Success for ALL Students: Can You Answer These 10 Questions?
Attention to the success of ALL students focuses on curriculum and standards, differentiation and intervention, assessment and evaluation. All of that stands on the shoulders of the social emotional health of each child and adult. Whether we can take full responsibility for social emotional health of our students, and the people who work in our organizations or not, we must pursue it in earnest. No one, child or adult, can bring their best selves to any task, if distractions, doubt, disappointments, frustrations, fatigue and fear exist. Emotions can and do interfere with the learning process.
Hence, it becomes our responsibility to support the emotional health of everyone in the organization. The adults, of course, have the capacity to attend to their own well-being and most contracts allow for sick and personal days and for health care with mental health options for them. Nevertheless, the actual and implied message systems often prohibit active care so leaders must be aware that the message system matters. The creation and maintenance of a healthy and safe environment for all is a shared responsibility.
Whether due to media attention or long standing values, beliefs, and practices, these 10 questions are examples of the type of inquiry that can uncover what may be overlooked while attention to student achievement overshadows.
- How does the Supreme Court case regarding gay marriage affect students? Is there an impact on any of our students? What can we do to address the potential impact?
- How has the 20/20 Diane Sawyer interview with Bruce Jenner impacted students? What can we do to address the potential impact of increasing numbers of transgendered children ...and faculty...in our schools?
- How might the social services and mental health partner with us to make the lives of these students less stressful and settle into the best frame of mind for learning?
- How is poverty affecting the potential of students and tracking them toward a future with few choices? What can we do to diminish the impact of poverty on these students?
- How is the continued problem of violence at the place where police and African American men meet affecting the African American men/boys in my school? And how is it impacting the white children as they watch these events unfold? What can we do to address the impact of these issues on students?
- How does the manner in which special education and ESL services are delivered contribute to students' inclusion in the greater school community and minimize the potential for feeling marginalized?
- How are clubs and sports activities and the students who are engaged in them, valued? How is drama valued compared to football? Band compared to LGBTQ activities? Science club compared to a class activity? What messages are being communicated in the differences?
- How do we know everyone in the organization feels safe?
- What processes and systems are in place to reflect upon and pay attention to the social/emotional health of the organization?
- How do you know?
The value of answering these questions grows exponentially when they are asked and answered by every stakeholder in the organization; students, faculty, staff, and parents. It isn't a "one and done" activity. Rather, it is best done repeatedly over time. Awareness grows, root causes are better-identified, new answers and solutions can arise, and new questions will surface.
Creating the environment where all students are offered the opportunities they need in order to transcend the obstacles that intervene between their potential and their achievement includes far more than instituting high curricular standards. Before the standards can have a positive effect and before a true commitment to all students can be claimed, ongoing honest reflections on at least these 10 questions and their answers is called for. They can focus attention on those corners of the organization that need attention. There are students in those corners waiting to be invited in.