The Freshman Transition Network

Working together to transition freshmen & transform schools from the bottom up!

Your course content isn't that important!

Ok, so actually it is very important, but I thought the title might get your attention. So now that you're reading, let me explain what I mean.

Let's think about Freshman Transition. As educators of freshmen we have a mission and a purpose that goes beyond our classroom content. Classroom content is a part of it, but our mission and purpose is much bigger. We are foundation builders. We are laying the foundation for a student's academic career, and we are laying the foundation for our school's culture and climate. Our school's atmosphere will be directly related to what we do with our students during the freshman year.

So how do we lay the foundation? What goes into making the foundation strong? Yes, course content is a part of it. But let's look at the bigger picture of Freshman Transition. We're trying to prepare students to be successful for the rest of high school. We're trying to convince young people that the system is there for them, that there is a relationship between school and their goals, and that hard work and the right attitude will open up doors and take them places.

What stands in the way of this happening? Why do so many freshmen have trouble? Is it due to a lack of specific knowledge of math, English, history, or science? The problem with freshmen is a problem of attitude and believing. Our freshmen make poor decisions not because they lack content knowledge but because they lack the right attitudes about life, about themselves, and about school. They don't believe they can learn; they don't believe there is a reason to work hard; they don't believe that education matters; they don't believe that the school and the system is on their side.

So how will we combat this? By teaching more traditional content? Well, actually the better job we do teaching our content the better opportunity we have to meet their deeper needs. (In later blogs we'll talk more about content.) However, content alone isn't the problem so content alone can't be the solution. The problem is a problem of attitude and believing. We, therefore, need to teach our students about attitude, about believing, and about life.

As we start a new year, let's remember our mission and our purpose. We are transitioning freshmen into high school and preparing them to be successful students. We are giving them the attitudes and belief systems that will carry them through school and prepare them for life. If we're really going to do this, we better remember that our course content isn't THAT important. It's important - but there's more to Freshman Transition than teaching content. We need to teach atttude and believing. We need to be bigger than content because our mission and purpose are as well.

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