How can I make my school better academically and culturally?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I do believe that there are some active steps that students can take to improve their schools academically and culturally.  They all involve a commitment to making your school a better place than when you found it and something that will be better for all as time passes.

I think that one of the most important elements to improving academic and cultural realities of a school involves inclusion of everyone.  When school settings are divided through cliques and isolation, academics and culture deteriorate. Think about it: If a student feels that there is no place for them in a school, there is a lesser likelihood of them wanting to do well in school. Validation in the form of feeling accepted, or at the very least not harassed, helps to enhance success in and outside of the classroom.

Students can help in this process.  One way is to create study groups that include as many people as possible.  For example, put up flyers in which you host a study group in the cafeteria after school.  Make your study group focus on an upcoming assessment that everyone has to take.  For example, advertise your study group as focusing on that upcoming exam on the quadratic formula, or that essay from Of Mice and Men, or on the events of the American Revolution.  Make it open to the public.  Everyone can attend and everyone can learn from one another.  Students do so much together that they might as well study and learn from one another.  Study group formation is one way in which school climate and academic pursuits.

Another way to increase student inclusiveness is to start an extra- curricular group or activity.  Finding students that share a common interest even though they come from different backgrounds can help to minimize student alienation.  You will probably need an adult to sponsor the activity, but creating a club or student interest group can help to make your school better. You will be organizing students based on their own passions and interests and thus enhancing student voice.

There are other ways to help your school become better academically and culturally.  I saw an awesome activity two years ago at our school.  Two students were tired of the increasingly negative atmosphere.  One day, they wrote 300 small notes, one for each person in their grade level.  The notes were small, almost a bit bigger than a spitball. Each note contained a one sentenced positive message. They were affirmations like, "I think that you have nice eyes" or "I love your style" and "You have a great sense of humor." They were not specific in terms of a person like, "Joe, you are cool," but rather general saying, "Someone out there thinks you are cool."  

The two students would walk up to a person...

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