In the rare opportunities we had to sit on the floor in a circle, students relaxed and became much more casual. Having students sit in their homeroom at their desks led to a more formal feeling to the sessions that I would have liked. A few students agreed and suggested that they would like to have the classes in a different place rather than their classroom in their written evaluations.
Classroom set up makes a significant difference.
Many students verbally expressed and wrote comments to me about how they wanted to have this course all year long. They prefer it over their regular religion class. From halfway through the course on, I weekly had students begging me to continue the class all year and/or multiple times a week. In final evaluations, over 90% of kids expressed a desire to continue the course.
As expected, the students loved learning more about themselves. The number one favorite take-away expressed in surveys was simply the subject matter—learning more about who they are and what their purpose is. The icebreaker games served a great purpose in breaking up the “regular class” routine and injecting immediate fun into the sessions, and the quick pace of the sessions and engaging subject matter always left the kids wanting more. Generally, the younger the kids, the more they really loved the icebreaker games.
Impact Pinellas, Inc. launched a pilot of its Youth Leadership program in October 2014. The pilot was conducted at Our Savior Lutheran School in St. Petersburg, Florida. Attendees in the pilot included 6th, 7th and 8th grade students.
Classes were held three days a week. Classes were approximately 30 minutes in length.
To help evaluate the effectiveness of the classes, anonymous surveys were distributed to students at both the mid-point of the 3-month pilot session and following completion of the classes.
Having a different leader than their regular homeroom teacher made a difference in the course. Students were excited to have someone new for a brief period, and expressed repeatedly how much they looked forward to it every week. As the session leader, I strove for authenticity and the ability to relate to them honestly. It’s imperative that the session leader doesn’t treat this like “just another class”, but as something special—the kids recognize the difference in attitude and respond to it. It’s crucial that session leaders don’t stand up at the front and lecture, but make the sessions all about the kids. I repeatedly (and honestly) told the kids that I looked forward to their classes as the highlight of my week, and they strove to make it a good experience for me every time because I verbally expressed that thought with them.
The attitude of the session leader has much influence.
Many students expressed their appreciation that they didn’t have to fill out answers and could engage in the course. Not often having handouts meant that students fully engaged in listening and discussing during sessions, instead of being distracted by reading something in front of them.
Content completely captured them.
In both surveys, our student response was unanimous—they were fascinated by the course and its subject matter. Students exclaimed their excitement every week as they filed into class, frequently found me in the hallways afterwards to talk about sessions, and stayed after class into their lunch period to talk to me about what they were learning.
Several students found me privately and told me that it was their “favorite class of all time in their entire school career” (to paraphrase their words). Interestingly, 98% of the students surveyed had a desire to have their friends take a course like this, too, based on how much they liked it themselves.
Sessions would have been better if they were longer and uninterrupted.
Student response was overwhelmingly positive.
Due to the flexible nature of the middle school, classes frequently started late or were interrupted by a “quick announcement” by homeroom teachers. Because the sessions were already shortened from an hour of heavy content to a mere half hour, it felt like we raced through the course on a weekly basis. Having a solid 45 minutes to an hour would have been optimal time for this class. Several students noted this on their evaluations, also.
Students expressed a strong desire to continue the course.
Students appreciated not filling out worksheets or having homework.
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