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School started for students last week in many states, this week in many more, and next week for others including my local districts. As teachers and leaders, and friends and families of teachers and leaders, school started for us at least a couple weeks prior! Of course, many teachers have used the summer to develop new lessons, attend professional development training, and replace worn materials with new materials; so for many teachers, Monday will simply be an extension of summer preparation for the start of the school year and day 1 with kids.

I spent a few days at an elementary school this week and the energy that a new school year brings was evident – the excitement of new collaborations, new learning/professional development opportunities, and a culture of caring and wanting to make a difference in the lives of their students and parents – also realized by the school’s principal communicating to her colleagues, “from what I’ve seen around here in the past 3 weeks, there is a ton of support for all of us.” The evidence of the principal’s words grounded in examples from their community partners:

A neighborhood church inviting school employees for lunch and fellowship – the event a reminder of their commitment to students and their families and creating a school where students can find success;

A local landscaping company donating materials and time to beautify the school’s main entrance; and

Volunteers from the community – including teachers’ spouses, children, and parents – donating their time and resources to clean and beautify the school’s landscape and sidewalks; and donating school spirit t-shirts.

Each new school year offers us an opportunity to get involved with a community school. Landscaping not for you? There are endless other options. Consider, for example, the old bumper sticker, “If you can read this, thank a teacher,” and thank that teacher you remember by volunteering to read one hour per week with a student in a current teacher’s classroom. Below are some areas that community friends have volunteered:

A chef assists a teacher in bringing alive books by cooking (e.g., Green Eggs and Ham).

An artist brings books alive through murals in the library.

An avid gardener assists with a school’s community garden.

A chemist engages students with fun science experiments.

A computer scientist from the local university mentors a high school student interested in computing.

A college student studying health does a “Health and Wellness” night at the school for students and their parents.

Opportunities to get involved in your schools are endless. Make a commitment. Make a difference. I bet what you receive will be much greater… at least that’s been my experience.

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