Maximizing academic and social excellence in middle and high schools is a must if we as educators are going to prepare the next generation to move the forward and beyond its presence state of struggles and challenges. Tomorrow’s leaders must be 21st century ready.
Such leaders will need the ability to create a vision for the future, be effective communicators, create lasting relationships and, be accountable and responsible, act strategically and create lasting relationships. Individuals who are without these skills cannot move their communities and nations forward.
Therefore, educators must instill in middle and high school students the skills and qualities necessary for experiencing exceptional success.
However, we must not forget about pursuing an effective solution to several ongoing problems that continue to plague the American Education system.
Educational Problems that Must be Resolved
The Achievement Gap
The achievement gaps must be closed. Otherwise, the level of education between Caucasian and students of color, particularly African American and Hispanic students, will continue to widen, resulting in the multiplication of more under privileged families and communities.
Several reasons exist for the achievement gap, some of which goes beyond academics. Thousands of underprivileged students in under performing schools are uncertain of where their next meal will come from. Many come to school weak and hungry.
As an educator for over 20 years, I have seen students in some of the direst conditions, including lack of hygiene and signs of abuse. That is the reason for addressing the social needs of middle and high school students is as important as resolving academic needs.
The Standardized Test
The standardized test, designed to measure the academic progress of students, has been a hindrance to innovation and creativity in the classroom. Because educators have to focus on teaching the components of this test, there is very little time for out-of-box projects and activities.
According to studies, an overwhelming number of teachers would rather not spend the entire school year attempting to please districts who embrace the standardized test.
One of the biggest complaints is that the test doesn’t give an accurate assessment of students attending underprivileged schools. Such schools lack the necessary resources, including well-trained teachers, to adequately prepare students to obtain satisfactory scores.
The achievement Gap and the Standardized test are issues that will take time before state and governmental educational regulators will conclude that change is needed.
In the meantime, we must concentrate our attention on what we can do currently to help students succeed in two crucial areas of life: social and academic. Our guidance as educators is vital in such critical areas.
Middle and high school students need to have a sense of safety in school. In addition, they need to be healthy to perform well in academics.
Considering the constant violence occurring in schools across America, parents are becoming increasingly anxious about seeding their child to public schools. Therefore, educators must work together to discover ways to keep students safe in addition to being open to various ideas suggested by the government.
In order to help students with non-academic matters, educators must be aware of what is going on in the social life of a student, especially if it points toward the negative. Without knowing what is happening outside the school grounds. When educators are able to understand what students are going through socially, then adjustments can be made in how to approach them in terms of academic matters.
For example, if we know that students are feeling socially disconnected due to some overwhelming experience, we can understand why they might not be motivated to perform well academically.
Building a set of values
Good values are designed to help us live a life of positivity, progressiveness, and purpose in all that we do and say. Helping to instill progressive values within students will go a long way in creating the confidence they need in succeeding outside the classroom. Students who graduate without good values will suffer greatly in their social life.
However, students who graduate and become leaders via good values will have the capability to guide our nation to new levels of achievement and power.
We, as educators, must empower students so that they can hold themselves in high self-esteem, knowing that they can achieve the best that life has to offer. In oppression regions, students who have trouble in school are often ashamed because of the lack of academic skills. Many of these students don’t want to get exposed so that acts up in class or skill class all together.
Empowerment begins by letting them know that we care and then modeling the behavior we desire to see in them.
If we refuse to empower our students, they will allow fear of failure and exposure to block opportunities for progress in life.
When educators begin to build strength in areas where students are the weakest, the reward of our efforts is demonstrated within the community.
Keeping middle and high school students engaged and challenged in the classroom requires becoming more creative minded. Creativity gives students an opportunity to participate in the decision-making process in the classroom, thereby eliminated the ‘I speak, you Listen to mentality.’ Students should be able to determine the types of projects they want to complete, discuss such ideas with the teacher, and monitor their own academic progress.
The importance of making complex choices about life cannot be over emphasized. Educators must teach how to think critically about problems, especially when it comes to facing some of the most complex issues, including social unrest and political matters occurring in today’s world.
Without the ability to think critically, students will not only be incompetent when it comes to resolving complex research problems but also will struggle with making difficult decisions as adults in leadership.
People who are good at thinking critically will be credible candidates for leading the country into the unknowns of the 21st century and beyond.
If educators desire to help middle and high school students succeed academically and socially, teaching critical thinking must take priority.
Creative minded: come up with better processes
A creative classroom continually performs beyond boring rituals and routines. Such classroom is never without moments of excitement and discovery. Students enjoy participating and assisting the teacher with the entire learning process.
In many cases when it comes to the creative classroom, teachers, for the most part, play the role of a facilitator and monitor. Students are given the opportunity to work in groups and resolve their own academic and personality problems.
Students who are not allowed to be creative may lose interest in learning and may become distracted by other things, including smartphones.
Many students have a difficult time sitting down and listing to the teacher present boring lesson plans day after day, especially middle school students who are naturally at the age when fun, adventure and exploration is at an all-time high.
Creative classrooms make the process of learning an exciting journey of discovery and participation.
Students Doing Homework — Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisUse of technology
Educators must teach students to use technology the right way. There is no way of getting around it. The usage of technology in the classroom is becoming more prevalent for almost every lesson, regardless of rank. Phonics, reading, seat work and even creative drawing are subjects being guided by classroom technology.
Desk tops, Chromebooks, IPads, and smartphones are replacing text books in many schools that have become totally technologically oriented.
However, students must be taught the importance of using technology for superior academic performance and achievement. Technology must be perceived as instruments whose usage go beyond fun and games.
Educators must teach students that technology is a tool that will help shape the very future of the world. Automation, robots and AI will play a major role in transforming 21st century reality.
Therefore, instead of playing games, students must be taught how technology is created as well as its purpose for existence.
So maximization is the key. The vision will not be easy. No great endeavor is a piece of cake. Greatness in anything comes through faith, focus, and perseverance.
When we, as individual educators, are willing to depart from the present norm of educating our kids, regardless of the consequences, we will always be at the mercy of state and governmental educational legislation, whose regulations are designed, inadvertently, to widen the achievement gap and promote rigid standardized testing.
More innovative and entrepreneur oriented schools such as Jeremiah Leadership Academy in Milwaukee, Leadership High school in Sanfancisco, and Ace Leadership High school in New Mexico , although not on the grand scale of awareness, are outstanding models designed to produce tomorrow’s 21st century leaders.
When we sincerely utilize skills such as creativity, innovation, critical thinking, and technological competence to educate middle and high school students, we can create highly motivated leaders to help spearhead our nation to ever increasing greatness.