Lesson 3: Students are savvier than most adults think
When the students asked for the app, administrators had several concerns. Who would provide the content (and how could the school make sure bullying didn’t start there)? Would it be sustainable or a one-time project? Would they be able to get other students to use it? The students, however, had already thought through answers. The app may be for student use, but they wanted the school to be in charge. That way, students’ biases couldn’t creep in. In addition, with a dedicated group of teachers and IT staff running the app, it is more likely to continue after the original students leave. Finally, the students recommended a soft launch, working out bugs and getting some buy-in, before marketing it to the entire student body.
“I’m so proud of those students who participated…because now they know they can do it. They know that if they have an idea, and they know how to properly communicate it, that good things can happen,” said Prewitt, when talking about the lessons the students learned from the project. “I think that next time they have an opportunity, and maybe the stakes are higher, that they will do that…and I really feel strongly that that’s what we’re called to do as educators. We are called to facilitate that in our students.”
About the Presenters
Kym Prewitt has been active in the world of education for 30 years. She currently teaches leadership classes for which she has written the curriculum at Vestavia Hills High School (VHHS) in Birmingham, Alabama. A graduate of Auburn University with a B.S. in secondary education language arts, Prewitt began her career teaching English at VHHS. After eight years in the classroom, Prewitt moved to a new roll of community volunteer and leader. Over the next 20 years she sat on more than 30 national, state, and local boards, mostly related to education, and served as president or chair of ten of those. She also chaired more than 65 philanthropy events for education, literacy, and scholarships. She founded the Children’s Literacy Guild of Alabama as well as Youth Leadership Vestavia Hills. She is a frequent speaker on topics of literacy, leadership, and community and has received numerous awards for her work.
Whit McGhee is the director of public relations for Vestavia Hills City Schools in Birmingham, Alabama. He has served as the district’s communication and public relations specialist since 2014. McGhee previously worked as assistant director of admissions for communications at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and as a recruiter at Jacksonville State University in Alabama. He holds a bachelor’s degree in communication from Jacksonville State University and a master’s degree in strategic communication from Troy University.
3 lessons from students about improving school culture
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