By Zach Weishar, corps member

It was the first class on the first day of school: 7th-grade math. The students filed in and took their seats, chatting quietly and looking up pensively at the teacher. No sooner did Mr. G begin to introduce himself did Jackson*, a student sitting at the back of the class, start talking to his neighbor. Mr. G swiftly informed the student that talking out of turn was unacceptable in his class.

The presentation began again. But a few minutes later, Jackson crumpled up a ball of paper and tossed it to a friend across the classroom. The action did not go unnoticed. When Mr. G asked the student to leave the classroom, I quickly followed the student into the hall to discuss the situation.

Extremely bright and perceptive, I quickly learned that Jackson is one of the most academically gifted students in the class. His test scores are high, but his behavior often prevents him from achieving his full potential.

For the next few weeks, I spent a lot of time talking with Jackson, trying to coach him on the choices he was making in class. I wanted him to see how his behavior was interfering with his learning. As the weeks passed, however, Jackson continued to be sent to the hallway for disruptive behaviors.

I began to get anxious. Why wasn’t I able to connect with Jackson? Why didn’t he seem to be learning from any of our conversations?

One day, an English teacher told me that Jackson’s mother wanted daily progress reports on her son’s behavior. Little did I know was that this progress report would be the answer I was seeking.

It was Jackson’s responsibility to give the sheet to each teacher after class. Jackson rose to the occasion and took ownership over this task. Once he started holding himself accountable for his actions, slowly his behavior began to improve.

Fast-forward to the today: Jackson is now a shining star. The STAR system is a metric that Rogers Middle School uses to track student behavior and performance in each subject. Shining Star is the highest echelon of STAR status. Shining Star status isn’t awarded for one action, but rather a compilation and continuation of model behaviors.

I am not saying that Jackson is perfect, because he does still have bad days, but Jackson has made considerable progress since the beginning of the year. A little accountability and ownership over his behavior was part of what was needed for him to exhibit behavior that would allow him to achieve to his full potential.

*NAME CHANGED TO PROTECT STUDENT PRIVACY.

About the author:

Zach Weishar is a 2013-2014 corps member serving on at Rogers Middle School in Hyde Park. 

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