Redefining ‘Success’ and Teen Mental Health
1. What about a shift to qualitative assessment where kids are assessed relative to their past performance rather than compared to other kids? Has Challenge Success looked at the effects of that sort of change?
YES – Challenge Success works with many schools to re-think assessment policies and to make evaluation reports much more accurate, fair, and most importantly – useful to the students. If you want ideas for how schools are using qualitative assessments, see the many different examples in Chapter 5 in our book: Overloaded and Underprepared: Strategies for Stronger Schools and Healthy, Successful Kids.
2. Is it necessary to limit a teen’s ability to overcommit (like limiting number of AP classes and eliminating the 7a.m. school hour) to create a change in the climate and social expectations within the teen community?
This is actually two different questions. The first is about overcommitting: We (adults) must help teens learn to use their time more wisely and not overcommit. We have a scheduling tool on our website and in our recent book that can help teens and adults take a hard look at their extracurriculars and number of honors or AP courses and make informed decisions about next year’s schedule and course load. We actually don’t like the idea of setting a hard and fast limit to the numbers of AP courses someone can take – because there are always exceptions – and some kids in certain schools may actually need to take more than others.
The second question refers to later school start times. We have a lot of research that shows the advantages of starting school later and eliminating zero periods. This does NOT mean that we should eliminate the wonderful electives that are often offered during zero periods. It means we should revise the schedule to include these within the normal school day.
3. How do you foster valuing the uniqueness of every child and counter the competitive tide and narrow definition of success? How can we as adult mentors model this to our youth and community?
Adults make a huge difference in a teen’s life. Parents and educators alike can “walk the walk” and change how they often talk about success. We need kids to hear that we value learning above grades, that we value health and integrity, and that success isn’t measured at the end of a semester or by a fat envelope from a prestigious college. We need to watch what we say each day. If the first thing you say when you walk in the door is, “How did you do on the history test?” or “Did you score a goal?” or “You will need to know that for when you go to college,” you are sending very strong messages that success is about performance and competition.
Kids need to see and discuss many different models of success throughout the community – and adults can help to foster this.
Other posts in this series:
Teen Mental Health Q&A Introduction
Environment vs. Biology
Middle School Kids Ages 10-12 and Younger
Profile of High Risk Kids
The Role of Social Media
How Schools Can Help
How Parents Can Help
How Peers Can Help