This year, Higher Achievement enacted new curriculum goals and requirements of mentors. While these new reforms have much research and good intentions to back them up, they feel more to me like extra lesson plans for school. For me, the new requirements put a signifiant strain on what I am able to accomplish with my mentor group and what kind of relationship I am able to build with them.
Higher Achievement no longer looks like the program I fell in love with. With rigid pacing guides, strict essay guidelines and detailed lesson plans which aim to enhance state mandated standards it feels like school to me. And as hard as it is for me to say (as a strong believer in the power of education), I did not sign-up to stand and deliver lesson plans to students that are emotionally drained after a long day following the monotonous routine of public schooling as it stands today. I signed up to be a mentor. And as my friend Merriam-Webster says, a mentor “is a trusted counselor or guide”.
The task that I have in mind and the task I am forced to practice do not align. The scholars know it as well as I do.
I sympathize with my scholars. They have been at school since 7:30am and do not get a break until nearly 8pm the three nights a week when Higher Achievement is in operation. This adds up to over 12hours of intense stimulation. I would be irritable, so I cannot blame them for not being completely enthusiastic about having to write and work on perfecting the essay for an entire month straight. Yes, writing builds key academic skills and yes, practice makes perfect but not like this. There is virtually no time built in to our schedule for me to help out my students with things other than aspects of their lives which pertain to their academic goals.
There are so many other things going on in the lives of a middle school student which affect their ability to thrive and grow that these new standards ignore.
Relationship building has always been at the core of the position I have designed for myself at Higher Achievement. So in lieu of recent adjustments to the program I find myself town between wanting to uphold the standards set by the program (because researchers developed them, so they have to work right?) and building trust-filled relationships with my scholars.
I believe that relationships are the key to effective teaching and learning so I am more inclined to make that the focal point of my mentoring session however I cannot fully ignore the little voice telling me that the standards should be more important.