Middle School Student Government

As head, one of my responsibilities is to meet with Middle School Student Government as their advisor. They like having a direct line of contact to their head, and they also do some important jobs for the school. These include:
Representing classrooms of younger kids and funneling requests up to me as head.

  • Planning fun events for the school
  • Doing service for the community.

Student government has met three times, and to my great pleasure, service and representation have been at the top of the agenda, well before fun. The students are taking very seriously the job of representing other kids’ requests to me. These have so far been for new basketballs, jump ropes, and a soccer ball, which will be granted, and more recess time every day (which will not be.) There has also been a request for a school-wide pajama day, which we’ll have the day after our day of service. The government representative students take their direct line to the head of school seriously and are helping younger classrooms discern what requests are reasonable (jump rope repair for example) and which are not (eating candy all day) before such requests even come to me.

But they’re also taking very seriously the idea that they are to do service. In our first brainstorm about what to do this year, there were more good service ideas generated than we have the capacity to take on right now, ranging from helping the school directly (organize the indoor recess toys so they’re easier to access) to the neighborhood (helping repair our little library and the other little libraries in the neighborhood) to the people who share our city. The student government has focused on doing a sandwich-a-thon, in which they make sandwiches for the Night Ministry, an organization that serves homeless youth and adults. In addition to making sandwiches, they will also get adults in their lives to pledge a per-sandwich gift, which they will be able to pass on as cash as well. The actual sandwich making will happen in our day of service in October, and student government will take a role in helping younger students assemble these sandwiches into bag lunches for homeless youth. In today’s meeting the students earnestly brainstormed what they need to do to prepare, including calculating a per-sandwich cost for ingredients, making a social media post to share, picking a donation level and a sandwich goal, and designing sign-up sheets. In our conversation today everyone had ideas and were prepared to put in the work to get this to happen.

When you give kids authority to make responsible decisions and ability to do good, their maturity and initiative can move the world. I’m happy to see our middle schoolers stepping into responsibility through student government.

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Karen Carney

is the head of school. Karen’s career demonstrates a rich and diverse set of skills: project oversight, curriculum development, educator training and mentoring, and classroom instruction. Prior to coming to Chicago Friends School, she worked as a senior specialist in science curriculum for American Institutes for Research. Before this, she oversaw educational programming at the Adler Planetarium, first as its director of education and then as associate vice president for visitor experience and learning. She has also worked in instruction and teacher development at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Learning Sciences Research Institute and has authored more than 20 scholarly papers, book chapters, and conference presentations.

Karen is an active, dedicated Friend (Quaker) and has held various leadership positions at the Evanston Friends Meeting. She enjoys baking, cooking, and painting and is a member of the Playmation improv comedy team.