I have a hypothesis that wounded students need a role model to guide them out of their "Achievement Gap"situation. Too many parents are part of the problem and 14-15 year olds are coming of age without positive guidance. The Smart Start Challenge shows them the way to a rewarding future.
Clearwater, FL

Changing the Name Shifts Focus

Attitude is everything for me and my passion for teaching directed me to the under-performing or unmotivated students. These students have ability, they lack motivation or resilience to bounce back from difficulties they have experienced. If they aren’t angry, they have probably given up. They are the students who fall into the under 20% demographic of test scores and grade point average. The group of students is coined as being in an “Achievement Gap” which has been researched and talked about for years.

As a teacher, I earned my reading endorsement to support teaching English/Language Arts in a traditional classroom. The ability to scaffold and give additional instruction helps students who are trying to learn, or achieve a passing score on the graduation test. Focusing on reaching that “Achievement Gap” put the emphasis on the student and their difficulty to score the necessary points. 

It is interesting to me today because a colleague mentioned that educators are now calling this situation an “Opportunity Gap”, as in the students did not get the opportunity, or need another opportunity for learning. The opportunity of a laptop and internet being critical for education in the Covid Age. One word changes the focus of everything. 

Did you notice the name changed?

Now school boards are looking for innovative opportunities to help the struggling students. It seems like the burden is back on the teachers to provide an education that reaches all students. The finger of blame keeps getting pointed back and forth. Ok, we have researched all the variables (content, task and strategy) of learning and need to create a new formula that works. 

After budget cuts to Guidance Counselors and Behavior Specialists, core content teachers are left to their own best practices. To say this year with Covid has created new obstacles is an understatement and teachers are working overtime to meet the challenges. Growth mindset and student-directed lessons are a few of the initiatives, and national organizations like AVID or Cambridge/IB are helping many students. 

My point is the rapidly growing need to reach this under-achieving student demographic.

Here’s another huge area of name changing and attitude shifting – from students being “At-Risk” to “Wounded” and the beginnings of “Trauma Informed Teaching”. It is about time because these children were at risk when they were in kindergarten, by 9th grade, they have been wounded and many are traumatized with ptsd.

The statistics are not favorable for the class of 2024, unfortunately 20% are already behind graduation schedule. The best learning objectives and strategies have not worked in the past for these students, we have to be creative to find a solution. Teachers who specialize in this type of student are unique, we have to be. 

While I often think about word choices in self-talk or essay writing, it never occurred to me how greatly it influences our thinking about our profession. It is one thing to point out the Emperor has no clothes, it is another to create a new wardrobe for the whole kingdom. It takes confidence to recognize a problem and even more to change how it is analyzed and resolutions pursued.

And so, YES – I am a trauma informed teacher that specializes in wounded, under-performing  high school students. 

And, YES – I have an amazing opportunity for students to test themselves and discover their greatness.  

My unique business background and passion for social studies approached the problem solving process from a different viewpoint. The first days I spent teaching were in the worst rated school and a 6th grade classroom without a teacher for over a month. My problem solving attitude always kicks into high gear. The differences between my instructional training and school reality was what made me into the teacher I am now. 

The first student I connected with was in foster care and asked me for a copy of the book, The Help. He was a 6th grader and wanted to read the book because of the movie; he tipped me off as to how smart he really was. His story is long and isn’t pretty, today he is 24 and sitting in prison. I know too many of these students and had to think about a new prescription for their ailment.

I have a hypothesis that wounded students need a role model to guide them out of their situation. Too many parents are part of the problem and 14-15 year olds are coming of age without positive guidance. Personal growth content is missing from our mainstream school curriculum. And bad, unethical and immoral influences are many in our popular culture. If there were a trusted source, could encouragement and empowerment unlock their hidden potential?  

Yes, I know it does every time I teach that unit in my high school classroom.

Abraham Maslow showed me the path, I have written it down for students to follow. My curriculum is unique and incorporates the research and strategies for effective teaching and learning. It includes social emotional lessons along with rhetorical strategies of argument.

The Smart Start Challenge is a mixture of life coaching and critical thinking to ignite struggling students. Embedded in the 31 days is a service learning project that gives students an opportunity for self actualization. The content is life changing and the tasks guide the student to a new future.

The opportunity also exists for every teacher to use the Smart Start Challenge in their classroom. The Co-Teacher Guide gives the instructions and details to make hosting the event a breeze. Contact me for details and volume pricing. It’s a great opportunity for every struggling high school student and I am excited to share it with you!

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