By Rachel Betzen, M.S., CCC/SLP
What if every child felt that he or she was:
- Valued and Important
- Supported as a student and teacher, able to learn and able to teach
- Unique, a collaboration of culture, community and individual talents, strengths, and interests
- Connected in overlapping circles of family and communities
- Empowered to Plan and Write the next Chapter of their lives
The School Archive Project was founded by Bill Betzen (my father in law)at Quintanilla Middle School in 2005 as a dropout prevention plan, and has grown significantly to include more students in both junior high and high school throughout the Dallas area. The foundation for this growth sprouted from a simple, yet powerful truth: “A real focus on the future helps students understand why they should stay in school”. Beyond this, future-focused children are more likely to develop skills which will serve them well throughout their lives, in spite of major obstacles such as poverty. Planting seeds builds the patience and foresight required to plan for their futures.
What is this program “tapping into” for these children, and how can we take these lessons and apply them as part of “whole child intervention speech-language therapy”? When longer-term thinking becomes connected to shorter-term behaviors, our students become aware of how their behavior affects their future development of skills needed to meet long term goals. They can more clearly delineate how their day-to-day work brings them closer to, or farther away from, the path they want, and the future that they and their families wish for them.
Beyond the affirmations of value given from their families and teachers, these students are building Executive Function skills important for higher level education and personal development. Goal directed persistence is both a product of, and an outcome of, grit. This encourages a lot of Planning and Prioritization of what is really needed to get the job done. Students have to contend with Emotional Control when things get tough, and develop enough self-awareness for Response Inhibition when things really get out of control. Revisiting progress often will help children begin to self-evaluate and build their Metacognition skills as they learn to check-in with all the little steps along the way.
When children plant the seeds we give them permission to both flourish and fail. It’s not all about grades when failure is an accepted part of the learning process, within and beyond school. The main risks of failure at school are with Timing and Dosage- as kids have to be able to work through the process quickly enough to keep up with their grades, and overdoses of failure really put kids at risk for getting far behind and getting into trouble.
Planting seeds is both personal and for the greater good. It requires planning and laying out our intentions, but also encourages experimentation, collaboration, and building on hopes and dreams, for today and tomorrow. When children plant the seeds, they are empowered to create their own destiny, as they Plan and Write the next Chapter of their lives.