#48. Imagine something that you would like to be different at your school and write a thoughtful, respectful letter to the superintendent, principal, or head explaining your idea and why you think that it should be considered.

IDEA #48. Imagine something that you would like to be different at your school and write a thoughtful, respectful letter to the superintendent, principal, or head explaining your idea and why you think that it should be considered. Pat yourself on the back if you receive an answer, and be ready to follow up on your suggestion if your are invited to discuss it in person.

How appropriate to consider using the First Amendment right to “petition for redress of grievances” on the public official closest to the student: a school administrator. If the school is private, the right should be considered the same.

Students always have ideas about how schools should be run and how their programs should be organized, and here is a respectful, even formal, way to carry a suggestion forward from the conversational stage to the serious one. The first order of business is to come up with a positive suggestion that would make a difference in the quality of school life and that could also be accomplished without some sort of miracle occurring—a doubling of the budget, for example, or the abduction of an unpopular teacher by aliens.

Once an idea has been decided on and at least a suggested plan of action put together, the idea should be put into the form of a formal business letter presenting the proposal and some of the arguments in its favor. Organization should follow the form of a letter to an editor or public official: main point, supporting evidence, likely benefits, and respectful conclusion. This letter should above all things be carefully edited and proofread; it is, after all, about school.

If the idea is seen as sound by the recipients, there may be opportunities to further advance the argument and perhaps even to become involved in some sort of implementation process. A little-considered aspect of being a suggestion-maker is that the role often entails becoming a leader as well. The ability to enlist others in one’s own ideas is a practical skill that underlies many versions of active leadership, and of course there are rewards of accomplishment and pride for a successful endeavor.

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