Finals are upon us and as the year draws to a close and we all start reflecting on the successes and failures of the year, I just wanted to share a thought I had to teachers, students, and parents alike…STOP! The truth is that the year is not over yet. Take a step back; pull your heads from the overwhelming cyclone that is the end of a school year; and focus. I know that there are only finals left. Imagine that; “only”. I also know that there are students who are giving up on the year; celebrating a good year; or hoping beyond hope that they can pass all their classes by doing well on finals. No matter what situation, take the time left, organize, prioritize and put the effort in until the very end.
My point is this…do not finish until you cross the finish line. I was taught two (of many) critical lessons if I wanted to be successful in sports:
Hit to the whistle.
It doesn’t matter if only one person is out of bounds, keep wrestling until you are both out.
So the question remains…how do we instill this in the students now? The short answer is this: we instill it by modeling the urgency of the situation and staying with what we all know creates a successful educational experience. When I say we, I mean the only three that have a major impact on student success: students, families, and teachers.
First are the students; because it is their responsibility to be successful. Yes, the journey, during which there are many individuals responsible for supporting them, is important, but eventually when all is said and done; they are the individuals who must live with the result.
Second are the families; because they have and will spend the majority of time during the formative years with the students. It is easy to say; “But the schools are supposed to be teaching them everything they need to be prepared for the future.” In reality, most of what they will need is non-academic and while schools do teach some of that, the family has a much greater impact on a student’s morals, character, and values.
Lastly are the teachers; because they are charged with everything in between the previous two. They need to support the student by reinforcing the positive values necessary to continue the existence of and productively contribute to a civil society by opening student minds for learning.
So, here is the issue. When you do stop to reflect and work to improve you must remember the following. This winning mixture is successful only when all three groups are working together. How is that done?
The answer is through trust, understanding, and involvement.
- Take advantage of the opportunity to learn and grow. Accept responsibility.
- Ask for and accept support from teachers and parents. Seek help through openness and honesty.
- Understand that teachers are trained to do their job. Just like you. Treat them as professionals.
- Realize learning and growing is painful and requires mistakes and at times, failure. Help your students learn by fostering grit and not catching them every time.
- Engage students in meaningful content. No mailing it in.
- Bring parents into the process so they understand. Do not ignore the most powerful influence on the student.
The key that holds for all three categories is support. If each one supports the other in an open, honest manner, trust will form to the benefit of all involved. We live in a time when students are labeled entitled, parents have moved from “helicopter” status to “snow plow” status, and teachers are degraded as being lazy and overpaid. Couple this with the common idea that we should not keep score, everyone gets a trophy, and it hurts someone too much emotionally to fail at something and we have a bad mixture that does not equate with life.
Education is about preparing students for life. Instead of labeling and blaming people, we need to take stock of how powerful we have been, can be, and could continue to be if we solve the problems by focusing our energy on the issues and acting responsibly.
After all, there are winners and losers in every facet of life. So, do we quit and hope to be successful next time? Or do we realize and accept that success doesn’t wait. It starts now; with or without us.
I equate accountability with what you do when being watched and responsibility with your character when you are not watched.
So the question remains…are we done? You tell me. Is it too late to get better or do we start something now? Ultimately, it is up to all of us.