After attending the 2018 National Principals Conference, I had a renewed vision of what kind of school I wanted to give my students. As principal of Glenpool High School (GHS), I had always focused on building positive relationships with students, but I wanted to take it a step further.
Fear of Missing Out
How do we create FOMO? What can we give our kids every day that they can’t get from social media or Google? How do we create an atmosphere where kids don’t want to stay home for fear of missing out? The answer is relationships and energy! I asked my staff to make a commitment to increasing engagement with students so that they fear missing out on school. This is what FOMO looks like at my high school.
Back to School Lip Sync
When my staff reported at the beginning of the year, I gave them the task of recording a lip sync that would be shared with students and parents the night before school started. I wanted to convey the message that we are excited to see them tomorrow, that you are never “too cool for school,” and that we will do anything for them. We told teachers to be goofy when we recorded the lip sync, and if they were too shy to be goofy, they could wear a funky costume. The teachers did an awesome job, and both students and parents were thrilled with the Back to School Lip Sync. It set the tone for the year. Check out the end result: Welcome Back Lip Sync
GHS is blessed with a large faith community that wants to support our school. One of the churches set up a sound system in the parking lot and blasted up-beat music welcoming students back to school and handed out donuts. Staff and administrators were there to greet students and take first day of school selfies to post to Twitter. Every morning administrators are in the hallway as students come in and tell them “good morning” and “glad you’re here,” even to the tardy students (especially to the tardy students).
In the past students were required to go to the cafeteria for lunch. This created some anxiety for some of our kids, so we took away that barrier. Students have the flexibility to go to the library where they can read or work puzzles, sit at the bistro tables in the lobby, or go to the cafeteria. Offering choice has been a powerful motivator for our kids. In the cafeteria we play music every day and have activities such as trivia, karaoke, stuff the bench, pudding eating contests, and other fun activities to get students engaged.
I challenged teachers to teach their course in a manner that students couldn’t wait to get to class the next day. Teachers created fun and engaging lessons, such as dressing up as Flo from Progressive Insurance when teaching the Progressive Era and using golf to show how reflections can be used to plan your golf game. These interactive and relevant lessons have sparked student engagement and made them eager to get to class each period.
On October 1, I shadowed a sophomore student from bus stop to bus stop, which is an experience I highly recommend. Experiencing everything from the types of seating and room arrangement of classes to the student restrooms and classroom instruction from a student’s perspective was powerful. It gave me firsthand knowledge that improved my instructional leadership to teachers and gave insight into changes I wanted to make to give students a better overall experience.
Student Success Periods
Every Friday morning my administrative team meets to go over the failing student report. We go name by name and discuss why the student is failing, how many classes they are failing and how we can support the student. In our trimester schedule, there are three sections of student support classes. The most at-risk students are put in a student support class where their teachers work with them on goal setting, grade tracking, attendance, and behavior, in addition to providing individualized instructional support. The teachers serve as advocates for their students. Many of the students enrolled in this class experienced their first academic successes this last trimester.
Our commitment to foster student engagement has paid off. Our data indicates positive growth in student attendance and reductions in course failures and in-school placements. More students show a genuine desire for school, and the relationships are stronger than they have ever been. Students want to come to school and go to class so that they don’t miss out on the engaging lessons, friendly and fun staff, and supportive learning environments.
How do your students view their experience in school? What are ways your team is enhancing your learning environment so that students don’t want to miss out on school? What ways can you put yourself in the roles of students to see school from their perspective?
Kim Coody has spent 22 years working with Oklahoma students as a special education teacher, high school assistant principal, middle school principal, and high school principal. Kim has 16 years in secondary administration experience and was named 2018 Oklahoma’s OASSP High School Principal of the Year and represents the Oklahoma Association of Secondary Principals as president-elect. Follow her on Twitter @kimberlycoody.