The Absolute Best School Climate Blogging (This Week): Awesome Yearbook Edition

By Evie Blad — October 03, 2014 2 min read
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Happy Friday, Rules readers. I’d like to share some links with you about school climate and student well-being. But first, let’s talk about this laser-filled photo.

If you watch late night TV, read blogs, or subscribe to a large newspaper, there’s a good chance you’ve already seen this photo. The professional portrait of a high school student and his principal holding their beloved pets is an amazing image on its own, but it also offers some potential insights into school climate.

Draven Rodriguez, a 16-year-old student at Schenectady High School in New York, originally took the 1990s style school photo alone with his cat, Mr. Bigglesworth, in hopes of using it as his senior yearbook portrait. Recognizing that the school might have some objection to the unconventional photo, Rodriguez started an online petition drive that quickly spiraled into a social media sensation.

“Hi all. This is my photo that should be going into the yearbook, but we know how finicky the school systems can be,” Rodriguez wrote. “I’m hoping that with enough signatures, my school simply can’t turn this down.”

When the school said the photo didn’t meet the criteria for inclusion in the student portrait section, Principal Diane Wilkinson offered a compromise: If Draven and Mr. Bigglesworth would pose next to the administrator and her chihuahua, Vivienne, Wilkinson agreed to use the photo on her principal’s page to raise awareness for animal rescue efforts.

“Being principal of 2,400 kids, you want to think of all the kids who want to have a professional shot that looks consistent in that area,” Wilkinson told the Albany Times-Union. “I loved Draven’s picture so much.”

So what can we learn from this? Wilkinson’s willingness to both see the humor in the situation and to embrace it surely made her more relatable to students, not just Rodriguez (although I’m sure there are some jealous kids who’d like to be in that photo too). She saw an opportunity to adhere to the yearbook’s rules while also recognizing the creativity of a student. In a time when student voice, individuality, and healthy student-educator relationships so emphasized in schools, maybe we’ll start seeing more Mr. Bigglesworth photos in yearbooks. Maybe.

Now for those links. This week, we read about civic engagement, teaching millenials, and the importance of supporting students.

On civic engagement...

Intuitively, we know that joining an organization, attending a public meeting or donating time or money to a charitable cause can all contribute to the social good. But there is a growing body of research that highlights additional benefits for individuals and society." —A new report from Opportunity Nation explores the correlations between civic engagement and youth success.

On those millenials...

When teachers communicate with students in a way that confirms their performance in class, it helps students feel better about their learning experiences and, ultimately, challenges them to continue improving." —Teaching Now covers new research on teaching students born roughly between 1980 and 2000.

On supporting students...

Instead of allowing everyone in our schools—students, teachers, and other staff members—to focus on these fundamentals, we have insisted on setting up an accountability system on a narrow set of measures: grades and test scores. And we have gone insane over it." —Brandon H. Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education, writes about the needs of students to feel supported and engaged.

Photo: Vincent Giordano/Trinacria Photography

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.