Editorial: The effort, art of caring
Op-Ed · January 24, 2014

A discussion on student achievement at last week’s school board meeting included a profound yet simple statement by a student we believe is worthy of note: Show you care.

Dean of Students Jeff Wrede was talking to the West Branch Board of Education about the steps the high school uses to try to intervene with students who get into trouble or simply need more encouragement to do their homework and better themselves.

He talked about making sure that teachers try to work with the student, then the parents, before referring them to the principal’s office, or his office. He said that coaches are good about making sure players do what they can to keep their grades up so they can continue to participate.

Principal Michelle Lukavsky said school staff talk to students and send e-mails reminding them that they can get help at the “Study Table,” though some do not always take advantage of that opportunity.

High School junior and school board student representative Jill Exline interjected:

“As a teenager, sometimes it’s hard to tell when adults are pushing you to, like, get to class on time, which we know we’re supposed to do, or when we need to go to Study Table or something,” she said. “It’s hard to tell sometimes, from a teenagers’ perspective, that they care about you and that’s why they want you to do these things. From our perspective it seems like they’re just drilling you. And I think it would be easier to get us to class on time and to do these things that you want us to do if you showed us more that it’s because you want us to succeed, as opposed to, because it’s your job — you have to tell us to do these things.”

School Board President Kathy Knoop got it immediately.

“It’s a fine line,” Knoop said. “Because parents are in the same boat.”

While Exline’s statement probably came from experiences around the school, her tone clarified that this was more of an observation and less of an accusation.

Exline’s right, of course. Positive reinforcement should certainly be that first line of defense to keep students from getting into worse trouble.

And Knoop is right, too, because it’s a lot easier to be positive the first, second or even the 10th time you admonish a child. But once you get into the double digits of saying “You probably don’t want to do that,” you’re really trying a teachers’, or a parents’, patience. Seventy times seven, right?

It does help, really, and we all know that. It’s just hard to remember, and even harder to practice.

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