Over the years as a middle level adviser, I have talked to other advisers, student leaders in other districts, and my own students to find out the biggest needs of any council. I have taken that feedback and developed a training to help lay the foundation for success. Consider implementing these practical tips and protocols to assist your student council or NJHS chapter this year:
- Host a training. We conduct training where all council members can get to know their role as a student council leader. First, we create an agenda that new members get to see firsthand to learn how it helps us run meetings. Then we engage in an icebreaker activity that allows students to get to know each other. I call on the leadership expertise of some of my former members who are now in high school student council—they come back and showcase their leadership. This gives kids a chance to form bonds with other leaders in the district and offers my council some super role models.
During the training, kids rotate through workshops that cover parliamentary procedure, public speaking, advertising, and brainstorming ideas for all committees for the year (including fundraising, service, dance/events/assemblies, and school spirit). Members learn all about the committees and rank their choices. Officers use part of the training to review members’ choices, and they create committees and appoint chairpersons. I allow the student officers to make these choices with very little input from me; I love to dialogue with them about their rationale and help to support them in developing as leaders. Some of our middle level officers do presentations at our state organization, familiarizing them with the opportunities of conferences, as well as summer camps.
- Use the Remind app. One of the most important components of a successful year with your students is communication. Using the Remind app has revolutionized the way I communicate with members and families. It is a quick and easy way to keep them informed of upcoming projects, programs, activities, and meetings. You can even set your announcements ahead of time to be delivered on a future date. And it’s free! (Find out more about the Remind app at www.remind.com.)
- Meet frequently with officers. In addition to the two meetings a month that are scheduled with our council (one meeting is formal with an agenda, and the other is a working committee meeting), I meet with officers two more times a month in order to discuss our goals. I ask each officer to set four goals: three attainable goals and one “dream” goal. We review progress and talk about ways to move forward. Officers use this time to review any concerns of the committees that they oversee. Our officers include president, vice president, recording secretary, corresponding secretary, treasurer, and social media.
- Schedule monthly meetings with building administration. Our officers meet with our building administration once a month to review the projects, activities, and direction of the student council. This meeting also allows the kids to seek permission for council initiatives.
- Explore Google Classroom and Google Hangouts. Being a 1:1 school where every student has a Chromebook, it has become so much easier to communicate with the kids through Google Hangouts and by setting up a Google Classroom. All of our agendas, minutes, reminders, and paperwork are posted in the Google Classroom. This saves me from duplicating agendas, minutes, and other paperwork that can get lost. Kids can communicate with me through Google Hangouts, as well as communicate with their committees. This saves me from calling them to see me about every little detail.
Planning ahead will allow you to build the skills in your students that will serve them for years to come. Taking time to train your students on the front end will make your job as an adviser much easier as well. Wishing you a successful year with your student council or NJHS chapter!
Jackie Jaros is a school counselor and student council adviser at Deer Lakes Middle School in Cheswick, PA.