This weekend hundreds of students converged on Timberview Middle School for the Texas Association of Student Councils, Middle Level Area 3 Fall Retreat. Over 600 middle school kids who could have had the day off; could have stayed home and played video games, or gone to the mall; could have gone to the movies, watched some TV, or hung out with friends, instead added an extra day of learning to their week so they could improve their leadership skills and make their schools a better place for all students.
I see this passion with other students as well:
Band students arrive at school early to receive individual and small group instruction. They spend countless hours on their own preparing for district band contests. They give up Saturdays and many evenings for band events and competitions.
Our 7th grade football and volleyball players are already working out when I drive up just after 7:00 am, and the 8th grade athletes are still hard at work long after most of us have left the building. Add to that game nights, where students are at school until 9:00, then go home and finish homework.
The students working on the Fall theater production spend countless hours perfecting the acting, lighting, sound, costumes, and all the other elements of a successful show.
I could go on! It’s exciting to see students passionately pursuing their interests.
But what’s so special about these activities? What is it about them that makes kids want to give up Saturdays, wake up early, and stay late to be successful. And what would happen if we could create the same experience in every classroom in our building?
Some observations about these activities:
- They are “goal oriented.” Everyone is working towards something – to produce a successful theatrical production, win a district championship, improve leadership skills, perform a difficult piece of music.
- It’s a “team” effort. Everyone is expected to do what is necessary to improve the team. If you aren’t at practice, your team suffers.
- “Passion” is a key element. Students who participate in these activities are passionate about the activity. They have a deep desire to succeed.
- The activity is “challenging.” Students are more engaged and work harder when they are challenged beyond what is comfortable.
- The result is “worth it!” After the extra hours, hard work, and dedication, the end result is worth the effort.
How amazing would it be if we could create this atmosphere in every class? It would be awesome to hear kids in the office using the phone to call home: “Mom, I’m going to need to stay late today. We are working on a science project and it’s going to take some more time.” Or, “Dad, we’re Skyping with a class from Bangladesh tomorrow morning. I need to be at school at 5:30!”
Are your students passionate about your class? Are they working toward a goal? Do they feel like they are important…part of a team? Is the work worth the effort?
If you were to require your students to come in early every day this six weeks, what would their response be? “You want me to do WHAT?”