Working together to transition freshmen & transform schools from the bottom up!
Our students need us to go beyond the content with them. (Read "The Case for Going Beyond the Content".) That doesn't mean the content is not important or that we don't do an amazing job teaching it. But what it does mean is that there is more to teaching a young person than just making sure they can pass a test or demonstrate a skill.
When our students our unsuccessful, it is almost always a result of a "believing problem." It's not that they're not smart enough. It's that they don't believe they can be successful; they don't believe you're on their side; they don't believe they have the power to live a fulfilling and good life.
Therefore, we can't help our students by simply adding more content to their lives. We MUST intentionally and purposefully take time to GO BEYOND THE CONTENT.
As schools seek to transition their freshmen into high school or reach other traditionally difficult population groups, it is natural for schools to look for a transition or "success" curriculum. In other words, many schools look for a Go Beyond the Content curriculum. While there are many different curriculum offerings to choose from, we at The Freshman Transition Network would advise schools to consider the following:
Creating your own Beyond the Content Curriculum may sound like a daunting task for a teacher, but if you have read much on the Freshman Transition Network, you will know and understand that this is not intended to be a task for A teacher. Rather, this is a task for a TEAM of teachers - or in another setting it might be a task for a grade level, department, or core group of teachers working together.
A team of teachers working together during a common team planning/work time and sharing the load will not only do a better job of creating curriculum, but it will also have a much greater impact on their students as they collectively implement the curriculum than even the greatest individual teacher could have.
So if you're going to create your own Going Beyond the Content curriculum, where should you start looking for resources? How about right here? Below, you'll find a wealth of resources that you can use to teach your students the skills and thinking patterns they'll need to be successful in school and in life. If you have ideas for resources that should be added to this page, please feel free to leave a comment on this page and provide links to the information.
The resources below have been organized into 3 categories:
Try creating your own curriculum with your favorite elements from all 3 categories. If each teacher the student encounters took 10-15 minutes of class time per week to share this content with students, then over the course of a school year a team could have a tremendous impact on how students think about life. Even if a teacher wasn't part of a team, intentionally sharing ideas like this once a week with students could serious alter a student's set of core beliefs.
An exemplary Beyond the Content curriculum should be about more than just teaching students how to be successful. It should be about inspiring and motivating them to live full lives and seek their life's purpose.
Let's face it, a student's ability level has far less to do with a student's success than do the things that a student believes. Students who believe the right things - about life, about their futures, about the benefits of hard work, about their ability to succeed, about the intentions of the school, etc. - are easy to teach. It's the students who spend their time fighting a system that they believe is against them, the students who don't think they're capable of success, and the students who don't have a purpose for their lives that are difficult to reach in the classroom.
If this is true, then we are making a big mistake if we don't spend time in class addressing our students' belief systems. The following link will take you to the Inspirational Corner blog post that is filled with strategies, ideas, and resources for inspiring and motivating students to alter their beliefs. Take a look at it - see what you feel comfortable using in your classroom and then go for it!
Once you look at these resources you might wonder how you could fit these ideas into your classroom without taking away from time needed to address content. Try this: Start each class period with a Do Now/Bell Ringer/Anticipatory Set. At least once a week let that activity be one of those on the blog. Play a song; tell a story; share a quote; show a video clip. Give students a moment to reflect on it and then share their thoughts. Take a minute or two to let them know what important life lesson you are presenting - then move on with regular content. Over the course of a school year you can have an amazing impact on their outlook.
3. John Wooden:
Our students need heroes to look up to and to emulate. Many of them have never seen adults who make good decisions and who succeed for all the right reasons. Few people have lived as full or as successful a life as John Wooden, the Wizard of Westood and ESPN's Coach of the Century. Not only did he live an amazing life, but he very intentionally set about sharing his wisdom and experiences with others - especially young people.
John Wooden can be a curriculum unto himself. From video clips to DVDs and from books to websites, there is an almost endless supply of John Wooden resources to share with students. The Freshman Transition Network has put together the following blog post with links to everything Wooden.