With November already upon us and students receiving their report cards for the first grading term, I wanted to touch upon the importance of effort and support. What steps should we take to help students reach their full academic potential in schools? We often start panicking when a student doesn’t do well and sometimes even point fingers in many directions. So who is responsible? I would argue many people, starting with the student. My first questions are always how hard have you worked in your classes and did you seek out extra help from your teachers? Can you believe I actually expect high school students to be in charge of their own personal growth? Such a draconian idea! Next is the teacher’s responsibility of providing engaging, fun, rigorous, and relevant instruction that meets the needs of all their students. Sounds easy, but I assure you it isn’t. Great teaching is an art and takes many years to perfect. Having teachers discuss what is working and what is not with peers is invaluable and in turn will help provide students with quality lessons. No two students learn exactly the same, so differentiating materials is also a must in most classes http://ascd.org/publications/books/108028.aspx
Where do the parents fit into this equation? This is such an important part of the student’s success in school. Parents/guardians have a very difficult job raising children in a society that is sometimes overly demanding. This is why they need to partner with schools to help improve academic, social, behavioral, and emotional success for their child. I firmly believe it is in everyone’s best interest to improve respect in schools. The parents need to see teachers as professionals that have spent many years obtaining educational degrees, so they can provide quality teaching to their children. With that said, I am not suggesting it is a perfect system, but it can always improve with appropriate dialogue.
Now for the administration. Another equally important role in student achievement. There is a delicate balance that must be achieved between all parties involved, and a good administrator helps facilitate these discussions and provides guidance and feedback when they stall. Our decisions must always be in the best interest of the student even if they are sometimes unfavorable. The administration must make these decisions using common sense, experience, integrity, and in collaboration with several teachers, counselors, and other administrators.
So what to do when a student struggles? Take a look at the big picture, ask what skills do they need to be successful, what steps have been taken, and what interventions need to be in place to help rectify the situation? Too often the answer is pull them from class or lower the expectations, but is that really going to be in the students best interest down the road? Will they have the necessary skills for college and career readiness? Is the grade the most important thing or is it the mastery of content and the process of learning? My belief is most students should remain in a challenging class with some students needing to make changes in order to have success.
What ever decision is made, it is important that students, parents, teachers, counselors, and administrators are all on the same page. What good is it if a student graduates with decent grades and a diploma only to take remedial courses in college because they weren’t challenged enough or were able to quit every time it became tough?
There is nothing more gratifying than watching students succeed and grow as young adults but it takes many hands to lift them to success.