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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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How Does Your School Have Fun?

Bob Lenz

Co-founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA

Recently, I listened to a story on NPR's All Things Considered called "'Serendipitous Interaction' Key To Tech Firms' Workplace Design" that highlighted the cultures of innovation and creativity at Google and Facebook. The leaders of these organizations intentionally create opportunities for collaboration, learning and fun because they believe it will lead to the creation of better products and services.

Unfortunately and ironically, our schools and districts -- institutions of learning -- often stifle collaboration, learning, and fun for adults and kids. The story about Google and Facebook caused me to reflect on the adult culture at Envision schools -- do we have fun? Upon reflection, it is clear that we are serious about student learning and we also believe in having some fun and celebration at the same time. I will share examples from our last All Envision professional development day (all four schools staff with the support office staff; i.e., central office).

Envision Idol

In order to entertain and inspire our students during community meetings or assemblies, all of our schools produced choreographed musical productions of current pop hits like, "Gangnam Style." Video of these spirited, fun and sometimes "instructional" numbers began circulating around the network along with friendly "trash" talk about who had the most talent. It became clear that we needed to have a competition to determine the true Envision Idol and we called for each school and the Envision support office to be prepared to present a musical production at our next All-Envision Professional Development Day.

All of our schools along with their principals and the support office with yours truly, the CEO, stepping up to the challenge, too. We all had a chance to exercise our inner diva and rap/pop/rock star. It was a blast! We are still laughing and bragging about this event almost two months later.

"Awards"

At the conclusion of each All-Envision Day, principals present the coveted "C" awards and the Special Ed Department honors the "MVP of IEP." At Envision, we teach and assess the Four "C's": Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Completing Projects. Each professional development day each school honors one staff member with a Big C trophy and explains how they exemplify that "C." In addition, the Special Ed Team highlights one staff member at each school who exemplifies our Response to Intervention strategy through their practice in the classroom, at IEP meetings, and in their collaboration with the Special Ed Team. One person is honored with a medal from each school and from that group an MVP of IEP's is named too much fanfare -- standing ovation and cheering. The winner is presented with a perpetual trophy to be passed on to the next MVP at our next professional development day.

These might sound hokey but these "awards" authentically celebrate our aspirations and our colleagues in way that resonates with our culture.

How does your school or organization have fun? Please share how you have fun and celebrate each other professionally -- include photos and videos!

Comments (7)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Ted Curran's picture
Ted Curran
Instructional Designer, Samuel Merritt University

One thing I remember about working at CAT was that we used our Google Talk statuses as a way of "tweeting" fun factoids, inside jokes, and useful logistical information. This added a layer of fun for those moments when we looked away from our serious email conversations to help us connect informally with co-workers.
Now that "Twitter for your Enterprise" apps like Yammer and Presently are trying to re-create that experience, I think back to how effective that practice was for keeping everyone informed without an excess glut of email traffic.

Bob Lenz's picture
Bob Lenz
Co-founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA
Blogger

That tradition continues at Envision - thanks for sharing it Ted!

Ms.Garcia's picture
Ms.Garcia
High School English Teacher from Navajo Nation

At the beginning of the year, we did a lot of fun ice breakers and goal setting that really made people laugh and connect. But lately our meetings are bogged down with memos and stress where no one really wants to learn that day.

This provided a necessary reminder to have fun for tomorrow's PD. Hopefully I come up with something great!

Bob Lenz's picture
Bob Lenz
Co-founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA
Blogger

Ms. Garcia,

Thanks for your comment - let us know how it goes. Have fun!

Bob

Darcy Sherman's picture
Darcy Sherman
3rd grade

Our school places a lot of fous on how to engage students and let them know their hard work is noticed. We talk about celebrations monthly. Recently, we held a 15 minute assesmbly to recognize their hard work on a big state test. We even called a last minute assessmbly before the test to pump them up and remind them to do their best! Our final celebration included a popular hip hop dance which everyone got the opportunity to participate in. It was a success. We also find it helpful to have a funky friday once a month. (Crazy hair, twin day, etc. and then have a quick 10 minute assembly to show off to the school. Then we select a winner with a prize. This obviously has nonthing to do with academics on the friday activities but it keeps children engaged and provides a sense of "fun" in their culture of high demands.

Jen Evans's picture
Jen Evans
3rd Grade Teacher form Philadelphia, PA

On the first Friday of each month we have a success assembly where each class chooses their student of the month and their most improved. We also allow students who completed all their homework for the month dress down. The students really enjoy this. They strive to work harder to receive the award.

As for the teachers, on the first day of professional development we each received an index card. We had to write our name and 3 facts about ourselves that others probably did not know. Then someone read the cards (without the name) and we had to guess who is was. It was fun to find out fun things about each coworker. We also did a lot of ice breakers.

Before the state test, we do a PSSA pep rally for the students. They love this! We play different games and the teachers end with a dance. This year we are doing Gangnan Style! They students are going to go crazy!

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