It’s the middle of the fourth quarter. As I watch our freshmen, I see that some have missed the boat. They are not on board with habits and skills that are mission critical to school success. How well did I sell the tickets to get on this boat? Did I really message the ideas that seem to be absent? Did we as a Freshman Academy make the survival skills important enough? For that matter, can I state what those skills succinctly?
I began to build a list.
I have now spent weeks trying to create this small collection of phrases that capture the mission critical skills for our freshmen. It’s harder than I thought. I’d like to create a message that I can say again and again over the course of the year starting on the first day of school.
I recently incorporated this dilemma into my training of Peer Tutors in our building. I asked them to make a list of the five ideas that are worth saying over and over again that would help freshmen find success. Here is a summary of their efforts. I especially like number four.
- Challenge yourself
- Be smart, be safe, be yourself
- Pay attention in class
- Textbook and skill, not Netflix and Chill
- Be kind to everyone
- You look good today!
- Try your best, forget the rest
- Talk to teachers if gone
- Don’t worry if people think you’re weird.
Next, I had them give me a thumbs up/thumbs down on my initial Top Five to see if the phrases resonated with high school seniors. They didn’t. They gave me a lot of good ideas and, as you will see, I abandon a number of them based on their feedback. Here is my list with comments from the students:
The First Draft that didn’t do so well!
1. Don’t throw papers away (unless a teacher says s0.)
This is still a great idea but it didn’t play well with students. Seemed too pedestrian. They yawned.
2. Do something (for school) every school night!
Seniors said this is unrealistic and won’t happen no matter how many times its said. They said they didn’t do it and many have multiple AP class. If there’s a day off, take it!
3. If it’s on the board, it’s important!
This is true but upperclassmen gave me all kinds of exceptions and gave it a thumbs down.
4. Ask questions all the time!
I love this and it’s a part of my definition of studying, and it made the list. Once seniors understood that I wasn’t encouraging students to ask all kinds of dumb questions in class, they were fine with it. (Most of the questions are to be asked in their own minds as they study.)
5. Say “Thank you” whenever you can!
Good one and good advice but maybe too cheesey. . . but I’m keeping it anyway.
The List For Next Year!
- It’s all about effort. (Grades take care of themselves.)
- Learning is hard. (Don’t be shocked by mental sweat.)
- Say “Thank you” whenever you can! (People matter!)
- Homework is only a start. (Hint: study.)
- Ask questions all the time! (Get your brain involved!)
I look to incorporate these ideas into each interaction I have with freshmen next year, especially during my time with students who are neglecting their homework.