Thursday, July 09, 2015

Idea #8: Community Service

At the end of the school year I met with the administrator who does my evaluation and he/she asked me to think over the summer about some "big ideas" that would be worth discussing that could improve our school. This is the eighth of an undetermined number of blog posts that will explore some of those ideas.
  1. Eliminate Letter Grades, GPA and Class Rank
  2. Eliminate Curriculum (As We Know It)
  3. Think Differently About Time
  4. Think Differently About Classes
  5. At Least They've Still Got Their Health
  6. Cultivate Curiosity
  7. The Meaning of Life

Name of Administrator,

When I started at Arapahoe in 1991, community service was a graduation requirement. That was quickly abolished by the newly elected "Back-to-Basics" School Board, but it's a component that I think is essential to our high school. But I think it needs to be more substantial and more meaningful than simply a "submit a certain number of hours of community service" type requirement.

As with all these ideas I've been writing about, there are many different ways we could implement something like this, but I'll again share one vision of what it could look like. I really see two main parts of community service at AHS, and they both need to focus on both "community" and "service." I see one part focusing on serving the community of AHS, and a second part focusing on serving the wider community outside of AHS.

For serving the community of AHS, I think back to an experience shared after visiting schools in Japan. He talked about one school in Japan where the Seniors were responsible for cleaning the school each day. Not a hired custodial staff, not the faculty, but the Seniors themselves. talked about the sense of pride and ownership those students had about their school, and also how the younger students took great care not to mess up the place or they would face rebuke from the Seniors. 

I envision doing something similar at AHS, although modeled a bit more on Link Crew. My thought was to have all AHS students on the "community crew," but with Senior leadership. We would pair up two (or perhaps three) Seniors with a crew of 6-8 underclassmen who would work together, along with other teams, to keep Arapahoe clean and in good shape. This wouldn't negate the need for a custodial staff, there would still be some things that we wouldn't have students do for safety or other reasons, but I also envision the custodial staff using some of the time freed up by the community crews to serve as mentors to the crews, helping teach the students proper technique as well as problem solving.

At the size I'm suggesting (which is just a suggestion), we would have around 200 crews, with perhaps 2-3 seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen on each crew (that way, by the time they are seniors, students would have had lots of experience to help them as leaders). I foresee developing a rotating schedule where a certain number of crews are on a week at a time (probably five or six crews each week) and they divide up (and rotate through) different parts of the building during that week. Throughout the course of the school year, all crews would serve for a week.

When crews aren't on duty for taking care of AHS, they would instead be serving the wider community. That wider community could be somewhat local (near to AHS), somewhat broader (say, within Colorado), or as broad as they'd like (anywhere in the world). Similar to "curiosity conversations", crews (along with faculty support - perhaps tied into the advisories that the Senior leaders are part of, or perhaps not) would identify needs in their various communities and develop ways to help meet those needs. Sometimes crews might work as a single crew, other times they might team up with other crews for a larger project. Sometimes the project might be of a relatively short duration (perhaps a day or a week), but sometimes they might be extended projects that could take several weeks or months (or even years). In all cases they would be focusing on both serving and on building community, both community within their crew and within the wider community they are serving.

Our mission statement says that we will "encourage students to participate actively in their local and global societies," and our vision statement goes on to reinforce that by saying we will "produce responsible and empowered participants who make meaningful contributions in the greater society." If we truly believe this, shouldn't we be actively doing this during our students' four years at AHS? It's not enough to say that we are laying the foundation for some future participation, our students are responsible enough, capable enough, and I believe willing enough to contribute now. What are we waiting for?

I look forward to "participating" in this discussion with the entire staff.


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