Monday, February 27, 2017

Top 5 Habits of Happy & Successful Students

5 Habits of SUPER HAPPY & Successful Students | What Traits do Effective Student Demonstrate?

1. Successful Students Communicate Needs by Actively Listening, Asking Questions, and Seeking to Understand Others and Themselves! Developing your (Voice) language skills, Oracy is the first habit that students must polish and practice! Oracy is the ability to express, thoughts, needs, ideas, and questions fluently and grammatically in oral speech.

Successful Students reflect on strengths and weakness, they practice academic skills daily and work to improve ability by taking academic risks! Developing your FULL Potential is about doing your best and acknowledging your weakness! 

Successful Students Dream Big! Developing your passions for learning, academic challenges, and embrace growth through struggle, risk, and failure!

Successful Students are provocative, organized, responsible and set SMART academic goals! Self-improvement starts with a plan, seeking what helps you get "with-it" and on the right path is ongoing and ever changing. 

Successful Students develop positive friendships! They surround themselves with positive people! Discovering who your Real Friends are takes building your own character! Cooperate, share, be grateful, and enjoy your educational journey. 

Over the years, we have seen many reforms and changes within
education, but the skills that an individual student requires have very much remained the same. Whether a public school in the US, a college in the UK, or an educational facility in Australia, we believe that there are five critical skills required by students in order to see success in their education. Whether they need to learn it themselves trial and error or they can be taught it by the adults around them including teachers, these are five things that will allow each student to succeed.

  • Discovering & Developing your Voice 
Self-Advocacy (Discovering Their Voice) - Essentially, self-advocacy in an academic setting is the ability of the student to speak up for themselves and their needs to further their learning and understanding. Most students will struggle at one point in their academic careers; students need to develop their own compensatory learning skills, it starts with quality questioning to deepen understanding, thinking strategies to develop background knowledge, self-assessing techniques to gauge strengths and weakness, and the ability to learn new skills to meet more complex requirements. Often, there is a common misconception that self-advocacy relates to knowing one’s rights! Self-awareness of strengths and weakness of one’s own character and personality as it relates to academics is critical part for self-advocacy and academic success. However, for self-advocacy to work effectively a student must acknowledge and know their responsibilities first and foremost, their self-awareness of strengths and weaknesses helps define academic needs, because this awareness is as important for the communication of what is really needed as well as knowing how to succeed. 

"I speak not for myself but for those without voice... those who have fought for their rights... their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated." Malala Yousafzai

“Self-Advocacy is learning how to speak up for yourself, making your own decisions about your own life, learning how to get information so that you can understand things that are of interest to you, finding out who will support you in your journey, knowing your rights and responsibilities, problem solving, listening and learning, reaching out to others when you need help and friendship, and learning about self-determination.”

Ultimately, there are a few different elements that make up the whole notion of self-advocacy and discovering one’s voice;

• Firstly, the student must understand their needs and this mostly comes from self-awareness

• Then, the child must know what support is required for these needs to be addressed; for example, it might be accommodation within the classroom or extra tutoring

• Finally, the child then must communicate their needs to others

As an example, let’s say that a student has dysgraphia where they struggle with the written word. If the student has a geography class where there is an abundance of note-taking, they will get left behind if they doesn’t follow the three steps above and ask for help. In action, the student must first understand their needs in that they won’t be able to keep up and take sufficient notes. From here, they must realize that the only solution is to ask for help. Therefore, they explain to the teacher that they have trouble writing and need to use voice recognition software. If the teacher agrees, the needs have been addressed successfully. If the teacher rejects this option, the student must understand that they can talk to others about the problem.

"When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful." Malala Yousafzai

How Does it Help? - When students discover their voice, it allows solutions to be found for potential issues. As soon as a student recognizes how they can excel in school, they are more likely to speak up for their needs and get the grades that they want. Often, it is the parent that asks for the solution like the voice recognition software we saw above but there are additional benefits if students are taught to find their own voice. For example, they will build confidence to then resolve challenges the parents don’t know exist. Furthermore, the student is allowed to independently take control of their own learning and this leads to self-empowerment.

In the long-term, these benefits could be huge because it means that the student isn't relying on anyone when it comes to their education. Instead, they are driving their own train as opposed to riding on someone else’s whilst questioning wherever possible to clarify or deepen understanding. Over time, this self-advocacy will get stronger and it will provide benefits outside of education. Even after the student has completed their education, they will be able to speak their mind and resolve issues in the workplace. 

"My motto in life is 'Take risks;' you don't have a voice if you don't. You have to venture outside your boundaries. That's what life's all about." Kelly Wearstler

For parents and teachers alike, this is a skill that can be taught and it starts with simple conversations so the student knows their strengths, weaknesses, and that asking for help is perfectly fine and required for success. When students do speak up, they should then be praised and commended. Special education students and struggling students need to be adding self-advocacy goals to IEPs, 504 plans, SST’s, parent’s school communications, and progress reports. When students have active role models in place, they are more likely to achieve this highly effective skill for success. 

"The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence." Confucius

  • Discovering & Developing your Potential 
Study and Learning (Discovering Their Potential/Power) - For the second skill we have for you today, we are going to be discussing the importance of teaching students the skills and language of learning. With this in mind, we want to help students to find their course in life and the relevance of learning. Once students understand the importance of learning, they will be in a position to learn for the rest of their lives which includes the workplace. Essentially, we want students to understand the relevance because this will help them to find their course. 

"I want to challenge you today to get out of your comfort zone. You have so much incredible potential on the inside. God has put gifts and talents in you that you probably don't know anything about." Joel Osteen

Nowadays, students seem to have the “I’M Done Mindset", they want to be done as fast as possible with academic tasks, not concerned with learning new information or truly understanding it. The other common learning approach, “Is It Good? Is It Good???” Mindset, which isn't necessarily effective learning either so much as looking for constant approval. If students remember parts of certain concepts without learning deeply, this knowledge cannot be applied anywhere else in life and this is where part of the problem lies. As a very basic example, a student might learn that ‘4/2 = 2’ but if they don’t understand the theory behind it, they won’t be able to work out ‘8/4’ or ’16/8’ because their main focus is on remembering rather than learning. 

"Playing it safe and taking no risks is a shortcut to poverty."
Jordan Belfort

For students these days, there seems to be a phrase that is uttered all around the world - ‘yes, but how am I going to use this later in life?’ and this comes back down to the idea of relevance. In truth, relevance is a rather difficult notion and very few educational books or studies mention it. However, we define the term as something worth knowing whilst also providing interest. Whenever relevance is provided by the teacher, the student can perceive these two factors. As soon as the student finds relevance in a subject in education, they are more willing to engage with the teacher as well as all the other students and this is where they can find their course. As well as engagement, their motivation should also increase somewhat which will lead to more success rather than sitting at the back of the classroom not knowing how algebra can help them in life. 

"What you learn at university is a good discipline but has little relevance to a real job." Chris Liddell

In terms of applying this to students, there are two main ways that this can be achieved - utility value and relatedness. With utility value, it is all about piquing the interest of the student before providing the relevance. By telling a student that an activity will help them with their long-term goals, they will show an interest and then it can be explained. With this in mind, it very much answers the ‘what will I use it for?’ question. Rather that just being interesting to them, this will allow teachers to show students that the knowledge is also worth knowing for their futures.

For relatedness, it looks to answer the question of ‘why does this apply to me?’. All things considered, this can actually be achieved by the teacher. If the student values the teachers and values the content that the teacher is providing, the student will realize that it will also be important for them. When students see the effort it takes to provide relevance, they are more likely to pay attention and find their course.

  • Discovering & Developing your Path

Time Management and Organization (Discovering Their Path) - When you consider life, it can be tough and children realize this at a very early age. As children reach their teens and even into early adulthood, they start to realize that life is stressful. When this happens, they tend to sit back and take whatever life throws at them. For example, work experience and similar work programs are something that younger students must do because it gives them an introduction into the working world. Instead of finding somewhere they would like to work, they tend to sit back and take what’s given to them. However, they often aren't happy with where they will be working for a couple of weeks and they complain about how unfair the whole process is. Within education, students often complain about how ‘unfair’ life is but all of this can be prevented with one change - becoming proactive.

When students are proactive with their learning and with their life, they don’t have to suffer experiences and jobs that they don’t wan’t to suffer. Instead, they can go out there, get the qualifications they need, get a job in the right industry, and eventually finish in their dream job; this cannot happen if they sit back and watch the world pass them by and this is where teachers can help. As soon as students learn the value of being proactive, they realize that they are in control of their lives and they can be helped to find their passion.

For the teachers, this can be achieved by encouraging proactive behavior - especially through adversity. For example, a new student might feel as though they have no friends and they could be asked to write down a list of solutions. No matter how big or small, they can write down a list of things that they could do to resolve the situation. Over time, the student can do these things and see if they work; it doesn’t matter how old the student is, this is something that can be done. Whenever they perform one of these tasks, they can then be encouraged for taking a proactive approach. Although we have used making friends as an example, this could be absolutely anything. For older students, they could be encouraged to email the company of their dreams for an interview, to start attending revision sessions so they achieve a better grade, to talk to their teachers about where they could improve and reach a higher grade.

When students do not take this approach, they can never find their passion which means that they end up in a job they don’t enjoy and all because they aren't proactive. If this approach is achieved, they will be proactive in their search for better grades and this will be a fantastic mindset to have later in life. In education, there should be a focus on what teachers can do to give each student the right mindset to achieve in life and we have seen this with the three skills we have discussed so far. With these three skills, every student should be able to find their voice, course, and now passion - this will put them well on their way to success but we have two more to show you.

  • Discovering & Developing your Passions 
Persistence and Resiliency (Discovering Their Passion) - Next up, we want students to find their interest, passions, and strengths in life and this leads on from the previous point. As we said, students sometimes end up in jobs or careers that they don’t enjoy and this is because they never find their passion or interest. As soon as they do find these three skills, they have a much greater chance of finding not only success but also real enjoyment.

When we use the word ‘intrinsic’ with motivation, this means that a student might have a fascination with a particular topic as well as the relevance of the topic on the world. When they master this topic, they feel a great sense of accomplishment and there is always a slight sense of calling to it which keeps them returning time after time. Essentially, this is what we are discussing with helping students to find their interest. For example, an intrinsically motivated student might say that literature interests them or that they feel good when they excel in math.

Above all else, we should be looking to encourage this with all students because it lasts a long time and happens to be self-sustaining. When this level of motivation is built, it lays the foundations for success because it makes learning a lot easier than it ever has been for that student. When students are forced to choose subjects they have no interest in, the motivation is lost, they feel no pull towards the subject, and the thirst for knowledge doesn’t exist. Why? Because it simply isn't an interest for them and we are pulling them in the opposite direction to where they want to go. In fact, this could be seen as extrinsic motivation which means that the drive is only there to see a reward at the end or to avoid a punishment as opposed to fulfilling their desires.

If we can get every student in the country to engage in an activity because it is rewarding for them, we would see more success and we would have a country of happy students and future employees. Of course, we can do this in the classroom by listening, encouraging, and using lessons that are completely free from grades. When there is no reward in terms of a letter from A-G, the only thing that is important for the student is enjoyment and intrinsic motivation is required for them to keep turning up to class. Unfortunately, we are only just starting to realize that we are all unique individuals that have different interests and passions in life. For many years, people have been forced to go down routes that they didn't enjoy but this is no longer the case.

Now, we have students that have found their voice, course, passion, and interest. However, this implies that they are alone on their journey through life which is why we have the final step of teaching synergy.

  • Developing & Discovering your Real Friends
Positive Interdependence (Developing Real Friends: Companions/Colleagues) - When we use the word ‘synergy’, it means that the sum of the smaller parts will never be as great as the whole. If we break this down, it means that we can't get to the top of any challenge alone. We may contribute in a large or small way to school success but the real goal is share the journey and strengthen  yourself and others. However, this contribution becomes magnified if we all work together with others on an unselfish goal. Within synergy itself, there are various different factors that become important such as valuing differences, respecting them, building on strengths, and compensating for weaknesses. Ultimately, synergy is utilized through the process of creative cooperation.

‘Synergistic communication’ is a term that is often used within discussions such as these and it requires the mind and heart to open up to new possibilities. When a group of individuals come together, it takes time to transform these individuals into a team - one unit. However, when the group does bond, it often leads to a close-knit community where the respect that each member has for each other generally allows issues to be overseen and understood. Whenever there is trust in a group of people, this leads to communication and cooperation. Whether the unit wins or loses, they remain together through it all and this is important in the classroom. Towards the end of the education system, you will find that teenagers, who have spent the majority of their lives growing up together, have deep respect for even those who they didn't become close friends with.

Within the classroom, achieving synergy can be tough because there is a fine line that it shares with chaos. At times, synergy can be inches away before madness ensues and it looks as though the class takes a step backwards. For there to be synergy in education, the right chemistry is needed and this needs to be complemented by the right amount of emotional maturity.

Once students know the value of being in a team, they realize that they don’t have to face the world alone and this is important moving forward. Often, groups of students remain friends long into their adulthood and this is because they gain strength from the group as well as overlooking weaknesses, understanding one another, and using them as inspiration for creative ideas. Considering we already know that these students have found their voice, because this was the first skill we saw, they can thrive in a group as opposed to being drowned out by the other voices.

For the teacher, there should be an encouragement for working together in groups and activities that require teamwork. If you walk into a classroom on the first day of the school year where the students don’t know one another, it can be awkward as nobody really wants to take the baton of conversation. As soon as you get some group tasks on the go, the class learns to trust and work together for the greater good. As we saw earlier, they will soon realize that their results will be better if they learn to work together and this can be carried forward into later life. In the office or whatever job they pursue, they will know that teamwork is often the greatest contributing factor to success and they will use this knowledge.

Summary - There we have it, the five critical skills needed for students to see success. As long as they find their voice, course, passion, interest, and companions, there is no reason why they cannot succeed. As we said a little earlier, the education system should be about preparing students for what might come in the future and these five skills are a great way to do this. Once they learn these skills, they have everything they need to be successful in life not just in their educational career.

As we so often see, teachers are essential to this because they have the ability to lay the groundwork for the skills. In their position as teachers, they have a powerful job and can ensure that these skills are learned at the right times. If a whole classroom can move forward as a group, be proactive in their approach, and find their interests and passions, that is a whole classroom of employees that will go into their desired fields and see success!

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