As I was involved in various discussions over the summer, the recurring theme was centered on how to help students achieve both academic and social success while in high school. There is plenty of theory, but what I thirsted for was a concrete way to help students by teaching them to help themselves. Couple this issue with my strong belief in societies need to stress character, ethics, and responsibility and I have decided to start small by introducing what I view as vital behaviors if we are going to graduate students who will thrive once they leave the safe walls of school.
I briefly introduced these behaviors at our full class meeting this week. Each class council will be picking up ways to visually represent their class’s acceptance and application of these behaviors around the school. I will also use the Positive Behavioral Support Committee, ideas from William Moore’s book “On Character and Mental Toughness, and Ed Gerety’s book “Combinations: Opening the Door to Student Leadership”.
A brief outline of the behaviors I hope to instill and why:
· This year is a year of transition. Students need to not just realize, but also understand that they no longer have most of the answers concerning the school. This should lead them to ask questions and look for answers. Students also need to begin their high school career properly by putting the hard work in early. This creates a strong base from which they can achieve higher levels of success.
· This is a year that students should be “rolling up their sleeves” and setting habits of mind that will help them push through those difficult times they are bound to experience. They have to have the discipline to set routines and work consistently. Once they do this and begin to build momentum, it will be easier to persevere. They must begin to see the bigger picture and goal of high school and use it to motivate themselves to work hard no matter the challenge.
· After two years of high school, juniors need to recommit themselves to the idea of working hard for another two years with increased responsibility. They now need to take more control over how their future plays out. This is the year they really begin to look closer at colleges or trade schools and be sure they are completing any requirements necessary. They also need to be aware that they will be the leaders of the school next year. That level of maturity takes commitment, time, and experience to develop.
· Students at this year need to take the role of school leaders. That is a serious position because it requires them to be aware of the bigger picture. They have been given rules and asked to follow procedures without always understanding the whole context. This is also the year that students are over scheduled with sports, academics, work, and their social lives. They need to strike a balance so that they can enjoy what becomes a very fast year. This is where their awareness must be developed so they understand that their actions affect others. Ideally this will lead to them wanting to leave the school a better place than when they entered. In other words, how will they be remembered and what did they do that really mattered?
Whenever I am asked a question concerning my attempt to support students, I always counter (mentally at least) with the idea that we often do too much to help and therefore, create a state of learned helplessness. Yes, students need assistance, but they also need to fail if they are to learn and grow. Education and improvement are constant. We never fully reach our potential without sustained effort through many failures and successes. Students will not succeed for very long if all their “wins” are given to them. Many schools are so concerned with how their students perform on the MCAS (possibly soon to be PARCC), SAT exams, AP tests, and college acceptance percentages that they begin to lose sight of the bigger picture. I am concerned with those to an extent as well, but more with college success (graduation) rates, students’ ability to land and keep a job, or students’ ability to contribute to society in a positive fashion.
They will only be able to accomplish these things if they have character, ethics, responsibility and mental toughness. School shouldn’t be about a narrow set of facts that must be learned, but instead the creation a framework on which students’ may build a successful future. It is our responsibility to help students build it, not build it for them.
What are you doing to guide rather than give?
As always, feedback is more than welcome…