, relevant skills that can be applied to college and the work world beyond and one that uses the benefits of technology to reach those goals. It's a school first and technological beacon second.
The school has transformed the way it teaches, prepares, and even plans units and lessons. The major focus is centered around project-based learning and team-teaching. As Chris Walsh, director of innovation and design at the New Tech Network, states, the New Tech system "is [dismantling] the traditional model, then putting back the components so everything meshes together." The school must be allowed flexibility and be able to reconfigure the curriculum. "If you have pacing guides, and you have to cover this topic on this day, it won’t work," Walsh said.
Read Tina Barseghian's article to find out more about how Napa New Tech High is combining effective pedagogy and current technology.