HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
Recreating Student Council
Like most schools, ours had a student council, but one that did not have a dominant presence in the school or a clear understanding about what a student council was supposed to do. Because so many students had great leadership ability, we set out to form a new model that would provide greater structure and yearlong activity.
We found the solution in a new leadership model we named SPLASH, which stands for Students Promoting Leadership and Strengthening Heart. SPLASH is designed to provide a space for building student leaders and fostering a positive school climate. Instead of an election, interested students submit an application that requires them to reflect on the needs and wants of the student body, and what they can bring to the organization. Additionally, the application requires both a peer and teacher endorsement. The move to an application aims to reach students who want to be a part of student leadership but might not feel comfortable campaigning for votes. In this our first year, more than 30 students out of 49 students in grades 5-8 attended our informational meeting and took an application. We received 15 applications and accepted 12 based on the completeness and quality of the answers.
We spent our first session crafting our mission statement and learning the difference between being a boss and being a leader. There are no official positions like president or treasurer on SPLASH. Instead, students work together on committees to take on a project of their choice, so all students have the opportunity to learn how to plan an event, communicate with relevant parties, track and budget expenses, and work together on a team. Students engaged in a self-guided discussion to craft the official SPLASH mission statement: “The mission of SPLASH is to improve the experience of being in our school by representing the students and helping the greater community.” Based on this foundation, students created five categories of initiatives that are SPLASH-worthy:
SPLASH began in late October, and a public launch took place at a schoolwide assembly in January to familiarize with the members and our mission. We also give updates on planned and completed initiatives, such as the following success story, based on the school-improvement plan of an eighth-grade SPLASH member. Room 212 holds six different classes throughout the school day and does not have an “owner.” As a result, students and teachers go in and out, leave materials behind, and make this messy room one of students’ least favorite place to learn.
This eighth grader assembled a team of equally displeased middle school students, consulted with our business manager, submitted a design plan and remodeled the room. She assembled all of the teachers who use room 212 and requested they sort through their materials; she helped organize the closets and created a color scheme with corresponding bulletin boards. After the remodeling was finished, the other middle school students were astonished by the change. Room 212 has become a positive and comfortable learning environment, and both teachers and students make sure to leave it looking nice and tidy when they leave.
Room 212 still doesn't have a designated owner, but it is now SPLASH-sponsored and kept up by the entire student body. This is just one example of students promoting leadership and strengthening heart: SPLASH!
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Articles in this issue go beyond the skills and knowledge that a school leader requires, to explore the "dispositions," character traits, essential for this role. Half of the contributors currently occupy day school leadership roles; they reflect on the importance of a particular quality to their leadership style and experience. The other half are written by people engaged in training leaders, of Jewish education and beyond. Collectively, the pieces in the issue reflect part of the spectrum of personal qualities that inform the work of successful day school leadership.
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