Saturday, April 6, 2019

Ideas For Improving High Schools

Note: these ideas are based on what's NOT happening in the high schools in my own district and in some of the other districts in the Salt Lake Valley.  I certainly hope there are places where high schools do some or all of these things; however, I will admit that I've never yet heard of some of these being done before.  Feel free to comment.

1.  Instead of spirit week, have ART Week.  Instead of wearing school colors and having a pep rally before a sporting event, have finger painting/ water balloon painting/ mural coloring in the cafeteria during lunchtime for a week, have Dress as Your Favorite Painting Day, teach a different style of dance in the gym every day during lunch, have salt dough sculpting or snow sculpting competitions, have a sing-a-long assembly or karaoke assembly. Create an assembly where the drama students are in charge: skits, improv, gong-show, audience participation. Encourage teachers to have paintings/sculptures/drawings in their classrooms. (The art may reflect the teachers’ personal tastes or be related to their subject areas.)

2. Focus on academic instead of sports all the time.  Announce totals of high scores for AP tests.  Spotlight kids taking more than one AP class.  Have academic competitions during lunch or assemblies: spelling bees, quiz-shows with students against teachers, logic puzzles.  Give prizes and praise to winners.  In schools with high populations of immigrants, spotlight kids who speak multiple languages.  Give ESL students a chance to teach others their native tongues in clubs or free after-school classes. Spotlight kids who score 1700+ on the Reading Inventory test (and reward them by never making them take the test again, as they cannot “improve” beyond that score).   Spotlight kids who get perfect scores on all required tests and reward them.  Give attention those with 4.0s and/or those who improve their GPA by 1.0 during a school year.  Celebrate the debate team and the chess club.

3. Encourage physical activities that are not based on the holy trinity of football/basketball/baseball.   Have badminton or ping pong set up for lunch or after school.  Teach folk dancing or dances from the past, such as the jitterbug or the cake walk.   Have a walking or hiking club; get teachers to join in.

4. Have a community service week or term.   Get kids out cleaning up parks.  Turn unused grassy areas into a school vegetable/herb gardens and donate the fresh produce to a food bank or homeless shelter kitchen.  Have service team competitions to spruce up yards for the elderly or disabled or for the local senior center.  Require honor society students to tutor ESL students or elementary children.  Get kids to rake leaves or trim bushes or clean indoors at the local library.   Have a book drive for a low-income area elementary school.  Foster a litter of kittens.   Read books on tape for vision-impaired folks to use.  Volunteer to wash dogs at the animal shelter.  Spotlight kids who do volunteer work.  Have a reward activity or treat only for those who’ve been involved in a service activity of some sort.  Don’t make it about merely collecting money once a year for something; make it longer and vary the ways its done.