Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Shift From At-Risk to School-Dependent

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

I believe that the words you use are extremely powerful.  The message you construct for your staff, community, etc. should reflect the vision/mission of the school.  There is a term that is frequently used that I am officially banning from my vocabulary.  The term I am referring to is 'at risk'. I spend a great deal of time talking to teachers, principals, etc. about students who are not successful.  Invariably, the discussion comes to the students being 'at risk'.

I believe that all of our students are 'at risk' of something.  The term 'at risk' typically involves a list of things that we are not directly in control of.  While those variables may impact success, they are largely out of our control.  I find that success is directly tied to the effort put into your circle of influence.  The focus of our efforts as leaders should be on those variables that we do have control over.  Our superintendent introduced us to the term 'school dependent' children.

We work with students each and every day that are 'school dependent'.  This simply means that their success/failure is dependent on the school that they attend.  After all, the greatest predictor of student success is the classroom teacher.  Yet, many conversations still focus on the factors that are outside of our control.

This shift from 'at risk' to 'school dependent' puts the focus on the variables that we have control of.  These variables include:

  • quality of instruction
  • interventions provided
  • opportunities to engage in clubs/activities
  • mentorship programs

Many of our students our 'school dependent'.   Our conversations, initiatives, and development efforts MUST focus on the variables that we have control of.  Please join the movement! Let's acknowledge that there our factors outside of our control. Then move forward with the things that we are in charge of. Success is far more likely with this approach!


  1. Hi Brian,

    I really appreciated your latest blog and I think you make a lot of sense! I too see how quickly conversations between teachers, about students, eventually end up in "at risk" discussions and often that is as far as they get. I have always been a proponent of positive thinking and your idea of focusing on the things we as teacher can influence and control is exactly that. Why should we waste our time on things that are beyond our control when we can focus on things we can and really make a difference. Great blog and I hope you reach a ton of people!

  2. Hi Brian,

    I really enjoyed reading your late blog. I understand how conversations between teachers about their students can be a touchy subject. I think some teachers waste alot of classroom time on matters that they can't control. Some teachers need to focus more on what they can control which is the molding of young minds.