We want kids to have the opportunity to live within and contribute to an extraordinary community of learners, artists, musicians, and athletes. In order to have this chance, students need three things from the school: Place, Connection, and Expectation. The success of a school in creating and maintaining a Progress Culture is rooted in these areas as much as it is rooted in the execution of specific innovations in curriculum or program. In fact, the ability of a school to excel in creating place, connection, and expectation for students exists symbiotically with the with its ability to execute on strategic innovation.
- Place: Students need to feel that the school is theirs, and they should graduate placing a value on stewardship.
- Connection: Students need connections with peers and with adults that in turn attach them to the school and permit them to see their role in it.
- Expectation: Often what students need is not what they ask for in the moment. Generally, however, students want to be in a school environment where there are expectations for their character, for their behavior, and for their achievement. When we hold students to high expectations, we demonstrate our faith that they can meet and even exceed them. High expectations then are a way of demonstrating our commitment to them.
As I think about these factors working together to best serve students, I am reminded of the importance of building partnerships with students, with faculty, and with families, particularly in a moment in history that is hyper-charged with challenges. In order to create the place, connection, and expectation our kids need, families and school leadership must seek to connect through honest dialogue as well. As a result, school leaders should never shy away from setting up conversations with groups of parents where they engage tough and relevant questions such as:
- What is easier for kids today than it was for you at the same age?
- What is harder?
- What excites you most about the experience your child is having at this moment in their lives?
- What scares you most as a parent?
- How should we (faculty, administration, and parents) work together to help kids navigate the difficulty of being in high school in this time?
- What things do we need to prepare your children for that have not been covered in the traditional academic classes? How should we do it? (NOTE: I am increasingly interested in this question, and plan on writing more about it in the future—if you have thoughts on this topic, please share them in the comments section below)
While these questions do not address place, connection, and expectation directly, they do allow for us to have a conversation relevant to what students most need from the adults in their lives. Thus, the questions help adults reflect on the world kids are experiencing and then strive to create the conditions that will produce place, connection, and expectation.