Monday, March 05, 2007

Extended School Year

This weekend I was fortunate enough to be involved in a discussion around our extended school year program and its value to others as a model for similar programs. Nancy Ferrara and Eric Contreras co-facilitated this discussion among a group of teachers and administrators from schools within our empowerment network.

The workshop began with a brief brainstorming module where participants were asked to reflect back on a time when they themselves were unsuccessful in an endeavor. What does failure feel like? The group came to a consensus that people experiencing failure are: lonely, frustrated, embarrassed, defeated, anxious, and hopeless.

The conversation then turned toward looking at the challenges of working in an extended year setting. Quickly one of the teachers spoke up and said, “ …the kids have a nasty attitude.” Other participants nodded in agreement. Another teacher added, “…they lack desire.”

Do They? … or are we just blind to the loneliness, frustration, embarrassment, anxiety, sense of defeat, and hopelessness our students are so overwhelmed by?

It quickly became obvious to me that the mindset of educators needs to be shifted if we are to develop an effective program. The stigma of lacking success in traditional school has to be removed.

Any program that addresses failing students must first address the loaded issues behind the feelings of failure.

Thanks Nancy and Eric for broadening my perspective.

1 comment:

Angelica said...

I could not agree more Wally! As someone who has taught in the extended day program I'vd found that one of our biggest road blocks was overcoming the confidence problems of our students. Not only did I find myself in the traditional role of teacher, I also found myself in the role of therapist. Since as I student I did not struggle as much as some of our students, I never realized how much academic failure, no matter what the cause, can effect a student. I discovered that even the dialouge I had with them had to be different; a careful blend of accountablity, rigor and understanding. My students were not the only ones to learn some valuable lessons