Increasing retention is one of my main tasks as an administrator on the academic side of my school. We know that students leave for all sorts of reasons, and many of them are for reasons I can't fix: a sick family member, for example, or a move to a new state. But what can we fix?
That will be one of my primary questions in the months to come. I want to try a combination of methods that I'm fairly sure will work: more tutoring, for example. But I also want to try some experiments.
At a different campus of my school, a former director of education had one of the highest retention rates ever in the history of the school. How did he do it? He had a passion for beach clean up, and he invited students to participate.
Now maybe there was another dynamic at work. But what if retention is as simple as making students feel like they're making a contribution to something larger than themselves?
Let me ponder that idea a bit longer before launching any possibilities. Today, I'm doing something simpler. I'm offering food in honor of the first day of class. And my plan is to do this for the next 3 days.
Now, I'm not bringing homemade treats. I want something that I can hand to students as they head to class. So yesterday I went out and bought a huge variety of granola bars. I also bought those small oranges (seedless!) and bananas, for those who want to be very healthy.
I'm going to hand out the granola bars because they're much more expensive and popular, and I want my supply to last for a few days. I'm hoping that having some breakfast foods will help students feel welcomed back in a different way than we've usually done. Our usual way is to stand in the lobby saying, "Welcome back!" Now we'll have that--along with treats!
In my work through the years on various church councils, I was always the one asking how we could add food to an event. Some people got frustrated with that approach, but I always believed that food could serve as quite a motivator. And some of our students have some food scarcity issues--students across the nation suffer more hunger and homelessness than many of us would think.
I'm thinking of ways to help students who have food scarcity issues. We have a student lounge with a long counter. I've wondered about having a crockpot of soup always at the ready. We have a coffee maker where students can make coffee. Why not soup?
I'll continue thinking about these initiatives and since I know that many of us are responsible for student success, I'll keep posting ideas and progress reports here. Maybe we can all inspire each other.
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