BASSETT, CA – Bassett High English teacher Tania Neri’s class formed a line dance to ask a series of “Would you rather?” questions each time they changed partners, learning personal details about their schoolmates on the first day of school on Aug. 6.

“I saw that students were happier, more engaged,” Neri said. “We spent the rest of the day talking to each other, instead of going over rules or homework assignments. It’s what the students wanted on their first day, to open communication with the teachers and make new friends.”

This activity was repeated throughout Bassett High to welcome students back to school in a warmer environment as part of various suggestions made during a professional development training seminar on Aug. 3. Bassett High teachers, students and parents brainstormed ideas to create a more positive high school experience, discussed how to improve freshmen year and school image, and found ways to boost parent engagement.

Bassett High junior Julianna Rivera felt that incoming freshmen should have an immersive first day experience that included guided tours and teachers sharing personal experiences on their lives and about college.

“I want to be able to talk to teachers about problems at school and how we can work together to fix them,” Rivera said. “Freshmen should be encouraged to get involved in school activities and join clubs and academic groups.”
The seminar was conducted by Design School X (DSX), an organization that applies design thinking in education and reimagines high schools as centers of student equity and creativity.

Founder David Clifford, a former Stanford fellow, and colleague Corrina Hui asked Bassett students and parents during the training seminar to make a list of their primary concerns and offer suggestions on how they can work with school administrators to make improvements. They then discussed with faculty and staff different approaches to address these concerns.

“The input resonated greatly with our teachers,” Bassett High Principal Gabriel Fernandez said. “It changed the whole school dynamic on the first day.”

Bassett High’s collaboration with DSX will continue throughout the school year.

“Bassett Unified is committed to working collaboratively with our community to make the school experience academically and socially rewarding,” Bassett Unified Superintendent Debra French said. “Thank you to Gabriel Fernandez for bringing DSX to empower our students and parents to play a larger role in the educational process.”