If you are a parent or guardian of a Willowcreek student you likely have recently heard any or all of the following statements. “Mom, I need a jar of peanut butter for the food drive.” “Mom, they are collecting toilet paper for the food pantry.” “Mom, do we have any old coats for the coat drive?” “Mom, will you sign my permission slip to go help at the nursing home?” “Mom, I need money for the dance. All the money collected is going to help the Builder’s Club charities.”
These are just a few of the successful projects that are sponsored by various student groups at WMS and that have been generously supported by our parents and community. Why do we do all this? Let me explain.
Willowcreek staff and students are very proud of the way in which our hard work is contributing to our continuing academic success. However, when it comes to developing healthy, caring and responsible middle school students, academic achievement, although powerful, is only one factor.
The other factor, called by various names, including values clarification or character education, is equally important.
To address this issue on a system-wide basis, the Portage Township District Quality Schools Team adopted the modeling and teaching of the Five Critical Values: Be Honest, Be Respectful, Be Responsible, Be Fair and Be Compassionate.
When the team continued research into this issue they were led to the Search Institute. Based on extensive research, the Search Institute has identified 40 Developmental Assets that lead to positive youth development, prevention of high risk behaviors and the development of resiliency, which identifies factors that increase young people’s ability to rebound in the face of adversity. Fundamentally, youth who have more of the developmental assets will have more success in school and in life.
Further, the building of assets is dependent upon home, school, and community interaction. It really does take a village to raise healthy children.
To see what role you can play in this initiative, please access more information on the Search Institute and the 40 Developmental Assets at www.search-institute.org. Given the tools of the Five Critical Values and the 40 Developmental Assets, Willowcreek Middle School is working with parents and the community to help students become not only academically successful, but personally and socially successful.
First, in all classrooms and various other places throughout the building, the Five Critical Values are posted. Every morning, Principal Stewart makes reference to one or more of the Five Critical Values over the morning announcements. She also models how the values can be used to help students make the right decisions.
Whenever it is appropriate, teachers are expected to use the Five Critical Values in their management of the classroom environment. When students are sent to the office for behavior infractions, the Five Critical Values can be a focus for how and why they should/could improve behaviors.
Further, deliberate connections are made between the Five Critical Values and the Developmental Assets. For example, the Developmental Asset, Service to Others, links to the Critical Value of Compassion.
Second, Willowcreek Middle School is deploying the Developmental Assets in various ways. Students recently participated in a survey to provide information on where they are in relationship to the Developmental Assets.
Assistant Principal Doug Johnson has been instrumental in training teachers to implement the Developmental Assets and in developing resources, including a web binder, for teacher use. In addition, a limited number of classes have also been developed in which groups of students explore the Developmental Assets in detail.
Finally, the Portage Community Asset Development Team identified an asset of the month on which all participating schools and youth programs would focus. Just in time for the holidays, the month of November asset is Service to Others.
So, the next time you reach for your last can of tuna in response to, “Mom, I need a canned good for my advisory project,” realize that you are joining with all of us in very important modeling and teaching. It appears that research supports what many of us have known — it is more blessed to give than to receive.
Happy Holidays from the Creek!