Future Pictures Promote Effort

I recently presented at Southern Region Education Board’s(SREB) High Schools That Work (HSTW), Quality Teaching: Research Based Strategies That Work Conference in Hilton Head, South Carolina. The workshop was designed for teams composed of teachers in middle grades and high school, career/technical teachers, and school and district leaders from high schools and middle grades schools participating in any SREB school improvement initiative.

HSTW technical site visits reveal that many students are not engaged in challenging assignments aligned to state and national standards and that many are not motivated to make the effort to succeed at a high level.

Research consistently shows that in order to get more students prepared for high school and for college and careers (not either/or), schools must make significant changes in their structure, their teaching practices, and their expectations of what students can achieve. Far too many middle grades and high school classrooms are boring, repetitive, and irrelevant to students’ lives and futures. Schools must make a greater effort to integrate academic content with real-world applications.

My presentation strand, The Effort-Based Classroom, had these objectives:
-understand how to shift teacher perspective to have a new definition of student effort, ability and success.
-realize the power of beliefs and vision in how students learn.
-discover ways to generate enthusiasm and motivation in students so they will want to exert effort.

One area of substantial discussion during the two day strand was the role of teacher as advisor. Personally, I see advisories as crucial to assure that every student has a plana future picture that provides the motivation to drive sustained effort. Leaving the development of this plan to chance-hoping that family, friends, or the individual student take the initiative is unacceptable.

Minnesota’s Gov. Pawlenty’s Workforce Development Council says one way to improve the state’s economy is to have high school students choose their career path in the ninth grade.
Here’s the wording of the proposed policy from page 3.
“Every Minnesota learner will, from no later than ninth grade, have a plan, reviewed at least annually, to guide him/her through high school and beyond into competitive employment and postsecondary education.
The plan will be implemented gradually, becoming a graduation requirement with the graduating class of 2014.”

While my focus isn’t on the reason of the economy, this type of plan-discussed, modified, reviewed continually with an advisor, researched and written about as a course or graduation requirement can help students develop possible pictures of a future-visions that motivate.

Exploring possible careers in middle school and how learners interest and talents match are great advisory or guidance class activities.

A recent article in Education Week (Feb 4), illustrates that the advising process for high school students will require more time and focus than guidance counselors are likely to have the time to provide:

If more students are to thrive in higher education, high schools must not only help them earn good grades in demanding courses, but also step up their work to guide them through the difficult process of choosing and applying to colleges.
At a panel discussion of two reports on college readiness that were released January 27th, scholars and advisers in the field said raising academic standards, beefing up coursework, and helping students earn good grades are a crucial part of improving high schools, but they aren’t enough.

Many students—even those with good grades—lack the information and support necessary to select good colleges, complete the applications, secure financial aid, and actually enroll.
The college-counseling role must be shared by more adults in high schools, not just the counselors, and it must be systematized to include all students, not just those who “happen to stop by” counselors’ offices.

The formula in Tapping Students Effort… Increasing Student Achievement is Effort x Ability focused on a Manageable Task = SUCCESS. A picture of that success is needed to support effort. We need to reinforce pictures for students who bring them to us and help those without pictures to build them.

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