Students Learning with Note Cards
Debbie McLaughlin, '83 - Middle & High School Faculty

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about active learning. I don’t mean PE or movement—though of course, we know that movement is critical for good brain function. What I mean is: what are the factors that allow some students to be more “in control” of their own learning, versus passive or fragile in their approach to learning?

Of course, we humans are complex beings. There is no “average” student or “average” person. We are all unique, with histories, personality traits, preferences, strengths and challenges. We go through ups and downs, sometimes performing more effectively than at other times in our lives. We might be faced with illness or situational or clinical depression. We might be diagnosed with something that is a challenge to incorporate into our lives. It’s especially hard for young people, many of whom don’t yet have the experience of struggling with difficult things and succeeding, or struggling and not succeeding. Too often, young people are avoidant of the struggle—thus losing out on the experience of success OR the experience of “I struggled, it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, but I survived.”

At Forest Ridge, we are attuned to the challenges the pandemic is throwing at the students. Some students are faring better than others. There is no magic formula or magic wand for this. I will offer a few observations though:

  1. Students who can practice delayed gratification seem to fare better. They realize that not everything they do in one day is joyous, momentous, exciting.
  2. Students who have a glimpse of larger goals seem to fare better. The goals sustain them in times when daily tasks seem to be a slog. They can tap into a sense of I’m in school, I’m 'doing school' because I believe deep down that education is a key to a good future for me.
  3. Students who are open to coaching and open to learning new strategies fare better. They can tweak their daily habits so there is mental space to pay attention in class, learn the skills being offered, and find time for independent practice—whether it’s reading, writing, doing some math problems, Membean, working on a lab, etcetera.
  4. Students who find ways to stay connected within the school context fare better. They opt in to what we offer: anchor time at 9:45 a.m., study hall at 4:00 p.m., advisory times, community times on Friday, clubs and lunch meetings, responding to teachers, and initiating 1-1s with teachers.

Earlier in the year, I created this Success Coaching Padlet to offer resources to students who are looking for ways to improve their focus, persistence, and effectiveness in learning. I’m especially eager to promote the podcast portion of this site; it’s a series of interviews with faculty and students about a variety of topics related to self-regulation and motivation. I just simply go where the stories are.  If I hear something interesting from a student, I’ll pursue it. I advertise this site and the podcasts every day through the announcements. Take a look for yourselves and see if there is anything that you think might benefit your daughter.