Last week I attended a cohort group convened to focus on best practices and strategies to support 8th graders as they transition to high school. As an 8th grade Reading Language Arts teacher for 7 years, I joined the cohort because each year I pondered how certain students would manage as they continued on their educational journey. I questioned whether they were equipped to adjust to the freedom that their new environment would allow them.
This months meeting was to review and discuss the Early Warning Data for 8th grade Quarter 1. As the group reviewed and discussed the eleven indicators for students at risk of failure of graduation from high school, we also discussed additional strategies that may be helpful to assist them in their endeavor. The one strategy that resonated with me was building positive relationships with students.
While reviewing the data, I recognized the name of a student, who the day before, I’d commended for a Narrative Poem he’d been working on. I wasn’t surprised that his poem was good because A.M. is articulate; participates in class, and completes assignments. While talking with A.M., I was surprised when he shared that Reading Language Arts was the only subject that he was passing. When asked why, he replied that he didn’t put any effort into the other classes. Of course, I told him that there was no excuse for not trying.
Seeing A.M.’s name on the list of possible dropouts, and recognizing his potential to become an excellent student, helped me decide that - he would become my first “official” student to develop a “positive relationship” with. I went home and immediately began to work on a learning contract to present to A.M. the following day.
Ironically, the next morning, A.M. and I entered the school building at the same time. When I told him that I’d like to talk with him about a learning contract, he smiled and said ok. Later that day, I shared the 5 objective learning contract: participate in all classes; complete and submit assignments for all classes 80% of the time; arrive on time for all classes; study 1 hour per day; and obtain teachers signature. A.M. was ok with four of the objectives, but negotiated to reduce the study time from one-hour to 45 minutes.
Excited about the possibility, I look forward to Monday!