By Cady Hickman, corps member serving at Parker-Varney Elementary School
In order to be successful in middle school, there are two sets of skills that a student needs. The first set is academic; proficiency in math, reading, and writing are critical for a successful middle schooler. The other is non-academic; these are behavior based life skills that are imperative for not just a middle school student, but a notable person. City Year works hard to support both requirements of success in order to ensure our students are entering the next grade, the next level of schooling, and ultimately life, well prepared.
Being on track in Math and ELA (English Language Arts) are extremely important for students in our district. City Year recognizes this, but we also know that having skills to support students when classwork gets challenging will help them move further than this year.
One skill I have focused on with my ELA students is comprehension. Though I help by defining tricky words and clarifying confusing parts of a story, I also have taught my students QAR-or Question-Answer Relationship. This strategy gives students a way to recognize where answers may be to their questions. When they transition to middle school, they will be able to help answer their own questions by determining where the answer may be.
What’s equally important are strong life skills-something I learned both in City Year and in my own schooling. In elementary school, it is easier to be disorganized, or other traits that may be less favorable.These important life lessons can be learned early in life. By showing the importance of imperative life skills, students will be prepared sooner for the next grade.
One example of a non-academic success one of my students had occurred last week. This student’s name was brought up repeatedly in gossip-related situations. During my behavior lunch group, I explained that gossip sabotages my ability to work because it makes me uncomfortable and it makes those around me angry. One student echoed that it makes it challenging for them to focus on school and that it makes others feel badly. Today, as they were about to engage in gossip, I said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I wanted to remind you how you said you wanted to participate in less gossip.” The student paused. They stood in silence for a few moments. Then, they turned to the group of students gossiping and said, “I have to go to class.”
This same student has improved their math scores since the beginning of the year, which makes me confident they will move on to the next grade-middle school-prepared in their academics. And, because they are striving to become a stronger leader and learner, I am confident they will find middle school a little less daunting with the strong life skills City Year has provided for them.