All students will achieve their maximum potential by becoming responsible, productive citizens and life-long learners.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Orientation Should Focus on Mindset

The genesis for this post was a statement I made last year after attempting to deliver my normal freshman orientation parent workshop titled; Getting to Know the Handbook.  Just before speaking to parents, I had a moment of reflection concerning the concept of being “oriented” and thought about what I would want to know that would help me help my student be successful.  As you may guess, it didn’t take long for me to realize I was going about it wrong.  What ensued was a largely unplanned discussion about character centered on the simple message; your student will only be as successful as their character warrants.  Therefore, I thought and believe even stronger today that orientation needs to be about learning a place, but that learning must go far beyond the physical structure or static rules that guide decisions.  It must focus on learning the behavioral expectations that, if adopted, will help students build a stronger character and succeed beyond the four years spent in high school.

As such, my “speech” looked more like this:

Parents were given a brochure with some of the “nitty gritty” rules in print for their “reading enjoyment” after we discussed the more important things.  It also contained rights and responsibilities of all those involved in the education of the child.  I discussed the need to work as a team and communicate.

 Such a plan raises the expectations on parents, but also stresses the fact that the school needs to make a great effort as well.  The issue is that with all of today’s distractions and influences, students not only need, but thrive with accountability.  Led to the mindset students need to have as they enter high school.

There are two traits students must learn, adopt, and practice as freshmen.  They are humility and effort.  This is not easy for a group of students who used to be the most knowledgeable amongst their peers and even though they are too scared to admit or show it, are nervous about this new environment.  The road to these traits lies through three essential behaviors that are indispensable to success no matter the age.

1.      Character:
·         Hard work beats talent every single time.  As we get older we realize that the days of coasting and still successfully reaching the finish line on talent alone are gone
2.      Perseverance:
·         Consistency wins…always, because of momentum.  We must create good habits and work towards goals if we are to succeed at anything.
3.      Respect:
·         We must respect ourselves for who we are, both good and bad. It’s the only way to become who we want to be - do the same for others and help them grow.

You may have noticed that the language changed from “students” to “we” in those three bullet points.  That is because I believe that we are all able to (at best) improve ourselves in these areas and (at worst) keep from sliding backwards.

Parents then received a homework assignment from me.  Using the framework (and language) offered by Dr. Troy P. Roddy (Thrivapy Blog), I had them go home and discuss their student’s W.I.S.H. list (pictured below) in an effort to focus on what happens when circumstances are not ideal.

Finally, I let parents have a graphic that I put together for behaviors both they and their students will need to exhibit as they pass through their freshman year.  The top half represents the notion that parents must communicate, be involved, and be aware with both their students and the school.  The bottom half illustrates the steps needed for improvement.  The question mark?

Well, the only way to learn is to question…

To conclude…

In the end we all need to:

Be Purposeful
  • Make decisions for your future
  • Be present, be on time, study, set goals
Act with Integrity
  • Do what is right, the right way
  • Help others, be gracious, walk the talk
Build our Character
  • Continue to succeed through failure
  • Thrive in the face of hardship

What are you doing to orient students and parents to the culture you desire?  

Please share ideas and thoughts…

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