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May 30, 2018

Guest Post: Five Ways to Support Together STUDENTS!

Guest posts are few and far between around here, but this Together Student thing keeps popping up. I asked a long-time colleague and senior leader for Denver Public Schools, Sean P., to share some Together Student ideas from across his district. Take it away, Sean!


As educators, we aspire to create many opportunities for our students. We keep it Together as teachers and leaders because it maximizes the time and impact we can have in our roles. But what about our students? How can we foster more Togetherness for them?  And why is this important?

There is a multitude of research that suggests our students struggle – far more greatly – with non-academic factors after high school. These include habits like goal setting, time management and prioritization in worlds (be it college or a first career) far less structured than our high schools are (with their bells, schedules, and guidance counselors within arms reach.)

Here are five ways you can inspire, teach and model Togetherness when working with your students:

1.Model a weekly meeting with yourself and then teach kids to do the same. This is an excellent strategy for advisory or homeroom teachers or for the whole school to try during a community meeting. Educators can model how they organize their week, when they are going to get deadline-driven tasks done, and how they plan for contingencies. Students can work from a blank template or be empowered to create their own. This can also be a great intervention for students that are missing assignments, have incomplete work, or are habitually late to class.

2. Related to the above, I think about how powerful it would be if all students completed a weekly worksheet for themselves (and even had the built-in accountability of an older student, family member or school leader that could review and sign it each week!) This type of practice could be started early (4th or 5th grade?) and continued into high school to help students learn the important skills of prioritization (How and when will I study for the three tests I have on Friday?), planning ahead (I have a research paper due in 2 weeks and need to complete my outline by the end of next week) and managing less directed time (I know I have theater rehearsal until 8pm every night next week so I will need to maximize what I complete during study hall and lunch during the school day.)

3. HS students can create a priority plan or long-term calendar with all major assignments and projects listed for each class as well as extracurricular activities like sports and clubs/activities. Doing this during the first week of school is a great way to unpack the syllabus a teacher gives students. It’s also an opportunity for a teacher or counselor to review and give feedback, or for students to complete peer reviews and learn about different formats, styles and approaches (color coding!) from each other. Long-term planning is essential for college – when students will largely be left to manage their own time.

4. Go digital! Students love technology so this is a great opportunity to leverage the multitude of digital systems that are out there. For example, the Weekly Worksheet could be converted into a series of questions (What assignments are due next week? What are my three biggest priorities for next week? Did I meet my goals last week?) that students fill out as a Google Form directly on their phones. The responses could be emailed to an advisory or homeroom teacher, counselor, or interventionist.

5. Teach students to set measurable goals – just like you do! As educators, goals drive how we plan, spend, and prioritize our time. They also motivate us and keep us focused on completing the right work at the right time. Teach students how to create three SMART goals for the upcoming semester, a specific course, or as an academic and behavioral intervention. Imagine if every 9th grader in a large high school set goals like the following, and were held accountable to them by a peer, mentor, parent, or staff member:

  • I will attend each class on my schedule 95% of the time, missing no more than 5 school days between now and winter break.
  • I will earn a B or higher in each class on my schedule and strive for an A in Geometry and Physics since I am interested in Civil Engineering when I graduate.
  • I will meet with my counselor once a month to ensure I am on track with the above two goals.

The research is clear – supporting the development of non-academic skills is essential as we prepare our students in thrive in an increasingly complex and everchanging global society!

What Togetherness ideas does this inspire you to try with your students?

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