Author

michael

Morning Announcements: April/May 2018

Making Dreams Come True

How are you celebrating National Student Leadership Week (NSLW)? It’s April 15–21, and it’s every school’s chance to honor the important role of student leaders in boosting the climate and culture of their schools and communities. This year’s theme is “Make Your Mark on the World: Dream. Lead. Serve.” Have you heard about the contest? Think about your “dream” service project, like starting a community garden or staging a concert as a fundraiser for a school improvement need. Then, shoot a video, design a poster, or even record a song—use your imagination to creatively communicate a pitch about that “dream” project and how you’d use a cash prize to help fund its implementation. Just post your pitch on social media using #OurDream18, and complete the entry form available now through April 30 at www.NatStuCo.org/nslw, www.nhs.us/nslw, or www.njhs.us/nslw. Several councils and chapters that present the most persuasive pitches will each win $250 in seed money to fund their project. Visit the webpages for contest rules. We look forward to helping you make your dreams come true.

$avings MaNia

Headed to the National Student Council Conference at Wayzata High School near Minneapolis, MN? Want to save some money? Register by April 20 to save $30 per person. Then, get ready for three days of incredible energy and inspiration from speakers and workshop presenters. You’ll get to see Kat Perkins, contestant from “The Voice” season 6, and Monte Shelby, a Grammy Award-winning songwriter and recording artist. Attending the conference is the perfect way to prepare your rising student leaders for their roles in the 2018–19 school year. Our theme is Leadership MaNia. See www.NatStuCoConference.org for complete information.

Your College Search Starts Here

Are your NHS and NJHS members looking for a comprehensive approach to the entire college search process? The National Honor Societies present the final college admission planning webinar of this academic year, “Getting Started With Your College Search,” on Wednesday, April 18. These webinars are exclusively for NHS and NJHS student members and their parents. Presenters will prepare viewers for developing a college wish list, researching schools, and meeting with admissions officers. Application preparation tips will also be shared. Registration for this webinar, as well as access to all archived videos available for on-demand viewing, can be found at www.nhs.us/webinars or www.njhs.us/webinars. Remind students to watch any day, any time, at their convenience.

I Want to Be …

New videos are continuously being added to the virtual library of National Student Council’s Career Exploration series. Share the series with your council members, who will get an idea of the career paths taken by former student leaders on their journey. The series can be accessed from the NatStuCo home page at www.NatStuCo.org or in the Online Learning section of the Adviser Resource Center. Students will need your adviser log-in credentials to access the series. Be sure to provide them with your information so they can watch videos at their leisure.

It’s That Time of Year

Every spring, two pieces of housekeeping surface for you as an adviser: The annual adviser survey opens in mid-April, and chapter/council affiliation renewal notices are sent to you and your principal. The survey seeks important information about your council’s and chapter’s activities, including the hours logged by your students in community or school service, as well as any money collected in fundraisers and food or blood donated during collection drives. Watch for a link to the survey sent via email; a link will also be available on the websites (www.NatStuCo.org, www.nhs.us, www.njhs.us) and in your Adviser Online Community. The statistics often tell a powerful story about the impact of councils and chapters. The data also helps the national office in its ongoing quest to forge relationships with organizations that can enrich the experience of your student leaders. Please complete the survey and renew your affiliation by June 30.

Dates to Remember

APRIL

Advisers and principals notified about affiliation renewal

NHS/NJHS Rynearson National Adviser of the Year winners notified

April 1–30: National Student Leadership Week #OurDream18 contest open

April 9–13: National Assistant Principals Week

April 15: Kyker State Association Service Project Award program application deadline

April 15–21: National Student Leadership Week

April 18: NHS/NJHS college admission planning webinar “Getting Started With Your College Search.” See www.nhs.us/webinars or www.njhs.us/webinars to register.

April 20: Early-bird registration deadline for the National Student Council Conference

MAY

Annual adviser survey open

NJHS Outstanding Achievement Award honorees notified

NHS Scholarship recipients notified

JUNE

Kyker State Association Service Project Award winner(s) notified

Warren E. Shull NatStuCo Adviser of the Year winners announced at the National Student Council Conference

June 25–27: National Student Council Conference, Wayzata High School, Plymouth, MN

June 30: National affiliation renewals due

June 30: Annual adviser survey responses due

Honor Society Update: Putting the Future in Their Hands

What does it mean for students to be #Futuready? Coined by the national office, #Futuready suggests the preparatory skills needed for future success. And in its quest to ensure all students of NHS- and NJHS-affiliated schools are truly ready for their future, the national office has proudly launched its #Futuready series, an essential and practical resource for you and your students. #Futuready is a comprehensible suite of visual guides and videos designed to build the basic, yet vital skills imperative for college, career, and lifetime success.

What Is #Futuready?

Custom-prepared for middle level and high school students by educators, the #Futuready series currently includes five modules-goal-setting, time-management, self-management, exploring careers, and mastering interviews.

The segments are presented in a way that is straightforward and basic. Concepts are broken into bite-sized portions, providing a step-by-step guide to serve as a refresher for an overwhelmed student or as a helpful first step in preparing middle level students for the rigors of high school and beyond.

Each installment is showcased on its own webpage. The webpage includes the visual guide; a three- to four-minute video; and additional resources on the topic, such as links to more web content, tracking sheets, and games. Each visual guide is a downloadable PDF with areas where students can make notes or answer questions. To access material, visit www.nhs.us/futuready or www.njhs.us/futuready.

Who Can Use #Futuready?

Anyone in a National Honor Societies affiliated-school—you, fellow teachers, counselors, and even nonmember students—can use #Futuready. The modules are designed to be self-guided, meaning a student can review the guide and video independently or with a parent. Additionally, as an adviser, you can use these modules as part of a chapter meeting, or your fellow teachers can use any portion of #Futuready to integrate with lesson plans or curriculum. You are encouraged to share these assets schoolwide.

What Is the Future of #Futuready?

More topics are in queue. But the national office wants to hear from you. What soft skills do you believe need to be addressed so you see better-prepared students in the future? Email nhs@nhs.us or njhs@njhs.us. Tweet us suggestions @nhs_njhs using #Futuready. You can also start a discussion thread in the Adviser Online Community to post suggestions, seek implementation ideas, or share successes. Visit https://community.nassp.org.


Get #Futuready

Explore the NHS and NJHS #Futuready series at www.nhs.us/futuready or www.njhs.us/futuready.

Take Ten: April/May 2018

A Creative Challenge

Challenge yourself by finding out what you can write in 10 minutes or less by trying one of the 21 writing prompts at https://tinyurl.com/10minwrit. A writing teacher at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto created each prompt, including “Write a eulogy for a sandwich, to be delivered while eating it,” and, “Write the first communication sent back to Earth after humans land on Mars.” Want even more of a challenge? Commit to doing one prompt for 21 days, and let your imagination soar. 

Planning to remember Friends and Family

If you really want to score points with family and friends while also giving your future self a little help, take 10 minutes and note all your loved ones’ birthdays and anniversaries in a planner or calendar on your mobile device. Having an accurate record of these dates can be a huge load off your mind; just be sure you’ve remembered everyone! Social media sites will be a useful resource for this task. Sift through your Facebook events and friend lists, but be sure to also remember any loved ones without social media profiles.

Color Your World

Believe it or not, research has shown that coloring activities, such as filling in adult coloring books, can have a positive effect on emotional, mental, and even intellectual health. According to the Huffington Post, “The time and focus that adult coloring takes helps the individual remove the focus from negative issues and habits, and focus them in a safe and productive way.” 

Coloring also utilizes both hemispheres of the brain (right and left), so as you color, you’re actually working to hone your problem-solving and fine motor skills at the same time. Why not give it a try? Worst case scenario: You’ll be left with something pretty to hang in your classroom or on your fridge! 

Mobile Device Spring-Cleaning

Spring-cleaning is often thought of in terms of cleaning up physical spaces like your office, house, or car, but what about clearing out and cleaning up your electronic devices? Start by deleting any apps that you never seem to use, file the apps you do use in folders, or organize them in some way that makes sense to you. Of course, no act of spring-cleaning would be complete without making your space look new or different in some way—change the background while you’re at it. If you still have time, reorder photos by date or location, and be sure to delete those goofy pics you haven’t looked at since you took them—or, at the very least, back them up for safekeeping.

Learn From the Best

Chad Rizner was still on stage after winning the 2017 Warren E. Shull National High School Adviser of the Year Award when his phone started buzzing with a swarm of congratulatory messages. This award, he told Advise, is “more of a recognition for our school and the hard work our kids do, because I don’t do all the hard work. They do.” 

Rizner and Penelope Allen, Warren E. Shull National Middle Level Adviser of the Year, accepted their honors at the NASC National Conference in Derry, NH, in June 2017. The annual award recalls National Student Council founder Warren E. Shull, and it recognizes student council advisers of exemplary character, leadership, and commitment to young people in helping to develop them as student leaders.

In conversations with Advise, Rizner and Allen shared a wealth of experience in helping students uncover their leadership potential—valuable advice for advisers in any role, whether student council or the National Honor Societies.

About the Winners

Chad Rizner, in his eighth year as student council adviser at Jefferson City High School, Jefferson City, MO, brought 17 years of sports coaching experience to the post. The sociology and leadership teacher has guided student council in efforts to honor veterans; make homecoming more inclusive for community and alumni; and convene school, city, county, and state elected officials for a Community Leaders Breakfast. Active in Missouri Association of Student Councils (MASC) leadership, he first experienced National Student Council (NatStuCo) as a student delegate to its 1989 conference.

Penelope Allen is in her 10th year as student council adviser at Lafayette Middle School, Oxford, MS. The math teacher has led her students in the areas of service, school spirit, and leadership. Students have “adopted” their special-needs classmates and participated in leadership workshops, and student council has grown as students envision the impact they can have. She is active in the Mississippi Association of Student Councils (MSASC), and this year her school is hosting its second MSASC state conference. 

Q. In your time as adviser, how have the concepts of student leadership and the role of student council changed, and how should student council advisers adapt to those changes?

Allen: Our principals have made a huge difference in allowing students to be heard. Our student leaders are leaders regardless. They see a need and they see classmates wanting change, and we have a principal open to hearing the students and letting the students act on those needs. For example, we didn’t have microwaves in the cafeteria. Now there are four, and we’re blowing the breaker. So, we’re getting an electrician to look at it. We let them lead. 

Rizner: The biggest change is the time crunch we all seem to be under. Schools used to be the center of life, and that was how kids and adults got their entertainment and kids occupied their time. So, there’s a balance between having standards of participation and being flexible. If I’m talking to an athlete in student council who’s saying they can’t do something, I ask, “Would you say that to your coach?” But with that said, it’s important to be flexible, because if you force a kid to choose, they may not choose to do student council. If they have to miss something with student council, they fill out a form and talk face-to-face with an adviser. It’s easy to send a text to say you can’t be there, but it’s different when you have to look in somebody’s eyes and see the disappointment or frustration. It’s funny how many times a kid will say they don’t think they can be there, and we have a discussion, and they end up being there. There’s power in that. There’s value in that.

Q. While your job is teaching students, let’s flip the script. What are the top lessons that advisers can learn from their student leaders?

Allen: As adults, we often have an idea but aren’t sure how to share it or if we should share it. The students, they just go right into it. They see the possibility that somebody could say yes. I’ve learned to share ideas and don’t always look for the cons. There are pros that we may not see. I’ve learned to go into situations without fear of being shot down. 

Rizner: In today’s world, we’re sometimes short on optimism, but kids naturally see the world with optimistic eyes. I don’t know how many times I’m not really thrilled about going to an event, but then you’re swept up in the energy and spirit of the kids. Also, if you give kids the time and the resources to think and make decisions, they come up with incredible things. If you rush them, they come up with the last thing they saw. I learned to give them time, so when they looked at the need for activities for kids in our town one winter, they held a cabin fever carnival. They got school clubs to run booths and held games in the gym. 

Q. Strengthening community ties is a theme running through your work. Why should advisers encourage student leaders to build bridges to their communities? 

Allen: Without the community, we’re just a school. When we build those bridges, we become a service for our community. Plus, you create relationships that can never be created within the walls of the school. We hosted a senior citizen prom that was amazing. It opened doors for different organizations to ask how they can help. One of our students met a lady who wasn’t going to have anyone visit her on Mother’s Day; her son is in Germany. The student asked his mom, “Can we please take her flowers and go visit her on Mother’s Day?” You can only imagine when word about that kind of thing starts getting out. It shows that Lafayette Middle School cares for the community. 

Rizner: Students get an appreciation for what it takes to do things in the community. It has nothing to do with the amount of money they raise, as far as their development goes. We tell the kids to think about how much work went into the county fair or the Fourth of July celebration downtown. Someday, they’re going to be the business owners and the lawyers and the doctors and the teachers who give up their Tuesday nights all year to help plan the county fair. That’s a bridge to the community of the future.

Q. How do you challenge students to tackle big projects while recognizing their capabilities and time constraints?

Allen: That’s one thing we struggle with. Our students see high school student council members at national and southern conventions, and they [start to] think they’re high schoolers, too. We have this conversation a lot. They would meet every day after school if they could. Sometimes we do have to have a reality check. They’re very driven. They know the time constraints and say, “Here’s our hour. Here’s our agenda.” They work on that agenda so they can meet those goals. 

Rizner: It’s about starting kids early in their careers to develop their skills and abilities. We only have them in 10th, 11th, and 12th grades. Our committee heads, who have all the responsibility and power, are set in April. So going into the next year we know who those leaders are. Some jobs, such as event chairs, are left open specifically for sophomores. We try to do a restaurant night fundraiser every term, which involves contacting a restaurant, figuring out a date, and advertising. It’s not a huge event. If it’s not done perfectly, it’s not going to kill us. We help the sophomores through that process, giving them an opportunity to step up. 

Big events and big jobs can be broken down into a series of small events and small jobs. That’s hard for younger members to understand. They think, “I’m on (the) assemblies committee, and all I do is run the spotlight.” Well, if you can’t run it, we wouldn’t have a spotlight, and that’s critical to making the assembly successful. 

Q. How do you balance between advising and micromanaging, especially if an idea or project isn’t going as planned?

Allen: When I first started advising, I would chime in and say, “Let’s look at the things to think about.” But then the kids went on to high school, and the first time they were told “no” by the administrator there, they were surprised. I realized that by micromanaging their every movement, they weren’t seeing that life lesson of being told “no.” The students created a process, with a form to fill out before going to the principal or superintendent. It covers the information they need to know in advance and the questions they may be asked. I do think it’s good they hear from administrators that something is just not possible, or that certain issues might come up. 

Rizner: That goes back to starting early. If you’ve trained people the right way, you don’t have to micromanage them. We tell committee chairs we know they’re doing a good job when they’re telling us what to do. “Hey, Rizner, remember to reserve the gym on such-and-such a date. Hey, Rizner, remember to get the money bag for the volleyball tournament.” When that happens, we’re where we need to be.

Q. How do you manage your own challenges regarding your personal and teaching responsibilities?

Allen: That’s a bit tough. I teach math. That has to come first. Student council adviser is a volunteer role. My daughter was in student council here, and now she’s in high school student council. I thought I needed to step back for her senior year so I could spend time with her, and she said, “Absolutely not, Mom. Student council is what you do.” My family is very understanding. They know what advising our student leaders means. They step in if I’m not home; or at a student council event, they usually show up and help as well. 

Rizner: I married somebody who understands. My wife is a second-grade teacher. When we got married, I was a coach. We talked about that and what it means. My boys are in seventh grade and ninth grade now. I smile to see them learn lessons from other adults, because I’ve spent my life trying to teach those lessons to other people’s kids, and obviously to my own, but it gives me a better appreciation for the things that teachers and coaches and sponsors do. 

Q. What does it mean to you, your students, and your school to receive the Shull award? 

Allen: It’s validation on their part that what we’re doing is right. I never went into student council looking at the end result as an award. That’s not our goal. I just wanted to help students find their voices. In middle school, they’re figuring out what school’s about. They’re just figuring out who they are, and this provides an avenue and platform they can be a part of to build their voices. For me, it’s cool to get up every morning. I don’t feel like I drive to work. I get to live my dream. 

Rizner: I work at the school I attended. The tradition of excellence we have is long. One of my advisers, Dennis Lock, was the executive director of MASC, so it’s not like Chad Rizner created all this. Mr. Lock’s successor as executive director is Terri Johnson, and she is a fantastic resource I lean on a lot. She was on staff at MASC camp when I was a camper there. I learned from the best, so that makes the job a lot easier. The award is a reflection on our school, our council, and our kids, showing that the work we do is important. The kids buy into that and want to be a part of that. The award is a recognition of all that hard work. 


M. Diane McCormick is a writer based in Pennsylvania.


To learn more about the Warren E. Shull Award, visit www.NatStuCo.org/shull.

From the Directors: April/May 2018

Happy spring! As you read this column, you will note a new name among the authors of this letter. Please welcome our new director of the National Honor Societies, Ms. Nara Lee, who joined the NASSP national office in January. 

Her career includes work with District of Columbia Public Schools and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. She most recently served as director of member engagement for the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success—an organization that represents more than 130 colleges and universities with selective admissions. Ms. Lee is a first-generation college student who grew up in Baltimore, MD. Her connection with the National Honor Societies goes back a few years-she was nominated by her seventh-grade algebra teacher to join NJHS and was later inducted into her high school’s chapter of NHS. Those who attended the LEAD Conference in Chicago had an opportunity to hear the fond memories of her Honor Society days she shared with attendees.

We hope you are joining us in celebrating and recognizing the student leaders on your campus during the month of April, and especially during National Student Leadership Week (NSLW), April 15–21. Remember, we have a contest tied to this year’s NSLW theme, “Make Your Mark on the World: Dream. Lead. Serve.” We look forward to learning about your pitch for a “dream” service project. Post it to social media with #OurDream18, notify us of your entry by visiting www.tinyurl.com/ourdream18, and we may help fund that project to make it a reality! 

Nara Lee
Director of National Honor Societies

Ann Postlewaite
Director of Student Programs

Put This Into Practice

Students are inundated with the perfection depicted on social media. As a result, I see more and more that my students feel inferior to their peers and have a hard time dealing with their feelings when others achieve or receive more than they do. As students are applying to jobs and colleges, making athletics teams, and receiving year-end awards, second semester is always a good time to remind students to focus on their own unique gifts. 

Objective

Students will look at and discuss their jealous tendencies, identifying sources and techniques to avoid the pitfalls. 

Materials

  • A notecard and writing utensil for every student
  • A clear cup of water, green food coloring, and bleach
  • Any tower-building supplies including—but not limited to—spaghetti, tape, pens, pipe cleaners, string, paper clips, etc., presorted in bags

Video Resource Links 

Time Required

40–45 minutes

Procedure

As a warm-up activity, have students independently brainstorm things that might happen to their friends (or people around them) that make them jealous. They should write those situations down on their notecards.

Next, bring out the glass of water and the green food coloring. Explain that the water represents the student and the food coloring represents jealousy. Ask for volunteers to (one at a time) share with the group situations that cause them to experience feelings of jealousy. As each person shares, pinch a drop of the food coloring into the water. Ask the students:

  • Is it possible to separate all those different moments of jealousy?
  • Is it possible to move the food coloring to just one part of the cup?
  • Where do you think jealousy comes from?

After a discussion, pour some bleach into the cup. What happens? (Note that while the solution will lighten, it will not turn completely clear.) Ask students, what happens to feelings of jealousy if they are not fully dealt with?

Watch Gabrielle Union’s speech from the 2013 Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon. Ask students:

  • What does it mean to “tap dance on someone’s misery”?
    • Can you think of a time when you have done that?
  • What does it mean for someone’s shine to diminish your own?
    • How can we prevent feeling that way?
  • How can someone else’s light make your light shine brighter?

Break students into small groups and hand them the presorted tower-building supplies. Every group should have a different selection of items. When you give the word, they will be responsible for building the tallest tower. Say, “Go!”

It will not take long for students to realize that some groups have an unfair advantage by receiving objects that are more beneficial for building than others. Encourage groups to continue to build, noting comparative statements.

After time ends, judge the tower heights and verbally reward the winning team. Then, have students process how they felt knowing groups had different supplies.

Watch Chelsea Handler’s “How I Deal With Jealousy” video.

Processing

Ask students:

  • What does “there is room for everybody” mean?
  • Instead of “blowing out someone else’s candle,” what are good ways to deal with jealous feelings?
  • What does Mark Scharenbroich, a renowned youth speaker, mean when he says, “Stop comparing crayons and just color”?

Julie Kasper is activities director at Century High School in Hillsboro, OR. 

Chat Room: Spring Shares

NHS students at Willow Bend Academy in Plano, TX, are promoting #MakingGlobalChange by holding a paper recycling contest. To make it fun, they pitted two bins against each other in a match-up of Netflix vs. YouTube so that students and teachers felt more incentivized to recycle their used paper properly. Passersby could place a “vote” or two for their favorite video-streaming platform by depositing their paper in their preferred bin. Change the recycling rivalry to two bins you think your school will get excited about, or come up with your own idea to promote global change. Be sure to share the results on Instagram using #MakingGlobalChange!

Your students deserve every opportunity to pursue their dreams of higher education and lifelong success. NHS and NJHS are committed to providing those paths through #Futuready tools. Check out the #Futuready pages on the NHS and NJHS websites, featuring videos and visual guides to help students hone the soft skills imperative for future success. Follow #Futuready on social media and share your success with integrating these tools into your class or chapter activities.

This latest season of giving was a success for many schools and student councils all over the world. Check out the National Student Project Database at nhs.us/projects, njhs.us/projects, and NatStuCo.org/projects for all of the newest fundraising ideas and philanthropic projects that you and your school can put into action this year, or scope out ideas for future needs.

To exercise #NASSPStudentVoice and be models for #StudentsWhoLead, the NASSP Student Leadership Advisory Committee headed to Capitol Hill in late January. While meeting with policymakers and legislators, they advocated for continued funding for education programs. 

Keep Chatting

If you like this page, be sure to follow, like, and share with us on social media, too! For real-time updates, check out these channels:

Facebook:
facebook.com/nhsandnjhs 
facebook.com/NatStuCo

Instagram:
@NatStuCo
@nhs_njhs

Pinterest:
pinterest.com/NatStuCo

Twitter:
@nhs_njhs  @NatStuCo

Collaboration Space: April/May 2018

Smartie Pants

Student council members at Southwest Career and Technical Academy in Las Vegas decided to do something special to honor academic excellence. To celebrate students who received straight A’s for the quarter, they bundled eight Smarties candies together (one for each A earned) with a pants-shaped note that read, “Great job, smartie pants!” They then delivered the prize to the students to recognize a job well done. 

Fulfills Global Citizenship Initiative strand: empathetic actions and wellness

Go Fish!

The student council at Tomball High School in Texas annually hosts an event called “Fishing with PALS”—an opportunity for students to bond and grow closer with the special needs students of the school. (PALS, or Practical Application of Life Skills, is the name of the program designed to serve students who have significant cognitive or physical disabilities.) The day starts with students being bussed to a local pond and being greeted by fellow students with fishing poles for each of them. All the students love catching fish and helping one another throughout the day. 

Fulfills Global Citizenship Initiative strand: equity

Just Rewards

It can be easy for the efforts of average students to go unnoticed, especially at a large school. The student council at Eisenhower High School in Shelby Charter Township, MI, wanted to address this issue—thus, the Academic Rewards Closet was born. This is an actual closet located in the school’s main office that the student council stuffs with exclusive school apparel such as hoodies, sweatpants, and T-shirts. When the principal or a teacher notices a student who has done something worthy of recognition, that student is allowed to pick an item from the closet for free as a reward. 

Fulfills Global Citizenship Initiative strand: equity

Safety Net

Student council members at Sandy Valley Middle School in Nevada know the importance of internet safety. That is why they arranged for a sheriff to visit the school and talk about the potential dangers lurking on the web. The speaker touched on cyberbullying as well, citing other people’s stories and showing how students could learn from their mistakes. The assembly was a success, and students came away from it a lot wiser and more aware. 

Fulfills Global Citizenship Initiative strand: awareness/perspectives

Extra Food for Extra Credit

The National Honor Society at Genoa-Kingston High School in Genoa, IL, organizes a program where students turn in nonperishable foods or household items in return for extra credit. NHS members coordinate with teachers ahead of time, and promote the event with posters stating the points that will be awarded by each teacher, what items to bring, and when. Small items are worth five points, and larger items are worth 10. It’s a great way to get the whole school involved in helping the community! 

Fulfills Global Citizenship Initiative strand: empathetic actions and wellness

#GetThereSafe

Northwest Career and Technical Academy student council students in Las Vegas organized a #GetThereSafe campaign, which promotes safe driving and following the rules of the road. Students arranged for an Allstate Insurance representative to speak with students about driver safety and how many lives it can save. Students were encouraged to sign a #GetThereSafe flag after reading the materials and listening to the Allstate speaker—signaling a pledge that they would drive safely. 

Fulfills Global Citizenship Initiative strand: positive social change

Student…Exchange

Student council members at Frank W. Cox High School in Virginia Beach, VA, participated in a student exchange with Bayside High School—a school located in the same city, but composed of different demographics, program offerings, and class sizes. Students were paired up and essentially switched places for the day, following one another’s schedules and attending classes at their respective schools. Students gained valuable insight by stepping out of their comfort zones for the day, and many of the students who participated in the exchange remain friends. 

Fulfills Global Citizenship Initiative strand: positive social change

Birthday in a Bag

National Honor Society members at Reedy High School in Frisco, TX, got a bright idea from their local food pantry. They had been collecting “Birthday in a Bag” donations to help families who cannot afford to throw a typical birthday party for their children. NHS students (and students campus-wide) were asked to donate a bag with the necessary supplies to give a child a great birthday celebration. Supplies can include cake mix, icing, plates, cups, party decorations, small gifts, goody bags, and a birthday card. NHS collected more than 75 bags to donate! 

Fulfills Global Citizenship Initiative strand: empathetic actions and wellness

Advise: April/May 2018

One cannot deny that school is a busy place. With classes, new learning initiatives, sports, clubs, celebrations, and of course, National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, and student council meetings, students and staff are constantly juggling multiple commitments.

Download Full Issue


Features


Columns & Departments

Talking About Communicating

It’s not always easy to coordinate the efforts of teenage leaders who are among the most active students in their school, are often involved in multiple extracurricular activities, sometimes have jobs, and are always busy being kids. 

At Eureka High School in Missouri, we have an active National Honor Society (NHS) chapter of 160 members with several events taking place each week. Our feeder elementary and middle schools are always looking for dependable older students to help with happenings, as is the larger Eureka community. We are constantly exploring the newest and best ways for the advisers, officers, and members to keep abreast of all the service projects and scheduling for them—dates and times of events, which officers are responsible, and who has signed up to work the event. Good communication is the key to success.

Eureka NHS has tried a lot of different ways to communicate. In years past, the officers and advisers used Facebook to communicate with membership. There were two problems with this: A lot of students no longer used Facebook, and there was always the ethical concern of teachers using social media to communicate with students. We also had officers try using a Twitter account and Remind to help spread announcements of events. The membership preferred Remind over Twitter, as a lot of students did not have Twitter, and those who did had no desire to mix their social lives with school activities. The officers and advisers used school-based email as their primary means of communicating outside of school meetings. When our school district switched to Google, a lot of our dilemmas were solved. Google Classroom provided the hierarchical and two-way communications that the officers and membership needed. Students receive announcements on their phones from classes and from extracurricular activities, so the membership did not have “another thing” to check, and everything was associated with a school-based account.

Because I needed to reflect on how Eureka NHS communicates, I recently posted a question in the NHS/NJHS Adviser Online Community to get a better idea about how various chapters and councils communicate. The good news is that most of us are using the same or similar means of networking with our student leaders and members of our chapters and councils. Regardless of which type of communication tool you choose, check your district and building policies to know the parameters before you start researching.

Remind

Remind was the most widely used communication tool in my poll. The Remind website (www.remind.com) boasts that it is used in more than 70 percent of schools across America. Anyone can sign up to use Remind, as a teacher or student, and district plans are available. It allows for real-time or scheduled communications with a group or just a single person. These messages go to a phone, and no one has access to individual phone numbers. You can send attachments and see who has not opened a message. We use it as an officer-to-membership means of communication and more of a last-minute blast. Other schools use it as their primary means of exchanging thoughts and ideas.

“Our school uses Remind.com for much of our communication. It is very simple to use,” says Susan Culwell from North-Linn High School in Troy Mills, IA, via the online community. “The teacher, coach, adviser, or group leader sets up the group on the Remind site as the owner of the group. When they do that, they get a code that they then pass on to the students in the group. The owner of the group does not have to give out their [personal] phone number or email address, and they do not see the phone numbers or email addresses of the students.”

The only problem Culwell has had is that some of the students in her groups have not signed up, so they do not get the communications. “This is the first year I have used this, and my plan for the future is to give the new inductees the Remind code at the induction ceremony and make sure they sign up right away. Hopefully, this will eliminate the problem,” she says.

Google Classroom

A lot of advisers who responded to my online poll said they were from Google schools. Google Classroom (www.classroom.google.com) is often a district-offered service, along with Google email. Teachers can set up “classrooms” and offer students a class code to join; student officers can be assigned to the role of “teachers” for communication purposes. A strong advantage of using Classroom is that all communications are hierarchical, searchable, and can be linked to calendars and other Google forms and documents. This is the primary communications platform that we use at Eureka High School. The officers create most of the posts, and everything is run through school-based email.

“We use Google Classroom as our home base. This way we can upload documents and forms to one place; all of our minutes are saved there. We also have a spreadsheet that keeps track of each student’s community service hours. Everything is live and in real time,” says Kristina Vuong, formerly of Lyman High School in Longwood, FL, via the online community. “I also think Classroom is a great place for announcements. The students see a pop-up as soon as they log into their email accounts.” 

“We communicate through Google Classroom with the officers being teachers,” says Marie Principe, NHS adviser at East Bridgewater Junior/Senior School in East Bridgewater, MA. “My officers also tweet out notices. I used to email and use Remind, but the kids are checking Google Classroom for all their classes, so I have found it to work out much better!”

Sandy Munton, intervention and enrichment instructor at Hancock Middle School in St. Louis, MO, adds, “In our school district, all students have Google accounts. We simply set up an NJHS Classroom and invite our officers to be ‘teachers.’ We can then share meeting agendas and notes. We can also create Google Forms to use as sign-up sheets and to get input electronically from all members.”

Twitter

Twitter (www.twitter.com) allows the sending of short tweets (text-based messages) to followers. When I sought advice via the NHS/NJHS Adviser Online Community, three schools responded saying they use Twitter.

“My council has a Twitter and a Remind account that we use to communicate with members, parents, and the community. Meeting dates, events, and all sorts of information are disseminated through those two accounts,” says Jennifer Spiegel, English teacher and student government adviser from Elizabeth Forward High School in Elizabeth, PA. “We have over 220 Twitter followers [who] also include our local community and business leaders, as well as district administration.”

Through Twitter, the school was able to connect with a revitalization group that is working in the city’s downtown area. “We met with the community leaders in that group and that resulted in some community service projects for us and for other clubs in our building,” Spiegel says. “In addition, we are followed by a reporter for our local newspaper who often uses the info he finds there to write articles about us. He wrote two articles (and the newspaper wrote two editorials as well) about things we have done in the last six months because they connected with us via Twitter.”

Instagram

Instagram (www.instagram.com) is generally used to share pictures and short videos with friends. Junior officers and LEAD juniors at Eureka High School (who attended the Chicago LEAD Conference hosted by National Student Council, NHS, and NJHS) asked if they could try using Twitter and Instagram accounts to communicate with the membership this year. We obtained a school email address to use on the accounts and decided that only the officers and LEAD juniors would have access to the account, with the advisers simply monitoring. We plan on evaluating its use and effectiveness at the end of this school year.

Email

Email was mentioned as an effective means of communication by two schools in the Adviser Online Community—besides my own. We use it as the primary means of adviser-to-officer communications. The biggest advantage is that it is a school-based means of communication that is searchable and hierarchical. The disadvantage is that kids often do not check their email, even if their school email is linked to a personal account. Nevertheless, we use it mainly because it is a school communications platform and avoids the awkwardness of teacher-to-student social media interaction.

Telegram

One school reported using the Telegram app (www.telegram.org), a cloud-based mobile and desktop messaging app with a focus on security and speed. “The officers, my co-adviser, and I use the Telegram app so we can communicate about small details. Telegram is set up using phone numbers, so one has to be invited into the group messages using a phone number. The app allows me to text all officers at once or just one officer,” says Natasha Schaefer, NHS adviser at Woodcreek High School in Roseville, CA. “The officers have their own Telegram group chat as well.”

Track It Forward

The Track It Forward app (www.trackitforward.com) is used by community charitable organizations to solicit volunteers. NHS adviser Kelly Dunigan from Tivy High School in Kerrville, TX, says, “I use Track It Forward to announce and remind students about volunteer opportunities. I also use it to track their service hours and service projects.”

Do What Works

No one in the Adviser Online Community who responded to my question said they used only one form of communication. Remind was the most commonly used method of getting the word out, and Google Classroom was a close second. Several advisers said that they, too, were always on the prowl for the best and most effective ways to communicate with their students. 

To choose which electronic platform to use, I would suggest first asking your membership for suggestions. Then, run these suggestions past the school’s administration to make sure that you are not going to run afoul of any policies or regulations regarding student-teacher electronic communication.

There is no singular best way to communicate, as each chapter and council is unique. Do what works best for you and your group. I suggest that you first review your district and building policies and guidelines for student communication. If at all possible, keep all the communications using a school-based log-in; this could provide a secure record of all conversations in case there is ever a need.

Regularly evaluate any program you use. I tell my NHS officers to keep an evaluation simple: What is working well? What needs improvement? Should this be stopped? For example, the officers wanted to try using Twitter and Instagram accounts this year. We will look at the number of posts to each account, the number of “likes,” the number of “retweets,” and so on to gauge membership interest. We will conduct a Google Classroom survey to ask the membership if they think the accounts are worth keeping. We’ll also query members to see what the leadership can do to make two-way dissemination better, and solicit any ideas anyone might have.

Let the officers handle most of the communication with the membership. The kids normally do not need much guidance or encouragement to do this. The basic rules that we tell the student leaders is that they should keep any electronic communication clean and professional; avoid stating opinions, just give the facts; and avoid using sarcasm. Of course, my co-adviser and I monitor all the electronic communications and give the officers feedback on a regular basis. Teaching students to be good communicators and good leaders is not that difficult; they just need good examples of both to follow. 


William McIlwee is an NHS adviser at Eureka High School in Missouri.