Originally posted on February 21, 2007
What would you expect to hear from a would-be superintendent if you asked him what he wants to change in the public school system? Smaller classes? Stronger academics? Improved test scores? These are often the words we hear proclaimed when discussing school improvement, so I was surprised and delighted by the answer from one superintendent candidate in my local school system — an answer seemingly straight out of Positive Psychology. He said he would like to replicate two initiatives he started in the large city school district he currently manages: a one-to-one adult to child connection and an expansion of both sports and arts. These strike me as positive interventions.
People like Bertrice Berry, author of When Love Calls, You Better Answer know the difference one caring adult can make to a teen’s school experience. When Bertrice spoke to over 500 women at the Massachusetts Conference for Women last year she said she had been an adolescent “with an attitude,” when a teacher turned her attitude around, insisting that she was capable of going to college and challenging her to do better at each step along the way. To top it off, in an event that students of “The Secret,” Abraham-Hicks, Hope Theory, and goal-setting will appreciate, the day Bertrice’s application arrived at Jacksonville University a donor called seeking to finance a deserving student’s education! Guess who got the financing?
Expanding Arts and Sports
Arts and sports programs often end up on the chopping block when a school feels a financial pinch. Art and music rooms give way to regular classrooms, sport teams are limited and fees added. The trade-off is clear: math, science, language, literature, and history take precedence over the “extras.”
Until recently, I thought it was hard to argue with that logic, but consider this: Mike Csikszentmihalyi says that most kids today don’t have enough challenge– or resulting joy– in their lives. Sports and arts are two areas where children can express and challenge themselves, to get relief from what too many find to be the tedium of academics. How sad then, to limit the opportunities and how wonderful to find an academic leader like the candidate I interviewed who recognizes the importance of expanding these opportunities.
I still remember that awful, sinking feeling in seventh grade when my name wasn’t on the final team list– I didn’t make the cut. This followed a similar feeling in the fall, when the field hockey list was posted, and was followed by another round with the spring lacrosse list. What possessed me to put myself through it again in eighth grade is beyond me– all I remember of that time is that I loved basketball and wanted to be on the team.