Benj Vardigan, of the Oakland Small Schools Foundation, wrote this piece about the day fifth-graders at Think College Now assumed adult roles at the school. -Katy
Think College Now’s “Million Minute Challenge” has put staffers in some precarious positions. Two years ago, when students at the Fruitvale-area elementary school read a million minutes outside of class, Principal David Silver found himself spending the last day of school on the roof. Last year, the Student Council changed the reward, putting staff members into a dunk tank.
This year, the students looked to extend their power a bit more: On Wednesday, kids “ruled the school,” swapping roles with everyone from office staff to teachers.
Leading the takeover were fifth-graders Viviana and Gabriel, the class president and vice-president. In the morning, Silver relinquished the keys to the school, and walked Viviana and Gabriel through a long list of principal’s duties for the day. Other office staff turned over their jobs and desks to Student Council counterparts, who set to manning the phones, making copies, and doing computer work.
In the classrooms, teachers gave the reins to Student Council class representatives, taking seats at students’ desks and listening to the “student teachers.” Unsuspecting teachers were given “yellow cards” by students if they were found walking around school without a hall pass.
Reflecting on the day, Viviana said, “Today was really fun, but a lot of hard work at the same time. I wanted to go out with the fifth-graders after recess for the stuff they were doing with water balloons, but I had to work! [Vice-Principal] Gabriel wouldn’t let me go. He told me, ‘You can’t go, we have a responsibility.'”
Gabriel and Viviana thought they did a commendable job running the school, but both saw room for improvement. “I would give myself a 7 out of 10,” Gabriel said. “It was hard…we had to walk around all day long…but we gotta do what we gotta do.”