Professional Learning

The Classroom Booster Club, Part Two: Connecting with the Community

August 26, 2008

This is the second part of a two-part entry. Read part one.

Sports teams have booster clubs -- people who straddle the formally regulated school funding arena and private enterprise. This means they are able to act like entrepreneurs -- go for what they want or need, rather than having to convince somebody else (like a principal, a technology director, or a school board) of the worthiness of their idea.

So, if you are doing a water-quality unit, it only makes sense to create your own booster club of folks who share your interest in the topic. What about the director of the local water system or members of a local environmental-protection group?

If you live in an area where having too little -- or too much -- water is a well-publicized problem, folks who work in community planning or resource management, as well as members of rod-and-gun clubs, all have a natural interest in the topic. Find ways to connect with these folks and help them understand that the project you and the kids are going to get involved in is related to their own efforts -- and, presto, you have a booster club that will help you get what you need.

Sports backers, be they members of the booster club or not, tend to understand politics and are not afraid to act politically to get what they need. Let's say your school is located in a rural community with a long history of basketball prowess, but you have learned that proposed school-budget cuts will have a dramatic impact on the basketball program. Want to whip up a frenzy of focused activity? Spread the word about the cuts -- and the fact that they will lead to a severely limited schedule that will effectively ensure that the team will not make it to the state tournament.

With that done, you will be able to fill that school board's budget meeting with folks who are willing to speak and vote. Phones will ring in school board members' homes, letters will be written to the community's newspaper editor, local call-in shows will see a surge in calls, and discussion will heat up in both front rooms and back rooms. I'm pretty sure that basketball program will survive, and perhaps receive additional resources, as the community's awareness of how much the team means to it will have been purposefully raised. So, get political -- build a community of people who understand the power of your idea and are willing to speak in its favor.

And accept the fact that when it comes to making things happen, who you know often matters more than what you know. Want to do a study of the birds that frequent the feeder you and the kids have installed at your school? Connect with the local Audubon Society, and I am confident you will find allies who not only share your passion for birds but also can make calls to people in places of power should you need a little extra funding. Politics is not a dirty word -- it is the way human communities work. Play it fair, and the kids will be the winners.

How have you gotten things done by thinking, and acting, in innovative and effective ways? Please share -- a teacher teaching a teacher is always a great way to grow!

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