June 01, 2005
In response to the teacher looking for help with a student council, some words of advice. Having the principal on board is most important, so speak to your principal for his or her ideas. They are your best allies. We started a student council in our elementary school this year, using grades 5 and 6 at the principal's request. Keep the expectations very basic and simple. The students will blossom and accomplish great things. It is tempting to do the work for them, as it would take an adult five minutes to do what may take them five hours. However, they will not learn if they don't do. We use parliamentary procedure to speed up our 25 minute weekly meetings. After they get the idea, it really helps. The projects we have undertaken have included: Suggestion boxes in each room; Blizzard Day (preceded by school-wide snowflake making) with everyone wearing white clothes, winter hats and mittens; Tsunami Relief effort with hats allowed for $1 and hearts displayed for any donation, and an assembly which included a presentation of a check to a representative of UNICEF; Shriners' Hospital for Children aluminum tab collection to purchase medical and non-medical items for this hospital that provides care at no charge to the recipients; and an Ice Cream Social for the entire school (with voluntary donations) to take place in June. All the planning is done by committees of students headed by members of the student council with an advisor there to facilitate only. The representatives are elected after writing paragraphs to read about why they should be elected. Each month a different student is the chairperson and another the secretary. For younger children, you might want to limit the amount of members to a manageable number. There are many ideas that they will come up with that are too ambitious for them to succeed. You will be able to guide them to start with something simple, and they will grasp the idea from then on. Our council also made posters for the PTO, and will be involved in a school-wide safety program next year, because a train is coming to our little town.