September 30, 2014
Success - Now and the Future
"And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." (Luke 2:52 NKJV)
Success. That is all we want for our children... in the classroom, on the playing field, in the fine arts program. Wherever they are, we just want them to have success. As a school, that is our goal also. We want all our students to experience success. As Academic Dean, success in the academic realm is my primary focus. So how do we attain that success?
The simple way to measure success is with grades. If the grades are good, students are having success, and most everyone is happy. We must be careful with that thought process. It is very easy to fall into a trap of “teaching to the test.” We have all heard that phrase as it relates to achievement test. However, the same can occur in a classroom as well. As a teacher, I can, either knowingly or unknowingly, teach students exactly what is going to be on the assessment and thus lead to a false sense of success. If students are only recalling facts, is that success? How do we verify that students truly attain success? The answer is not easily defined.
Grades alone are not a sign of success. I am asking our teachers to be sure that students are challenged by increasing the rigor. The term rigor brings fear to the minds of some because they equate rigor with more - more homework, more projects, more stuff to do. Rigor is not more. Rigor is difficult to define, but I believe rigor is enhanced when thinking occurs. Rigor requires students to take knowledge that they have learned and apply it. Rigor requires students to spend time assessing a problem, using the tools that they have, and determining a solution for that problem. Rigor requires students to think and apply.
Increasing rigor is not easy. Students have various abilities and talents so tasks that are challenging (rigorous) for one may be easy for another or impossibly difficult for another. Increasing rigor requires a variety of assessment methods, activities, projects that include various types of questions. As teachers we are working to determine the thinking level of our questions. Are we asking all recall questions all of the time? If so, the students are not being challenged. Are all of our questions asking students to use their knowledge to evaluate a situation? If so we most likely do not have enough information to determine where those that are struggling need assistance. It takes a variety of question types. We are working to be sure that we are asking the right types of questions to challenge students so that they can have both now and in the future.
As we increase our rigor, there will be some times of frustration and difficulty for students, parents, and teachers. Students may be faced with questions that require more thought or research than they have had in the past. That is ok. Through the struggle of doing the research or solving the problem, students will learn the value of grit and determination, and if they are really honest with themselves, will realize that the process has led to success. They will feel empowered to tackle another challenge. As a parent, our natural tendency is to help when we see our child struggling. We will be tempted to give too much help which will result in our taking away an opportunity for our child to learn. An example that many of us can relate to is tieing shoes. When your child is learning to tie his/her shoes, it would be much easier and faster to just jump in and do it for them. By doing that, we take away an opportunity for our child to learn. It takes a while for children to learn that skill. Some learn it faster than others. However once they learn that skill, they are ready to tackle other things with the knowledge that they can do this. We must allow our children that same opportunity in the academic realm. We must allow them the opportunity to work through difficult tasks and become stronger better prepared students for the future.
Success does not look the same for every student in every subject. A successful paper to those that thrive in writing may look vastly different than those (like myself) that struggle to put their thoughts on paper. For some students, success may be completing a college prep course with a grade of B. For others, that same grade is not a sign of success. Ultimately success is a very individual goal. Setting the goal so that it is attainable allows students to have something to strive for.
So as I conclude, expect your child to have some struggles. Expect there to be times when they have to work extra hard because they are having to think and apply knowledge. Accept that success for each child may look different. I believe that you will see your child grow in wisdom over time, much like our Savior did. ("And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." (Luke 2:52 NKJV))