Our experiences hiring high school and young adult workers chime in with the frustration of other business owners and heads of corporations: the quality of worker coming out of the high schools is not up to standard. Workers need to show up on time and be ready to work. They need to be able to get along and work well with others. There is often an air of entitlement with younger employees. They think that their mere presence is a gift to the business without hard work. So we took the requests for a stronger worker to the classroom to see if WUCA! would make a difference. Coaching in the Classroom (CIC) was created and began as a pilot project in 2009, focusing on 7th – 12th-graders in a rural Iowa school district and a metro alternative school, capitalizing on our more than 28 years’ expertise in rural business and economic development. CIC identifies student's passions, and uses positive self-talk and goal-setting utilized by championship athletes to develop championship students in the classroom.
CIC morphed after its first year in the rural district into a process that addresses students’ behaviors that put them “at-risk” of not graduating on time with their class, as defined by the Iowa Department of Education.
The Four Criteria
- Not being proficient in numeracy and literacy on Iowa Assessments;
- Failing at least one class;
- Not participating in any school activity; and
- Poor attendance and/or habitual tardiness.
If a student has a “check” in two of the four categories, they are considered “at-risk.” This designation doesn’t mean the child has substance abuse problems, any mental deficiencies, or other issues that could label them “at-risk.” It simply means that these behaviors are red flags – indicators that a student is developing habits that aren’t good for their academic and personal success in life.
Recognizing that these students will likely remain in their communities as employees and business owners after graduation, CIC connects these “at-risk” criteria to the behaviors employers require in employees that impact a workforce: show up on time. Be a lifelong learner and remember your lessons. Participate with others. Do “A”-quality work and turn it in on time.
The reality of our classrooms today is that our students are being taught core fundamentals, but our educational system, government mandates, and lack of solid parenting don’t allow time or staff to help them bridge the gap between school learning and applicability to the workforce once they leave school.
Coaching in the Classroom believes that all students will succeed when their passions, purpose, and goals align with their personal and occupational visions. CIC seeks to be the bridge that keeps all students in school through graduation and encourages self-motivation and drive for success in today’s global workforce.
- Improve scores of standardized assessments and other examinations.
- Instill entrepreneurial spirit and skills to help students see the possibility of being local business owners and leaders.
- Strengthen the local workforce by reinforcing the relevance of classroom instruction material to their futures.
- Improve self-esteem of students when they achieve personal success raising scores and feel more hopeful about their future options.
- Experience positive movement from students on youth surveys that measure students’ sense of security, belonging, and other less tangible but extremely important indicators for success.
- Improve behavior of students in the community.
- Improve relationships between students, staff, and faculty in school.
- Improve relationships between the school, students, and the community.
Due to many factors, rural communities are being forced to look for new ways to sustain their towns and school districts. In this ever-evolving environment, the area workforce is changing from a blend of white- and blue-collar workers to a more dominant blue collar workforce, often resulting in more college-educated children choosing to look in metropolitan areas for work. The students who remain in their home area are more likely students for whom school was a more challenging and less satisfying experience.
These are the fine, bright people who, sooner or later, will likely become mayors and run the communities, city councils, school boards, churches, and civic organizations, owning businesses within the community.
In addition to in-class presentations, discussions, and field trips, CIC can specifically link students with businesses of interest to their identified passions. Communities, especially those in rural areas, need to aggressively integrate these students to pursue business succession and workforce improvement strategies in the area to increase population and school enrollment.
CIC includes real-life stories about roles and expectations as employees compared to how their employers view them. For example, students learn that tattoos, piercings, and texting on the job they feel are personal expressions and rights can affect their hirability and longevity at a business.
We set in place individual academic, extracurricular, and work-related steps to identify how to make life vision become reality. Sometimes this includes self-reflection and that is really, really tough for this population of students. Heck, most people don’t reflect because we often don’t like what we see, but it’s necessary for growth. It’s a valuable tool. So we include exercises that require them to glimpse into themselves and what they want. We encourage that they deserve what they dream. And that often requires changing their behaviors.
Involvement of the local businesses to strengthen the workforce can take place through relevant speakers to the classes, identifying gaps in businesses needed by the community, how students can look to fill the gaps, and understand how their high school learning will impact their future goals. It also takes the community to want to reach out to the students to welcome, engage, and recognize the talents they have to offer. Plus, community members need enthusiasm and patience to teach students the skills they need to learn.
In addition to all the activities and exercises included in CIC, we have encouraged students by
- Telling them the criteria by which they have been measured since kindergarten. The mere knowledge of this “list” has been a revelation.
- Telling them how to get off “the list” and that the ability to do so is completely within their power.
- Helping them understand that their school attendance, classroom performance, attitude, and how they apply themselves at school matters to their ability to graduate and to future employment.
- Ending every single class, and calling often through the halls, the single most important message from Coaching in the Classroom: make good choices. It hasn’t made us popular, but we’re known for it!
- Within months of CIC’s inception, students sent to the principal’s office for misbehavior was down more than 50 percent.
- Students recognize that classroom work in core areas has direct impact on their future either in further education, enlisting in the military, or by remaining in or near their hometown and joining the workforce.
- Student population considered “at-risk” has decreased from 41 to 12.3 percent.
- The 2009 Freshman class set a goal for 100% of them to graduate on time and together. In 2013, they achieved the goal.
By identifying passions and aspirations with all students early in their school careers and helping them determine the steps to make their goals reality, students are more focused, better-behaved, and satisfied in high school, and better prepared whether they pursue a military career, go to college, or join the workforce upon graduation.