At the high school I was in yesterday, in the PD session with the whole staff, a teacher asked me why I do Aspirations work. I gave a "big sky" answer. The short version is that I think the inherited school system has outlived its usefulness and we are seeing the signs of its wear and tear in the form of drop-outs, wide spread disaffection, drifting students, violence in schools, and struggling academics. I believe Aspirations is a way forward inasmuch as it helps administrators, teachers, students, and parents work within the system to improve it. We live in a flat and googleable world where what you learn (easily measurable on standardized tests), though still important, is less important than how you learn--starting with whether or not you believe you can learn, continuing with whether or not you are actively engaged in your learning, and shaped by what your purpose for learning is. By helping teachers help their students secure those things--I believe they will be, to use a trite shorthand, "College, work, and life ready."
There was a better answer at that particular school, one closer to the ground, that for being on the spot a bit, I didn't state. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, as a result of Aspirations related efforts in that school, 8% more students this year than last year say they have a teacher they can talk with if they have a problem. The longitudinal increase among seniors over the two years of the work is 19%. For juniors there is a 10% increase. With just over 200 juniors and seniors in this school that means 29 more students this year than last year--real kids, with real problems--believe they have another adult in their life they can turn to in difficulty.
In a small rural town with its share of social ills, I can't tell you if the problems those kids wind up bringing, should they arise, are a poor quiz grade or concerns about a friend contemplating suicide. And while the latter example may be dramatic it is, sadly, no less real. There is no way to measure fully the impact of a change like that on the future. I know it has made a difference for 29 kids in a small school in Montana. Not a bad reason to go to work.
The Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and putting into practice the conditions that foster student aspirations in schools and learning communities around the world. Please visit us on the web at www.qisa.org.
The views represented in this blog are my own and do not represent QISA's stance on any of the issues discussed.