Culture Hacking

My friend John Burk, blogger and teacher extraordinaire, began a discussion last night about culture hacking as a way of creating positive change in schools. It was an amazing night of discussion, as friends from multiple schools had come together under nature’s canopy of Woodland Gardens for discussion and gelato. Yum!

What I took from that discussion were some ideas about subversively creating positive change in school culture. Below I’ve listed some of my ideas, and I’d love more if yall think of any.

1) Poetry Flash Mobs: Instead of having kids do the same old memorize-a-peom-and-recite-it-to-the-class, why don’t I the kids to get into groups, choose the same poem, all memorize it, and then flash mob poems across campus (and film it!). What a neat and fun way to share the beauty of poetry with others. Because they would film it, I would still be able to “assess” their knowledge of the poem and the appropriateness of their delivery of it.

2) LookMeInTheEye Challenge: Even though I did not attend Washington and Lee University, there are many elements of that school that I love. One of which is the “Speaking Tradition.” On or off campus, it has become normalized in the culture that people acknowledge one another as they walk by. I love that. Pass a person, smile and say hello, even if you don’t know him. Couldn’t we implement something like that in our schools? Challenge your kids to see how many people will smile and say hello to them as they walk down the halls when they do it first. Could civility take root?

3) Faculty Lounge Office Hours: I am beyond blessed by the facilities at my school. My classroom, which I do not share with anyone, is the size of a small house. I even have couches!

This sumptuousness means, however, that I truly never have to leave. Why would I ever want to leave this oasis? So, I never go into the faculty lounge. Here is where I lose: I don’t ever get to just sit around and chat with my colleagues at school. I have lost some of the informal learning and bonding that goes on in arenas like the faculty lounge. So here is an idea inspired by Bart Griffith: at my school, we have an hour of “office hours” at the end of the school day where students can come in and get extra help. Instead of sitting in my room, alone, waiting for students, why don’t I join up with some colleagues from the English department, or-gasp-another department, and tell my students to meet me there? I am confident that only good can come of it, both for us, and our kids!

4) Revive the Salons: Nothing pleases me more or makes me feel more “learned” than the word “salon.” It brings to mind 18th and 19th century minds who gathered together to civilly discuss ideas. What is better than that?! Recently, I’ve been trying to have little “mini” salons with friends who are interested in education (or any other idea, really) by hosting dinner parties or get togethers with a pre-set discussion theme. One recent and awesome “salon” occurred when my-favorite-man and I hosted some friends and their significant others for a pot-luck supper. One of our esteemed guests brought up the subject of grading, and wham… we were off. Some teachers and non-teachers hashing it out over standards based grading, the value of grades, feedback, and standardized tests…all over some lovely honey mustard chicken, quinoa, and greek salad!

What other ways can you think of to “culture hack” to bring about the changes that you’d like to see?

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About epdwilliams

Junior High English Teacher The Westminster Schools
This entry was posted in Education. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Culture Hacking

  1. John Burk says:

    Peyten,
    I love this. I love you look me in the eye challenge, and I’m picturing an awesome visual campaign of people’s eyes from around campus—with some sort of “do you recognize these eyes” tag, or a “how can you avoid these gorgeous eyes.” It would be a fun campaign for a group of students with an eye for visual design (pun intended). And the flash mobs idea is awesome—especially the idea about recording them. You could also easily post all of them to a blog, and it would be a wonderful project for the world to see.

  2. Tara says:

    Ms. D, I think this sounds awesome! The second idea sounds like Paying it Forward and the salon thing sounds super sophisticated :). We tried one in french which was quite cool! I alsothink the joint office hours ties in well with the concept that class shouldn’t be so individualized but the ideas should flow together.

  3. Almost Coherent says:

    Great posts, Ms. D. You make me miss teaching for a little bit each post I’ve read. As for the teacher’s lounge, that was one of the best places in the world for bouncing ideas off each other, but mostly learning how the school culture worked and how to be a teacher outside the classroom. And I got to hear Bill Caldwell hold forth. Ask him about Leigh Mackay giving me a hard time. Ahhh. . . the stories.

  4. Pingback: CultureHack Challenge: Update | Superfluous Thoughts

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