Written By: Hans Appel
A few months ago, I was asked to review Jimmy Casas and Jeffrey Zoul’s OUTSTANDING new book “Stop. Right. Now.” It’s the type of book that entices you to examine educational practices with fresh eyes. Stop. Right. Now. offers readers thirty-nine culture killers coupled with an exceptional how-to guide to avoid common pitfalls. I’d like to add #40 to the list...
In my district, secondary schools start at 7:55a.m. Many students arrive to school around 7:15-7:45a.m...with the bulk of students showing up by car, bus, or bike around 7:30. Other parts of the country operate on different daily bell schedules but the overall timeline of students arriving approximately 20-30 minutes prior to school starting seems to be fairly universal.
There are schools around the country that INTENTIONALLY lock students out of hallways in the morning until the first bell. This leaves most of the students unsupervised, unconnected, and out in the cold weather for nearly 20-30+ minutes. Some school houses do allow students into the building (usually a cafeteria or gym) but do not let them down the hallway or into classrooms until the bell rings.
Other school buildings seem to recognize the need to open hallways for students but they instead provide teacher discretion as to when they unlock their classroom doors. In schools with this form of teacher flexibility, some students find their teachers rooms available while others cram into hallways, nooks, and crannies. I’ve even heard stories of libraries, counseling centers, and health rooms that don’t open until school begins. INSANITY!! There’s a belief that this non-class time of the workday should somehow be protected for adult educators to get 'work done.' Obviously, there are meetings, emergencies, and other factors that occasionally need to be attended to. However, when we shut students out of school during unstructured time, we’re sending a strong unwelcoming message.
WHY MUST IT STOP?
Educators are missing a golden opportunity to greet, welcome, and connect with students. It’s the perfect unstructured time to check-in, ask questions, and build rapport among students/adults. Many students need this positive attention and energy to reset from difficulties at home, online, or from the school bus. By skipping out on this informal communication, students may not be ready to fully focus on learning.
Additionally, why would it EVER be a good idea to leave large groups of students unsupervised by adults. Ironically, the practice of keeping kids out of classrooms, hallways, or specific locations only ensures the need to establish a supervisory plan. When adults find themselves in supervisory roles rather than humanistic openness; the attitude, behavior, and feeling inevitably steer negative for both adults and students. When setting up a ‘gotcha’ culture, educators shouldn’t be suprised by elevated discipline, disconnection, and decreased student preparedness.
HOW CAN EDUCATORS DO BETTER?
Let them in. Invite them into our schools for breakfast. Encourage them into libraries to read, study, or explore. Open up classrooms, offices, and gym spaces for students to be...STUDENTS. Put the busy work aside and engage with students. This is not me time...it’s WE time! Get off your device and have real life connection with young people who DESPERATELY want your attention, help, and feedback. SMILE. Make it rain high fives, fist bumps, and compliments; as you intentionally seek out as many students, adults, and parents as possible. Use Names (not just students names but adults as well). Move around. Get out of your chair, room, or comfort zone to make school a fun place to be. MAKE EYE CONTACT. Play music. Shoot hoops. Start a morning club. Capitalize on YOUR strengths as you welcome others into your sphere of influence. Do groups of students naturally congregate to your space each morning? If not...you’re probably doing something wrong. Stop. Right. Now.
Award Winning Culture actively seeks to STOP bad practices, programs, processes, philosophies, and people who are no longer advancing school culture forward.
I highly encourage you to pick up a copy of Stop. Right. Now. and do some self, school, and district reflection. You’re students will be better off...and by all means...PLEASE LET THEM IN!
About the Author
Hans Appel has worked as a counselor in the Richland School District for the past 18 years and at Enterprise Middle School since it opened. He’s passionate about school culture, servant leadership, and kindness. In 2018, EMS was awarded the ASCD Whole Child Award for the State of Washington and the Global “Class Act Award” for creating a culture of excellence through kindness, service, and empathy. Recently, Hans launched his own blog about School Culture and this fall rolled out a student-led leadership podcast called Award Winning Culture: Hosted by Wildcat Nation, which can be subscribed, listened or reviewed on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, and Libsyn. He can be contacted at email@example.com. Follow Hans on twitter @hansappel094. Follow AWC on twitter at @awculture or Instagram @awardwinningculture. Wildcat Nation at @emswildcats1 and Instagram @emscounseling #WildcatNation #AwardWinningCulture
Award Winning Culture was created by Hans and Jennifer Appel with the sole purpose of creating an educational mindset of Positive INTENTIONALITY and ACTION; with a daily mantra to make our sphere of influence stronger through Character, Excellence, and Community. Part of AWC's mission is to highlight outstanding educators, companies, and resources that support an Award Winning Culture. Both Jennifer and Hans work at Enterprise Middle School aka Wildcat Nation. Wildcat Nation received the 2018 ASCD Whole Child Award in Washington, for its award winning culture and the 2018 Global "Class Act Award" for Kindness.