My school year lasted two extra days this year due to extra-curricular activities with the freshman class. As their Class Adviser I have an opportunity to follow this group to their graduation day in June 2017, something I look forward to with great anticipation. This is an interesting group of characters, and they possess skill sets which could set them apart from other groups of students who journeyed through the halls of BDHS. While the administration has given them and myself the freedom to conduct projects for the purpose of building a class treasury, they are slowly coming of age with confidence and maturity. In April they sponsored "Friendship Week" with a week-long flower sale, then during May they designed and sold an official class t-shirt to members of their class. Last week they held a outdoor Summer Dance which marked the end of the school year with a strong turnout of students. At the end of June they are organizing a Brat Fry which will culminate their first year of activity in high school. These four projects will create the cornerstone of what should be almost $1,000 for what will eventually become their Senior Project. No doubt the upper classes of students are envious for what these students have accomplished in their first year, knowing full-well that the sophomore and junior class has $0 in their accounts.
As a teacher I feel a sense of accomplishment with this group and they've been put on alert that I will continue to challenge them over the next three years. While the "fun aspect" is an easy-sell to these students, I want them to understand the benefit of reaching out to all members of their class. I want them to realize that it's more than just having 3-4 classmates organize all their social activities. By involving more students in the decision-making process, they can actually enjoy more activities in the long run. More people lends to the development of creative thinking and a better buy-in from throughout their class.
Why should any second-year teacher tackle challenges such as these? It enhances the buy-in factor by students in so many ways both in and outside of the classroom. In teaching U.S. History to this year's freshman class, I was able to interact with only about 20% of their classmates. The rest knew who I was and always offered up a greeting when passing through the hall. That 20% spread the word that someone believed in their class, in academics, athletics, and other extra-curricular activities. While I'm not here to be a best-friend to these young people, they do have a sense that they have a trusting adult who will work with them to achieve common goals.
In the final days of school there was more than one occasion when a freshman would make the statement "Mr. D, we want you to know that we want you to continue being our class adviser next year!" I assured them they were stuck with me and I was staying right with them until the day they graduated, eliminating any doubts from their mind. This journey has been enjoyable and most rewarding, knowing that adults can make a difference in the life of a young person. But they've also taught me that students learn best when they are in control of their learning. Teachers cannot talk and talk and talk while students listen. Teachers have to engage their students in meaningful activities, pushing them to the deep end of the swimming pool where the real learning takes place. This has been a GREAT year!