What Makes A Great Year?

You don’t know what you’re going to fall in love with until you’re exposed to it.
~Bill Cosby

The floors are waxed and the pencils are sharpened.  The teachers have completed their professional development on new curriculum and the year is off and running.  However, a great school year is so much more than a clean school and a shiny new device at every desk.  We all know that being successful in school also takes the right mindset.  As adults, we all do everything we can to ease the transition from summer to school and help our kids hunker down for the school year.  But I was curious as to what the kids would say make for a great year, so I sent this email to our 6th and 7th graders:

Happy Weekend, 6th and 7th Graders,

I hope you are enjoying your weekend and are resting up for another great week at school.  I’m spending some time thinking about the blog I host — I make blog posts at least once a week.  I would like to write one on what makes a great school year.  As I sat down to write my post, though,  I realized that I didn’t have the expertise to answer this question.  That’s where you come in…

I was wondering about your thoughts on this subject.  In your opinion, what makes a great school year?  What are you looking forward to this year?  What do you like about school and what do you dislike?

I’ve combed through our students’ answers and discovered some themes and trends.  Below are the top responses and my interpretation of how each impacts our students.

Working with Friends – This makes perfect sense when you think about how social adolescents are.  What was surprising was that many of the comments talked about working on projects or studying with friends.  This is a far cry from the “bro-ing out” responses that one would expect from 11-, 12-, and 13-year-olds.

Great Teachers – Every single response included a recognition of the need for a high-quality teacher.  Our kids enjoy the content we provide and love teachers who makes that content come alive.  I am so proud of our kids and amazed by their maturity.

School Culture – Our 6th and 7th graders said they want classrooms and a school where they feel safe.  This means an environment where they are comfortable being themselves, but also a place where they can take academic risks.  Many of them pointed out teachers by name that provide such a culture in their classrooms

Autonomy – Most of our kids talked about the desire to be masters of their own destiny.  They commented that they look forward to studying in a way that works best for them and being able to solve their own problems.  This is exactly where we want our kids to be.  This autonomous focus will serve them well in high school and beyond.

Extracurricular Activities – Many of us have fond memories of our time on a team or in the play or as a member of a club.  These activities are what I call memory makers, and these experiences are often more exciting to our students than the content in their classes.  This is natural, and I am proud that we offer kids so many opportunities outside the classroom.

The biggest take-away for me was that our students are extremely conscientious and have a focus on learning.  I am proud to play a small part in their school experience, and I know that 2014-15 will be the #BestYearEver!.

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