Monday, May 14, 2012

“I’m just not used to being good at stuff.”

I spent two days visiting with the students and staff at the DSBN Academy. Regular readers of this blog will recall a previous post about this newly established school ( that lives and breathes the singular mission encapsulated in two words – “We Believe”.

I visited every classroom and watched kids in action, thoroughly engaged in their learning. At the end of each visit I spoke with the teacher and gathered perceptions on the year thus far, and their personal highs and lows.  I’m not sure what I expected as my previous visit had highlighted for me some of the challenges associated with starting a new school and particularly a school for students who had experienced limited success in previous locales. I also was aware that they had embraced the key tenets of “Pyramid of Behavior Interventions: Seven Keys to a Positive Learning Environment” and was interested to hear about some of the outcomes of their approach.

Once again I was deeply inspired by the passion and commitment of the teaching staff. This team of eight absolutely gives their all and were wearing both the joy and the anguish that comes when we heavily invest in students and their success. I heard what has now become my favorite analogy to describe this:

Every day is like being at the amusement park. 
You’re exhausted and have spent the day in long 
lines, ate great tasting (and largely unhealthy) 
foods, and been over-stimulated on the rides 
but you can’t wait to get back there the next day!

I also sat in on great group conversations where strategies were debated as the teachers contemplated next steps to ensure all of their students “finish strong”. We spoke of the remaining time in the school year being the true test of the commitment and desire to let students know that this year will be unlike any they had experienced previously. Success for all isn’t a trite saying but an absolute, embraced by all whom cross the threshold to the Academy each day.

Perhaps one of the more touching anecdotes was the one that concluded with the quote that is the title of this posting. A teacher had come across one of her students who was deeply engaged in work that she had not been directed to do, but had chosen to do during her break time. When the teacher complimented her and said how impressed she was, she was met with some shyness and withdrawal. This was a student the teacher would have described as having made great gains during the year, one who had taken risks in her pursuit of learning and put herself out there. The comment “I’m just not used to being good at stuff”, made by the student was a reminder that, despite all of the successes experienced over eight months, fear of failure and a return to previously held adult views of her, were not yet eradicated. The power of negative experiences resonate so deeply with some of our students that significantly more time, energy, and positive feedback will be required until they can completely let go and totally immerse themselves in the success ALL of our kids so richly deserve.

Thanks again Academy staff. You continue to teach beyond the walls of your school.

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