Reflecting on This Academic Year – and the Current Moment

The post we’re sharing today is all about reflection. It couldn’t come at a more important and opportune moment.

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting myself over the last few days: about the struggles our country is facing right now and what my contributions, positive and negative, direct and indirect, have been.

It’s easy to articulate our stance as a company: Signet Education stands in solidarity with all who are protesting the killings of George Floyd. We also stand with the countless other black men and women who have been wrongly killed, imprisoned, and oppressed by systemic racism in our society.

But beyond saying what we believe in, I’ve been thinking about whether or not my actions line up with my beliefs.

When I think about the civil rights movement of the 1960s, about MLK and lunch counters and schoolchildren in Birmingham, I think “I would have supported that movement proudly. I would have been part of the change.”

It occurs to me that right now, I have a chance to support a movement, a moment, a cause that strives to create a more just and equitable world. If we’re living through history, are we showing up in a way we can be proud of?

Honestly, I’m not. Yet. But I’m committed, personally and on behalf of this company, to taking action to “be the change I want to see in the world.” A big part of that is reflecting on the deep-seated beliefs and structures that are part of who I am and the way I move through the world.

I encourage you and your student to take our guide to reflection as a jumping off point for a broader discussion about more than academics. Hard truths and difficult conversations that follow, but self-awareness is a huge step toward creating changes that endure.

Your family may first be concerned with reflecting on the issues related to our country’s current events. But as it makes sense for you, we also recommend taking time to reflect on this highly unusual academic year.

Students’ worldviews are constantly in flux as they encounter new people, topics, and perspectives. Taking time to reflect on how those experiences have changed and shaped them is crucial for building a meaningful high school career.

Ideally, students are reflecting regularly, on a daily or weekly basis. Whether or not that’s the case, the end of the school year is a particularly ripe time for reflection. Students should make time to look back after school has ended, but not so far into the summer that their memories have faded.

This is the time to take stock. What went well and what could have been better? How was school meaningful and how was it annoying? How might these observations tie into something larger, like an academic, college, or career goal?

By asking these kinds of questions regularly, students can identify what they want to keep doing well and what they’d like to do differently. Asking these questions also necessarily pushes students to reflect on the bigger queries of why they’re in school and what they want to get out of it.

When students start high school, they often have tons of goals and ambitions. They are going to join the right teams, found their own clubs, and blaze an academic trail. The thrill of a new experience supercharges their imaginations, and they are ready to conquer the world.

As summer approaches, your student is reaching a new phase in his or her high school experience. Ambitions and goals have shifted; some have fallen by the wayside, while others have been exceeded. And in all honesty, some goals have probably not been achieved, or even worked towards, since they were first conceived at the start of 9th grade.

Now is the time for you and your student to sit down and perform a self-assessment, an honest accounting of what he or she has achieved and what is still left to do.

Here are some tips for helping your student assess the high school experience so far:

    • Choose a time. The self-assessment shouldn’t be done “on the fly.” Thoughtful self-analysis requires preparation and real concentration. Find an evening to sit down with your student and have an honest conversation about where he or she is at.
    • Gather supporting documents. Have your student gather grade reports, any copies of assignments (tests, essays, etc.) with teachers’ comments, and materials relating to extracurricular activities. This will help you and your student discuss his or her accomplishments in concrete terms.
    • Think back. I’ve encouraged you in the past to draft a High School Road Map with your student. If you have that, bring it to the conversation. If not, engage your student in a conversation about what he or she imagined school life would be like at the beginning of high school. Take notes as your student talks about his or her dreams, ambitions, and goals.
    • Lead with strengths. What has your student accomplished? Where has he or she shown improvement? Met or exceeded expectations? Using the supporting documents you’ve brought to the table, help your student “connect the dots” of his or her experience.
    • Next, zero in on weaknesses. After you’ve discussed your student’s achievements, shift gears to discuss things he or she hasn’t yet achieved. What classes are causing problems? What extracurriculars have gone by the wayside? What goals got lost along the way?
    • Explain the shortcomings. Simply pointing out that your student hasn’t done a certain thing may lead to frustration or disappointment. Instead, explore and discuss with your student why that robotics club never got started; whether it was realistic to attempt to read all of War and Peace by the end of sophomore year; if there are fundamental concepts in geometry that still feel elusive.
    • Return to the positive. We call this “the sandwich method”: lead with the good, zero in on shortcomings, and then end with more good. Find some item in your student’s documents that reaffirms his or her accomplishments. This will keep your student from leaving this conversation feeling beaten down or defeated.
    • Create an action plan. Having assessed where your student is, you now need to figure out where he or she needs to be—and how to get there. Have your student write down concrete, actionable items related to the weaknesses and strengths unearthed in the steps above.

Perhaps this goes without saying, but any conversation about accomplishments and shortcomings has the potential to be emotionally fraught, so proceed with gentleness and consideration. Your student needs to know that, in the end, you are his or her greatest cheerleader and supporter. If approached in the right spirit, conversations like these can help students truly blossom into the type of people they want to be!

Picture of Jay B.

Jay B.

Jay Bacrania is the CEO of Signet Education. As a high schooler, Jay won awards for chemistry at the state level in his home state of Florida, and at Harvard, he initially studied physics. After graduating, Jay spent two years studying jazz trumpet at the Berklee College of Music.

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