Parents are rightly concerned when they see that their teens are not challenged or engaged in their education. Teens who coast through high school can’t build the foundation they need to be successful later. If teens are doing well enough to get by but are not living up to their full potential, they’re not getting what they need.
Unfortunately, it's often the good-but-not-great students that fall under the radar, and no one seems to notice. They may be smart, well-behaved kids who can glide by with underdeveloped learning skills and half-hearted effort.
The Need For Student Engagement
Educators know that to keep students from gliding by, teens need to be interested and engaged in learning. When students find excitement in a subject, when their interests are piqued, when they spontaneously become curious — that's when learning happens. Future success (in school, in work, in life) depends far more on how engaged students are in their education and the development of competencies like perseverance, critical thinking, cooperation and collaboration, creativity, and adaptability.
The Small School Advantage
We know that the learning environment matters. When teachers have specialized knowledge of a student, of his or her strengths and interests, they have an edge on communicating with those children in the most efficient and helpful ways possible.
Small classroom learning can provide an effective alternative to standard school programs that allow students to coast. In contrast, teachers working in classes that are bursting at the seams are simply unable to provide the kind of individualized attention that has been shown, time and again, to help students flourish.
Small schools embrace student-centered teaching as the core of their mission. They want every student to develop a personalized relationship with their teachers, one that is rooted in trust and mutual respect. These kinds of relationships aren't easy to create, but their rewards are vast. In these micro-schools, classrooms are small on purpose, to keep students engaged in learning and on-task while they’re in the learning environment.
The Power of Experience
Many educators have seen the power of experience to engage and improve the learning capacity of teens. Moving the instruction outside the classroom can encourage the concept of learning beyond the schoolyard. When teens have opportunities to learn in authentic situations like those provided in the community - internships, field excursions, and service-learning projects- the learning becomes significantly more powerful. It becomes grounded in direct experience.
There is not a lot of gray area in hands-on, experience-based learning. Experiential learning supports students in applying their knowledge and conceptual understanding to real-world problems or situations. Through their interactions in authentic environments, teens develop the competencies they need for real-world success:
- Curiosity to solve problems and continue learning
- Persistence in setting and working toward goals
- Confidence in their abilities
- Knowledge of how to learn in various environments (post-secondary education, career, and life)
- Ability to accept challenges as opportunities, not as obstacles
- Empathy to engage in community and service to others
- Creativity of thought and outlook
- Effective communication
- Self-direction for lifelong learning
Is your smart teen coasting and doing just enough to get by? You can help. Look for educational options that focus on engagement, relevance, and experiential learning. Without strategies that keep students engaged, they lose the excitement about learning that characterized their early school experiences.
If the educational environment in your current school is not meeting the needs of your student, it may be time to switch. Be assured that alternatives exist.