Suburban Schools Study Council Meeting

The Suburban Schools Study Council membership includes current and retired school superintendents from Bucks and Montgomery (Pennsylvania) counties. My school district superintendent asked me to speak about community based learning at a recent council meeting. I was humbled and proud to have this invitation. My presentation and slide notes:

Slide 1:

  • Self introduction.
  • Having a mentor in my life and serving as a mentor to others has always been important to me. My first mentor in education was a man many of you may know. His name is Bill Leary. Dr. Leary was my first superintendent. He believed in me and encouraged me always. Knowing his high expectations set the bar for my work. If you know anything about Dr. Leary (and most in the room did know him) you know that Bill bleeds blue and white. He is a proud Penn Stater. Like Bill Leary, Joe Paterno was also a great mentor.
  • At the recent Memorial for Joe Jimmy Cefalo spoke about the impact of Joe Paterno’s mentorship on his life. In Jimmy’s last term of his college career, he was finished playing football and his major requirements were complete. He planned to have some fun in that last semester in the “Happy Valley.” Paterno called Jimmy to his office. Waving Jimmy’s less-than-challenging schedule in his hand Joe told Jimmy that he was better than that schedule. You see, Joe’s challenge was always-”Today you are going to get better or you are going to get worse, but you are never going to stay the same.”  Jimmy had no additional value to provide the PSU football team. But he did have value to Joe Paterno. Joe cared and Jimmy knew it. Jimmy walked out of that office with a different schedule. Now that is mentorship.
  • As educators, we are challenged with the same issue: keeping our students plugged in to learning until graduation day and making them believe they matter–that someone cares what they do and what they become. I believe that Hatboro-Horsham’s Community-Based Learning opportunities challenge our students to make a clear choice: to get better. “Today you are going to get better or you are going to get worse, but you are never going to stay the same.”

Slide 2:

Slide 3:

  • Our first offering: Internship. We encouraged our seniors to use our community as their classroom. Why? For the student: To try on a profession before going to college to prepare for that profession.
  • We have found that some of our students confirm their future plans through the internship experience while others find their chosen internship career possibility is not for them. We consider it a win-win either way.

Slide 4:

  • A friend of mine was recently asked to give a TED talk. When I asked her what they told her concerning how to prepare she shared this directive: Be interested, be generous, be interesting, connect. That’s when I realized that our Community-Based Learning program made the same demand of our students.
  • We began our Internship opportunity for students 7 years ago. We started with 14 students and since that time hundreds of students have participated in the program.

Slide 5:

  • The Internship experience did a great job attracting our college-prep students. The students who elected this course were gaining many important transferable skills and developing career maturity* at a faster rate than our very capable Honors/AP students and our Academic students. The question then became: How do we attract all students to Community-Based learning experiences?
  • In an effort to involve more students in Community-Based learning we expanded our offerings. Our honors and AP students can intern over the summer in a program we call Bridges. Academic students elect a new work-study program, Working Initiatives.  Our Life Skills students are also involved in work-based training opportunities. Additional supporting experiences such as Lunch & Learn and our Futures Fair are well received by our student body.

Slide 6:

  • I would be remiss if I did not tell you how important our community partners are to our program. Hatboro and Horsham are vital communities.

Slide 7:

  • Our champions include the Greater Horsham Chamber of Commerce, the Hatboro-Horsham Educational Foundation, Impact Thrift Stores, Horsham Township to name a few. Local post-secondary programs and the Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board also offer resources and support.

Slide 8:

  • Each Community-Based learning opportunity I’ve mentioned and most you have seen during this presentation offer students two mentors-a community member committed to mentoring a young person and a teacher who has dedicated their professional life to mentoring students with the goals of developing a life-long love of learning and future success.
  • The outcome? Students who elect Community-Based learning experiences do better in all academic classes during the CBL experience. They seek post secondary options, stay in post secondary programs and graduate from post secondary programs at a higher rate than their peers as well as graduate from these programs in a more timely manner.
  • Seth Godin once said that “Caring is a competitive advantage…” Community-Based learning opportunities are the result of caring. At Hatboro-Horsham we care because “Today you are going to get better or you are going to get worse, but you are never going to stay the same.”  Is there really a choice? Caring is our competitive advantage.

Thank you Dr. Leary.

Thank you Mr. Paterno-Hail to the Lion

*Career maturity is demonstrated by teenagers of high school age when they:

  1. Understand the importance of narrowing career interests as a basis for postsecondary planning;
  2. Have, by the 10th grade, identified one or more career interests after an objective evaluation of their likes and dislikes, their aptitudes, and labor market projections;
  3. Have, by the end of the twelfth grade, engaged in activities to verify these choices; and
  4. Used these choices to make post-high school decisions.

Ken Gray-Getting Real: Helping Teens Find their Future

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