Seat-time vs. Street-time

All the snow days from this winter has brought into focus a discussion about making up “time”. These conversations about “time”, revolve around the concept called ‘seat-time’ or in other words how many hours/days does a student sit in the classroom learning. Schools are mandated to have so much ‘seat-time’.

However, I’m going to tee up an idea that school’s should be asked about their “street-time” as well! How do schools ensure they are raising community-minded young people who are eager/willing to serve? How well does a school get their youth out on the pavement interacting with their community organizations or committing acts/works of service?

I’m passionate about service and our local Blue Valley FFA organization seeks to help serve where we can best support our community! Our school is also committing to getting our students out and about by hosting Save the World Days at all of our learning centers. Yet, we are not alone in this endeavor!

Below is highlights from two outstanding educators from diverse parts of the country who are seeking to get their students as much “street-time” as possible! I hope you enjoy and value their insights into how they get students out into their communities:


Lead Learner Profile – Jon Wennstrom — Twitter Handle = @jon_wennstrom

Jon is a principal for Livonia Public Schools in the Metro Detroit area. He has 24 years of experience in education ranging from classroom teacher, high school wrestling coach, theater director, chief academic officer, online instructor and his current and favorite position, elementary school principal. Outside of school, he is a member of Rotary International, and is the president-elect for the Michigan Elementary & Middle School Principals Association (MEMSPA). Most recently, he was named the 2018 Michigan PTA administrator of the year. Jon also blogs at https://jonwennstrom.com/

Why is it important to get students engaged in their local community?

Students who are engaged, become adults who are engaged. We need to instill the love of learning AND service in students, so they can become productive citizens and engaged adults.

What have been some barriers/challenges you have faced in getting students outside the confines of the classroom and into the community? 

Pressure on classroom teachers to “cover all the curriculum” and evaluations on state or district assessments. Sadly, these factors are sometimes the only thing students and teachers are evaluated on and they want to put as much focus on them as possible.

How have you overcome those barriers/challenges?

My focus is on the relationships first (Teacher to student, parent to school, admin to staff). I also try to recognized and reward staff who step up with relationship building and also community projects. When staff see that is my focus, they feel empowered to step outside the “curriculum zone” and look at service projects as well. It is also possible to blend the two and tie in service projects WITH the curriculum.

What best practices have you found in getting students engaged in their communities?

We have several opportunities, like “Youth Making a Difference” projects that we promote at a district level and recognized students for projects. Several classrooms also do their own projects (like care packages for veterans, Pajama Drive, etc). We always do a schoolwide project each year, focused on helping the community (like Goodfellows canned food drive). We make service fun for students and tie it in with our character themes each month!

How have you approached building community partnerships for these experiences?

I lead by example. I am part of our local Rotary Club and I often bring them into the school for reading buddies and literacy partnerships. I also discuss my personal service projects with students (Rotary, Special Olympics, St. Baldrick’s, etc). I share how good it feels to give back and recognize students and staff when they have partnered with service organizations as well. We also promote scouts and other organizations that focus on service in the community.


Lead Learner Profile – Hans Appel — Twitter Handle = @hansappel094

Hans Appel has worked as a counselor in the Richland School District for the past 18 years and at Enterprise Middle School since it opened.  He’s passionate about school culture, servant leadership, and kindness.  In 2018, EMS was awarded the ASCD Whole Child Award for the State of Washington and the Global “Class Act Award” for creating a culture of excellence through kindness, service, and empathy.  Recently, Hans launched his own blog about School Culture and this fall rolled out a student-led leadership podcast called Award Winning Culture: Hosted by Wildcat Nation, which can be subscribed, listened or reviewed on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, and Libsyn.  He can be contacted at Hans.Appel@rsd.edu. Follow Hans on twitter @hansappel094 or Wildcat Nation at @emswildcats1 #WildcatNation #AwardWinning Culture

Why is it important to get students engaged in their local community?

It’s critical to inspire students to become servant leaders in their community so they can see the connection between what their learning in school and its application to their life outside of school.  By teaching our students to become Character Strong, we’re fostering the gift of kindness, service, and empathy.  Ultimately, when we teach the Whole Child, we equip them with the soft skills to be successful in reaching their dreams!

What have been some barriers/challenges you have faced in getting students outside the confines of the classroom and into the community?

All the barriers are adult centered.  Students desperately WANT to be engaged outside of the schoolhouse.  Sometimes adults fear about policies, risks, and challenges are indeed the greatest OBSTACLES in connecting students with community.  We have to push past initial concerns and remember how rewarding, empowering, and uplifting a school/community connection can be. We need to create cultures of YES.  (The answer is YES…now what is the question). Educators blaze community partnership trails for students by making kindness normal in and out of the school. For instance, here’s a few small ways that Wildcat Nation worked on connecting with our bus drivers, local grocery store, and custodian through “The Golden Broom.”  By sharing your school’s vision and story on social media, local news, and newspapers, your community can’t help but be drawn into your web of AWESOMENESS.  When positivity becomes what your school is known for, community barriers seem to magically disappear.

How have you overcome those barriers/challenges?

Don’t let difficult questions deter your pursuit of community connection.  Sometimes bringing the community to you, is the best way to get started. Last year, we created community events such as Community Strong and our College Career Day to intentionally overcome previous obstacles to bring everyone into our shared Wildcat Nation brand.  “Branding isn’t just about school choice, it’s a way of creating a community and a shared belief system for your school culture.”  People simply support…that…which they help build.

What best practices have you found in getting students engaged in their communities?

It starts with modeling from adults.  Give them opportunities in and out of school to interact with community members.  Additionally, we have to intentionally teach them how to do that. For instance, one way we teach community outreach is with Character Dares, through the Whole Child program: Character Strong which intentionally challenges students, educators, and parents to move outside their comfort zones and into servant leadership roles.  We focus on a daily question of “What Will You Do For Others Today?” which was inspired by John Norlin.  This question drives our practice, thinking, and planning everyday.  But adults have to be willing, to jump in to explore this life-altering character question for themselves.

How have you approached building community partnerships for theses experiences?

Relationships.  Relationships. Relationships.  You can’t wait to build relationships when you (the school or educator) needs something from your community.  Educators must reach out and connect and teach students how relationships are actually formed. These specific acts of community building lay the groundwork for partnerships that become long standing learning opportunities.

And, focusing on the community has a direct connection to school culture.  In 2018, Enterprise Middle School was awarded the ASCD Whole Child Award for the State of Washington and the Global “Class Act Award” for creating a culture of character, excellence, and community.  This fall we rolled out a student-led leadership podcast called Award Winning Culture: Hosted by Wildcat Nation, which can be subscribed, listened or reviewed on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and Libsyn as a way to reach our global community.


Thank you again to Jon and Hans for sharing these valuable insights!!

As we stare down the end of the year and think about the next; let’s all challenge ourselves and our schools to think beyond the classroom:

How can our schools’ serve others in the community?

What partnerships exist that could help facilitate service-learning?

How can students and parents be involved in identifying and leading service-oriented initiatives?

These are just a few brainstorming questions to get us started on the journey of establishing an outward focused, serving culture. Looking to the future of education in our local communities we must not neglect that our schools can (and should) be a powerful conduit between generations, neighborhoods, and diverse families. If done intentionally, schools can become a transformative force in their communities.

Have a blessed rest of the week and find a way to serve someone!

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