A group of Auburn middle-school students recently had the chance to do what many children only dream of — they took control of their school.
On Feb. 3, students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades at St. Joseph’s School switched roles with the principal, secretary and teachers. Principal Kathleen Coye said this special day, which was one of the school’s Catholic Schools Week activities, has become an annual event.
Interested students signed up ahead of time to spend an hour taking on the role of one of the adults at the school. Some of the students who signed up to be principal last year just liked being able to sit in her chair, Coye said.
“You just don’t know what grabs them about what they see adults doing every day,” she added.
Seventh-grader Mitch Ringwood said he decided to take over Coye’s job for an hour because he thought it would be fun to oversee the school and visit different classrooms throughout the day. He also enjoyed being able to let his classmates use the gym to play dodgeball and matball during their study hall.
“I wanted to give students privileges,” Mitch said. “I got to go around and see all the people and choose what happens.”
While Mitch’s experience as principal matched his expectations, that wasn’t the case for all the students who spent an hour in Coye’s chair.
“I wanted to see what kind of duties she takes up every day,” said eighth-grader Tim Brown, explaining why he wanted to try his hand at the principal job. “I kind of thought I’d be sitting around playing on the computer.”
Instead of playing on the computer, however, Tim was faced with the task of helping Coye discipline students who’d been throwing ice on the playground. While he enjoyed his time as principal, Tim said he realized discipline is not really “my area.”
Although all the students seemed to enjoy their adult roles, Tim probably had the most interesting experience, Coye said.
“He found out that you have to listen and hear what the students have to say” in order to understand the situation before disciplining someone, she said.
Sixth-grader Katie Bachman discovered that teaching English language arts to her fellow sixth-graders was also a bit different than she’d thought it would be. She and classmate Emma Christiantelli had the rest of their classmates pair off, interview each other and share what they’d learned with the class.
“I actually expected it to be a little easier,” Katie said. “It’s sort of hard sometimes to tell your classmates to do something.”
“It was difficult because it was hard to get their attention,” Emma added. The experience gave her a newfound appreciation for her teachers and a better understanding of how hard their job can be, she said. Although teaching the class was harder than they had expected, Katie and Emma said they enjoyed teaching and watching their classmates work together.
Fellow sixth-grader CJ Murphy led a religion class for the rest of the sixth-graders, reading the biblical story of Jesus’ miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes. She helped her classmates relate that story to the sacrament of holy Eucharist by bringing in bread and white grape juice.
“I decided to teach religion class because I always wanted to be a teacher and I decided (teaching the class) would be a good experience. I liked the experience of just teaching and being up there,” said CJ, who spent about a week preparing her lesson.
Eighth-grader Brian Roe, who took a turn as principal because he enjoys leadership roles, said he didn’t have any real expectations when the hour began.
“I didn’t know what to do (at first), but then I just started helping people out,” Brian said.
During his hour as principal, Brian helped his gym teacher and his music teacher and visited several classrooms. Students were supposed to be learning how to square dance in the gymnasium but couldn’t hear the music, so Brian helped the gym teacher find a microphone. When the music teacher was having problems with her computer, Brian found the computer teacher, who was able to fix the problem. Helping people felt good, he said.