Sunday, March 9, 2014

Kids Just Wanna Have Fun

I’m all about discipline and order.

Kids don’t run our school. Adults do.

No one is allowed to disrupt the environment or hurt others without consequences.

No one is allowed to inhibit other’s opportunity to learn by intimidating, bullying, or clowning.

Neither kids nor personnel can opt out of performing their role in our instructional program and our behavior system. Our multi-leveled school-wide discipline system sees to that.

But kids just wanna have fun.

And so do teachers, aides, paras, secretaries, and administrators.

Nothing unites the school family like regular, zany, competitive, heart-warming events during which adults and children enjoy one another, laugh, dance, sing, cheer, cry, and celebrate together.

Here are some ways my teachers demonstrate their willingness to entertain, encourage, and play with our students:

Yearly Themes:

Every year we announce a new building-wide theme. Teachers decorate their hallway bulletin boards with illustrations and slogans related to our theme. They create costumes to wear on the first day of school. We have staff t-shirts printed with the year’s theme logo, and we plan end-of-the year field trips related to our theme.

One year, our theme was There’s No Place Like School: Brains, Heart, Courage based on characters from The Wizard of Oz. Our campus officer, dressed from head to toe as the Mayor of Munchkin City. directed traffic in the parking lot on the first day of school. Inside, students and parents met Glynda the Good Witch (my assistant principal), Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman (secretaries), the Cowardly Lion, the Wicked Witch of the West, and Dorothy (teachers). 

We announced our reward field trip that year at a high-energy, all-school assembly. The grade level with the greatest average growth per student, won a day at the “Emerald City,” an arcade complete with go-carts, pool tables, pin-ball machines, and a pizza lunch.

Quarterly Renaissance Rallies:

Every quarter, students who are performing with GPAs of 2.0 or higher, are rewarded with a two-hour assembly. High school bands and dance teams perform, kids compete in hilarious relay races, at least some members of our staff perform, and often professional musicians, dancers, or singers provide amazing entertainment. 

During these same assemblies, coaches introduce the season’s sports teams, and cheerleaders perform. Teachers read the name of each and every student and his or her GPA level: Bronze (2.0 to 2.9), Silver (3.0 to 3.5), Gold (3.6 to 3.9) or Platinum (4.0).

One rally highlight was a step show that my teacher leader and a parent worked up. Several teachers volunteered to practice many days after school so they could be ready to surprise the kids with their performance. I love how our students just went crazy for their teachers when the adults broke out their step routine.

 Student-Staff Sports Games:

Our kids like nothing better than to play their favorite sports against our teacher teams. Our school volleyball team competes against their teachers as soon as their season is over. So many teachers play that they can’t all get into the game. They dress crazy and engage in silly antics that thrill our kids.

After basketball season, our boys’ and girls’ basketball teams play an exhibition game against our teachers. The kids love how physical their teachers become, and the students play like their lives depend upon winning. Since the adults always – ALWAYS – win, the kids strive to at least lead for as long as they can during the competition.

College-Strong Habits

In an attempt to help our middle schoolers develop productive school habits, our teachers stamp agendas (student planners) when the children are prepared for class and have their homework. Every two weeks, we reward them with a small prize if they earn 90% of the possible stamps given during that time period. 

At the end of each quarter, those students who earned a stamps award for all four two-week time periods are invited to a party in the cafeteria. 

One party theme was Pancakes and Pajamas. Kids dressed in pj's, if they wanted to, played BINGO for prizes, and ate pancakes mixed and flipped by their teachers. 

Another party theme was our 50's Sock Hop. We served ice cream floats, learned the Hand Jive and the Twist, and played a very popular game of Limbo (with 125 students)! 

We threw a Peace Out 60's Party as well. Kids took pictures in love beads and giant glasses, made tie-dye coffee filters, and ate PopTarts and Tang (both invented in the 1960s). 

If our students enjoy school and bond with their peers and teachers, they are more likely to learn and be successful. We want our students to love their middle school experience, so we create fun for them and find joy in our work as well. 

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