Source: efc.gwu.edu | Re-Post System4 8/24/2016 –
Several years ago one of my doctoral students was appointed principal of a large inner city school. He shared with me his shock at his first visit: he said a horrible odor of urine and filth met him at the door. Hallways were dirty from years of use, with no paint; lockers were peeling and rusted; floors looked dirty because dirt had been covered with wax; dirt was so accumulated in corners that the floor could not be seen. Bathrooms were intolerable; no one would want to use them. The thought of elementary children using them was unthinkable. Classrooms were dingy, dirty, and uninviting; a long time had passed since the color of the walls was recognizable. It was only a few weeks before school was to begin; he knew that he had to do something—anything—to make the school more welcoming and appropriate for teaching and learning.
My student was conducting his doctoral research on how the conditions of the school facility affect student achievement; he was familiar with the research and the preponderance of the evidence exhibiting a very strong connection between the places were students learn and achievement. He also had an old, familiar dilemma: he knew things he needed to do, but had no funds for his building. Educators, however, do not always see a lack of funding as a reason not to get things done. He got his leadership team and office staff together to develop a plan. They decided to call for community cleaning days for the next weekend. Posters when up; calls went out. The principal contacted a couple of the local stores that sold paint and asked for any paint they were willing to donate, along with brushes, rollers, tape, and other supplies. Parents were asked to bring cleaning supplies, brooms, and mops—and friends and neighbors willing to work on both the inside and outside of the school property. Teachers were asked if they would volunteer to help paint and clean their classrooms and to make them inviting.
When school began the day after Labor Day, a miracle had happened. Teachers and students opened the front doors to a bright and clean foyer, newly painted hallways, and lockers that had been scrubbed down. Students entered freshly painted classrooms, with posters and bulletin boards that stood out on the clean walls. Although a great deal of the donated paint had been white, tints were added to make the colors warm and inviting. Restrooms were clean, painted, and smelled so much better. Teachers were bubbly and happy about the changes; office staff benefitted from the teacher excitement, and the leadership team felt they had started the year on the right foot.