Sunday, February 21, 2016

Raise Expectations, Raise Hope


Raise your hand if you believe the featured quote to be true. I bet everyone who is reading this has agreed with the words that make up the quote. However, how many of us truly live it? Raising expectations for our kids is hard. It means that our children may go through struggles, frustrations, and even sometimes failure. As parents, this is very difficult, as we always want what is best for our kids. However, how is lowering expectations to make things easier the best thing for our children or students? Too often, we tend to alleviate the struggle as a form of protection, when in fact the only thing we are doing is creating a false sense of confidence and hope. We create a child who turns into an adult without knowing how to handle challenge and adversity.  We need to allow our children to fall and even perhaps get knocked down. By protecting them, children never learn how to get up. They never learn what it means to be resilient.

                So how does this relate to education? In my experience as an educator, I have found that students will meet expectations. I left that as a general statement, because depending on whether the expectations are set low or high, students usually wind up meeting expectations where we set them. This is true in many schools across the country in relation to how their courses are established. At Monmouth Regional, to date, we are no different.  Monmouth has employed the practice of creating classes below the college prep level. They are called “c” level courses. Beginning in September and as students get ready to pick their courses, we will no longer offer “c” level courses. Instead, students not taking honors or AP will be enrolled in CCR (College and Career Ready) courses. In education we often hear phrases like raise the bar.  However, does that mean we raise the bar for only certain kids? The answer is simply NO! We raise the bar for all children. Mike Mattos, an educational consultant, defines all as, “any student expected to be a financially independent, productive member of our society.”  All students means all students, including those who are economically disadvantaged, English language learners, considered minorities, receive special services, and any other student who might be regarded as fitting into a different classification.  After all, the beauty of our Falcon Family is that we’re all different and we all can be classified in one way or another, but we’re also all one. And our unique population in its entirety shall be held to equal expectations. We need our students to believe that they are college and/or career ready, hence the name CCR. While all students may not end up going to college, we shouldn’t declare their path upon entry to high school. All students deserve access to our best curriculum. Now, there may be some struggles initially as students and staff adjust to this concept. However, by allowing them to struggle and possibly even fall down, we will be instilling in our students the necessary skills to persevere and get up all by themselves!   

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Path To A Winning Culture

            Culture change is not easy. This is true no matter what the profession. As I watch the carousel of coaches get hired in the NFL, there is a constant theme in each of their introductory press conferences: CULTURE!  As I attend Falcon sporting events, there is nobody who wants our kids to win more than I do. However, before anyone starts questioning Xs and Os of our coaches, are you aware of what they are doing to change the culture here at Monmouth Regional High School? Are you at practices? Are you in the film room? Are you there for pre-game speeches and post-game reflection? Are you there for the heart to heart chats? It’s easy to second guess sitting in the bleachers. Heck, I am guilty of it, too! However, I fortunately have the luxury of being on the inside and viewing things for myself.  Consider this historic quote from legendary coach Bill Walsh:

      Our current coaches, veteran and new, are working hard to change the culture and have our student-athletes understand that the “grind” is more important than anything else. I am not na├»ve, we are in a results driven society and too often we tend to focus on only the results. However, the will to prepare has to exceed everything else, even winning. For too long, we have wished for the results to change without changing the culture.
I am in constant communication with our coaches, and I can assure you that our coaches are working as hard as they can to instill in our student athletes several key components to creating a winning culture. This may not always be apparent in the win column, but our student-athletes are learning that a commitment to the program supersedes individual success. They are learning accountability, as their actions have a direct effect on their teammates. However and most importantly, I hope they are learning how to be coached and handle the criticism when they don’t meet expectations. I can tell you that our coaches need your help. While you may not agree with the game plan, player positions, or starting line-up, I would hope that we can count on you to support the culture of commitment to team, understanding your role, and accepting criticism as the tenets to building a winning culture. A winning culture that doesn’t guarantee championships, but will produce champions! Champions in the game of life!