Preparing for forum magic
December 1, 2016
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In the midst of students getting acclimated to their new classes and classmates, PLUS Team has been preparing for their first forum of the year. Leaders of the forum address topics in order to find solutions and identify negative and positive aspects of student life.
Allowing the leaders to address different and diverse topics allow the PLUS Team to try and accomplish their goals.
“We want to hear from the students and the student body with what they feel is going right and going wrong, and not in any specific terms, but if there are any universal problems they are seeing or problems people are dealing with, like stress,” senior Alana Snow said. “It’s basically a safe place where people get a voice, and our goal is to see if we can make a better community of our campus and try to make everyone feel more included and maybe address some of these problems.”
However, creating a “safe place” for students is much harder than it may seem. The team has met after school multiple times per week to arrange and get ready for the forum. In this process, many people have to learn new jobs and know their place for the activity on Nov. 17.
“Students have to be really good communicators in order to facilitate the forum,” counselor Mrs. Penrod said. “The hardest part is when we hear something we don’t like and we model how to respect someone’s opinion you don’t like. So, training is a huge piece. There also the logistics of having a room that’s big enough to accommodate everybody, the support of teachers to be willing to let their students out of class early, or two periods out of the day.”
In between all the nooks and crannies of the project, the team has to plan out the topics they intend to talk about in their forum. They do this with the help of the students on the team and their own thoughts about the school. The students take what they, and their friends see and hear around school and think about topics they can bring up at the forum.
“It’s all student driven,” Mrs. Penrod said. “What we do is we brainstorm in small groups. The question is posed to students: What issues are facing you guys? What do you want to talk about? They will brainstorm and we will narrow it down, then address probably four. But because we have them in smaller groups, that four might actually end up being more. So, we go from a small group to a larger group discussion and share out what was talked about in our small groups.”
The forum does not only consist of people talking, it also includes activities. These activities help students communicate with another about the topics presented in the forum, and during the after school meetings, they work out details and anything out of order with one another.
“We stay after school, bit by bit for the the upcoming weeks,” Snow said. “Basically running through activities making sure we know how to run each activity, and what the purpose of it is, not just being like, ‘oh, we know how to play this game,’ but what is the purpose of it and why does it relate.”
Each forum, the PLUS Team receives different responses from students that participate. The team includes topics that confront students about the society and school they participate in, giving them a chance to talk openly about it.
“With the current state of race relations and different types of tension that exists in our nation right now, we feel like it’s very important to give kids a platform to be heard, to be known and to be seen for who we actually are not for what we look like,” Mrs. Penrod said.
Even though the team does not know how the students will respond initially to this forum, they are excited for them to participate in the activities and communicate with one another.
“I’m really really excited about the kids we have facilitating this year,” Mrs. Penrod said. “When it’s done right, I refer to it as ‘forum magic’, because people genuinely feel connected to each other when they leave.”