50 Ways to Make Your School More Democratic | IDEA

50 Ways to Make Your School More Democratic

Posted by Kirsten Olson on Dec 11, 2010 - 04:12 PM

Editor's Note: Kirsten Olson is the co-chair of the IDEA Board of Directors and a guest blogger for IDEA. She also writes at the group blog Cooperative Catalyst.

It was an amazing meeting. Ten committed activists, educators, school founders, and school re-starters gathered for an IDEA Board Retreat in San Francisco last month. Fired up by Pedro Noguera's keynote speech to the Coalition of Essential Schools the day before, we framed up IDEA's commitments and strategy: how we move this baby out so we're actually doing something, making sure we're talking about what matters, and ensuring we're providing tools for change. Because we aim to be the organization in this country connecting people who are transforming and revolutionizing education, we had a lot to talk about.

Want to get in?

What have you done, as a classroom teacher, a student, a parent, an administrator, to make your school more equitable, less hierarchical, more welcoming to everyone, and more like a place where real thinking happens?


1. Invite 5 students to a faculty meeting

2. Eliminate staff and student bathrooms

3. Ask students to facilitate important school wide meetings

4. Start each day with a morning meeting and check in, and listen to each other. (How are you?
How are you feeling today?)

5. Ask students to develop rubrics for judging "excellent" work

6. End courses/units with a culminating projects designed by students, about something that really
matters to them

7. Have students read each other's papers and comment on them, directly to each other

8. Get students to determine the homework policy (even in the early grades)

9. Charge students with deciding what goes up on the walls at school

10. Pass a "talking stick" during intense discussions so that everyone gets a chance to speak

11. Eat lunch with kids (or teachers) you rarely talk to

12. Ask students to attend parent/teacher conferences

13. Ask students to evaluate themselves prior to parent/teacher conferences

14. Ask students to run parent/teacher conferences

15. Have everyone practice "yes/and" more than "no/but" (because success is available to everyone!)

We want to go for 50 (or hundreds) more suggestions, and then use them in our promotional
literature. Please let us know how you are making your school more democratic, or ways you wish your school were more democratic. Leave a comment!

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Sharing positive stories of change, providing perspective on key issues, and giving you wraps of the news and analysis to inspire learning, dialogue, and action.

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