Our post today comes from Jenna Smith, one of our talented featured guest writers. Please welcome her back with this perceptive new commentary.
In preparing your students for a future that includes post-secondary education, it’s important to help them develop a variety of skills. While you can’t control how they internalize these skills, you can keep them at the forefront of consideration. As you spend each day in class, you have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of your students and in the future of your nation. Colleges in Miami-Dade County or those in Los Angeles County will thrive when the students that enter their classes are well-prepared by the solid foundation laid by you and your colleagues:
Many interpret academic excellence as achieving high marks. Excellence, though, isn’t measured strictly in terms of grades. Rather, academic excellence is a combination of dedication and determination. Many students find that these characteristics lead to great grades, but the student willing to improve when he falls short often excels far beyond the student that breezes through his classes. While good grades are important, these alone don’t reflect a student’s ability to succeed in college. Teaching your students to reach higher rather than being content with their academic standings will allow them to develop resiliency and other traits that come in handy in all disciplines at the college level.
While not all students like all subjects, it’s important to help them understand how your subject plays a part in their college future. It’s important to be truthful in this area. Colleges require a slate of general courses from all students, and some of these are more interesting than others on an individual level. Your students should understand that their interests will drive their decisions in majors and career choices. Exposure to other disciplines has the opportunity to spark a new interest, while providing a well rounded perspective.
Likewise, your course may strike an interest with some students while seeming dull and difficult to others. Help your students recognize their interests and the areas they struggle in. Acknowledge and validate the fact that as individuals, they have responsibilities that may take them out of the realm of what they prefer. Their dislike of a subject doesn’t excuse them from pursuit of excellence but pushes them toward it.
No matter what college major or institution a student selects, responsibility issues become more intense after high school. Emphasis on personal responsibility for grades and situations is essential in building a strong foundation for college success. Preparing students for college means equipping them to live up to their own responsibilities while helping them to recognize the consequences of irresponsible choices.
Teach your students to think creatively. Ask good questions that provoke thought. Engage your students in discussion and debate in the context of class. While some subjects are more suitable to this type of interaction, all courses have some interesting issues to explore. Find ways to challenge your students within the context of your subject. The thinking skills assimilated in the context of creative activities are perfect for all types of college studies.
One of the most important steps in preparing your students for the right college education is an emphasis on integrity. Students can be tempted to compromise in order to earn a good grade. Model integrity and discuss it in the context of your own class. Provide examples that contrast high and low integrity levels in academic settings. Your students will thrive when they learn to operate in accordance with the expectations of their university and college programs.
Preparing students for a college education is a tough but vital responsibility for teachers in today’s educational landscape. It’s important that educators teach students the role of true academic excellence. It’s also important to explore different interests while instilling values of responsibility, creativity, and integrity.
Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.