Friday, July 6, 2012

Reflections on a Summer Academy: It's about people, not programs!

At our high school, another way we invest in all students is through our Summer Academy.  Describing this program accurately and succinctly is a challenge but here we go.  Research mentions the transitional years of the 8th to 9th grades as pivotal for students finding success in high school.  Many students progress through with hardly a hiccup.  Howserver, some students are in grave danger of dropping out and need additional interventions, support and connections before they will persist to graduation.  Here we introduce some major components of our successful intervention, The Summer Academy.

To begin, we all read and review the premise behind the Dr. Seuss book, Green Eggs and Ham.  Of course we all remember Sam is persistent and that is an easy lesson.  Deeper investigation behind the continual rejection and foundational to success, we notice Sam builds a relationship with the grouchy guy. It is not until they have a relationship does the grouchy guy relent and try the meal.  Therefore, trust is vital and required for influence and persuasion from one individual to another.  Sam was intentional and deliberate and withstood multiple rejections before his ward relented.  Throughout the pages, Sam always smiled, tried again and created another fun adventure for the two, even enlisting the support and encouragement from many others to help the grouchy guy consider taking this risk.  Finally, the realization that these physical risks never caused any harm convinced the grouchy guy to take a culinary risk and try the green eggs and ham.  SUCCESS.  That is the end of the book!  Our first deep lesson:  A relationship of trust and mutual respect is required for one to allow another influence. As leaders we can lead, but until our followers know we care, they may withold endoursement.

To look for an even deeper lesson, consider this:
What was the first thing the grouchy guy said?  ??? ???
He did not say anything about Ham!  He said, "That Sam-I-am!  I do not like that Sam-I-am!"

Correct, the Grouchy Guy did NOT like Sam-I-am!  Yet, Sam was intentional, deliberate and even professional, overlooking the repeated objections to the offering, knowing he had something of great value and high importance for his friend the grouchy guy.  Thus, he pursued a relationship with the Grouchy Guy, even though the grouch did not like him or his Green goods! 

Thus, we see as leaders, teachers, mentors and guides of others around us, the lesson is ours. For us to influence them, we must extend the olive branch, take the first step and build a relationship.  WE CAN NOT RELY ON THEM TO SEEK OUT WISDOM.  We must initiate, purposely subjugate ourselves and allow our wards and those we lead to have doubt, display frustration, become upset and not take their demonstrations of stress as rejections of the relationship. 

This premise of intentional relationship building forms the backdrop of every event, activity and interaction between the participants in a Summer Academy.  The risk of rejection is always there, however, breaking through this barrier and connecting on a personal level allows conversations to go deeper and fosters an environment where failures, do-overs and multiple attempts are common.  Mistakes are part of learning, growing and reaching new benchmarks but these failures NEVER put the relationship in jeopardy.  As guides and leaders, we refuse to allow their wall building to deter our efforts to reach into their lives with truth and advancement.  Just as the Grouch gave Sam the look, the hand and continual rejection, we too can see a case for persisting in relatinships.

It is about people and their well-being,  NOT the program.

More on the Summer Academy later.

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