What prepares a student for a successful high school career? This has been a question of reflection for our middle school staff for quite a period of time, and the lack of a quality answer created tension. This tension often blinded us to frame our discussions around the options of building skills, responsibility or some of each. Only when our mental model shifted to include the art of preparation working in lock step with the science of preparation did we have a break through for our students. Looking back to these conversations, the most consistent item to surface was CONFIDENCE. Confidence, as defined by our conversations, wasn’t the easy confidence of being your own person or resisting the temptations of life, but this confidence was a deep belief in the possibility of the future.
One teacher summed up our thinking the best. She said, “It is about real confidence. It is about having kids that can shake your hand and look you in the eye because they know that they belong. It is about kids who showcase the work ethic to succeed in this world. It is about kids knowing, from traveling on trips around the community and nation, that they belong in this world. It is about kids believing that academic success is within their grips. It is about kids dreaming that a college will want them more than they will want that college. It is about kids seeing that winning is a matter of habit and design and not luck and chance. It is about kids determined to make setbacks are a part of growth and life, and without them, success is never possible. It is about kids expressing that mediocrity hurts more than failure. It is about kids promising themselves that they have a chance to be a first, a first college graduate, a first lawyer, a first small business owner. It is about building this sense of CONFIDENCE.”
Are we working hard enough to build this confidence in our middle school students? Do we have structures that facilitate this growth? Are we prepared to unleash confident middle school students?