As I sit here writing this blog post, it is Friday afternoon... okay it is Friday evening. It is the end of Spirit Week at Mineola High School and a culmination of a week long event that featured the usual Pajama Day and Twin Day. There was a difference this year though. Our student organization met to discuss how we could make this year's event, that culminates with a Battle of the Classes, better.
You see... the students "owned" it this year. The students asked to change some of the games at the battle of the classes and they did. We also spoke about hallway decorations and adding that to the week's activities and off they went. The ideas and conversations became rich, not only in the student organization (SO) meetings but in their individual class meetings. Each class chose a theme related to places around the world and then began to frame what their hallway would look like. Choice became important and the class advisors listened to the ideas that the students had as well as how they would implement them.
When I asked the advisors what the hallways were going to look like, they said that they weren't sure. When I asked why, they told me that the students were in charge. They communicated with each other in the hallways and through social media as the day approached. By they way, there was no budget allocated for this; the students needed to coordinate what to bring in and the materials that they were going to use.
On Wednesday afternoon, the students had one hour after school to decorate their hallway according to theme. I walked around and witnessed unbelievable collaboration between and among students. There were ladders, and tape, and decorations to immerse the hallway in themes that included Paris, Rio, USA, Hollywood, and the Arctic. The creativity was amazing! As faculty, staff, parents, and administrators walked through the halls their comments were unilaterally positive.
In professional development meetings, the adults have been talking about the 4Cs (Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, and Critical Thinking) in the classroom and how to shift instruction from teacher-centered, to student-centered. I guess our students have have learned and the end product of that learning... in more than one way, was spectacular!
Whittney Smith, Ed.D.
Dr. Smith is the Principal of Mineola High School in Garden City Park, NY. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Ruth Ammon School of Education at Adelphi University.