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Have a Ball:
Making a Large School Seem Smaller

I just took over the principalship of a large (1,100 students) high school. Not only are there more than 125 employees, but the campus is more than a quarter of a mile long. I learned through a staff survey that there is division within the staff due to the size of the school and the fact that it is split into a north wing and a south wing. During the first in-service, I asked two teachers from the farthest part of each wing to stand. As it turned out, they were sitting right beside each other. When asked if they knew one another, the answer was "no."

They did not even know each others names. I had them introduce themselves and tell something about themselves. Then I had everyone stand up. Prior to the start of the meeting I had placed colored balls on the tables. I asked those closest to the balls to pick them up. I instructed them to start playing catch by tossing the balls around the room.

After I let them toss the balls and laugh a little, I asked them to stop. I informed those teachers still holding the balls that they now had a task: their task was to seek out someone in the opposite wing who they really did not know, introduce themselves, and do something nice for that person. At that point they needed to sign their name on the ball and hand the ball to the new person. Then the new person had to tackle the same task -- outside of the meeting. I told them to keep passing the balls. After a couple of weeks, I collected them.

I took a little time to identify staff members who never signed a ball. Next, one of the balls was chosen by random selection and everyone whose name was on the ball was given a gift certificate. All of the names of those who never signed a ball were placed in a drawing, and the winner of the drawing was also given a gift certificate. It should be noted that all staff were included: teachers, cooks, custodians, secretaries, paras and administrators.

Alan Beam, principal, Shawnee Heights High School, Tecumseh, Kansas

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