All Students Learn
By Michael Scott, Assistant Principal, Hutchinson High School
One of the best decisions that I made in high school was joining FFA my sophomore year. A requirement for membership was for a student to take an agricultural education class.
A unit of study for one of my classes was electricity. After the teacher provided the classroom instruction, students were asked to apply their knowledge of wiring switches and outlets. The teacher assigned students to install properly these switches and outlets in approximately fifteen different ways.
The teacher provided a two foot by four foot model of a wall to each student to install the switches and outlets. If a student installed them properly, the light bulb at the top of the box would light. I struggled greatly in getting through these fifteen different lab scenarios. In fact, I never finished them all before the next unit of study began. My mind was not wired to quickly learn how to wire outlets.
At our District back-to-school workshop week, the opening theme, which is also one of our District’s core values is “All Students Learn.” I don’t want to give the impression that my teacher didn’t give me the opportunity to continue to work on my electricity labs nor did he think that I couldn’t learn. We were given the opportunity to continue if we weren’t done, but at the time, I chose not to continue with the labs. Today, however, I wish that I would have continued. I wish that I was more motivated to finish the labs and felt like I would eventually be able to learn this skill.
As a District, “All Students Learn” is one of the core values that we need to continue to put into practice in decisions about and interactions with students. As a core value, it is something in which we believe. We also need students to believe in themselves that they can learn.
Smart but Scattered Teens by Richard Guare, Peg Dawson, and Colin Guare is an excellent resource for educators and parents in helping teenagers with skill development. This book addresses many skills that students in their teenage years may need to further development in order to reach their full potential.
In the article that I wrote this time last year, I referenced this book in order to promote a mindset that we should not see students as lazy or unmotivated but rather possibly lacking the executive skills needed to be successful.
Here are more specific ways Guare, Dawson, and Guare (2013) recommend to assist your child in planning, persistence, and attention in order to continue to support a core value of “All Students Learn”:
- “If the goal your teen sets is well into the future, help her set some concrete benchmarks along the way so that she can have the sense that she is making progress toward her goal’ (p. 235). This persistence and goal setting can support students not to lose hope—they can do it!
- For teens to become consciously aware of good decision-making practices in order to continue to use them, “Provide specific praise for key elements of task performance by recognizing strategies that your teen uses. For instance, I admire the way you take your coach’s feedback and convert it to an action” (p. 241).
- “Always offer praise for staying on task and for successfully completing a task. Instead of focusing on your teen when he is off task by nagging or reminding him to get back to work, provide attention or praise when he is on task, and also when the task has been completed” (p. 191).
- “If a task seems overwhelming…encourage her to work with a teacher or perhaps to meet with you and a teacher to help break the task into more manageable parts, with specific deadlines for each part” (p. 200).
These are only four of many more suggestions in this book. A core value of “All Students Learn” flourishes when all of us work together to support this belief and instill this belief in our students.