Monday, February 04, 2013

More on Perception

Post-Educon I had conversations about the conference with numerous people, often about my thoughts on the power of perception. One such person is a brilliant educator I am lucky to know who works in a variety of capacities. The one that is relevant at the moment is her work with our district's interagency schools. These are the schools that work with our court system and detention centers, mental health supports, and transitional services. These schools support students and families in various stages of trauma, stress, and challenges. They can do amazing things.

This educator was describing to me two of the schools that work with the court system. One is very much what you would expect of a school working with a court system, tough rules, high expectations, etc.

The other does some interesting things. For one, they take a picture of their incoming students the day they arrive. This typically means a picture of them looking very run down, maybe tired, dirty, ragged. They then take a picture of the student on their graduation day, the day they complete their time at that school and return to their base school. This picture typically shows a well-dressed, clean, poised young person. At the graduation they show both pictures. These graduations happen regularly as students arrive and leave at different times. This means that throughout their time at this school students see these images side-by-side again and again. They see the possibility their future holds, what they can be. They are pushed to perceive themselves in a new light through seeing their classmates change.

I don't have any data but my guess would be that students coming out of this school are more successful when they return to their base school, and to regular life, than students returning from the more traditional court-affiliated school. Changing negative perceptions matters.

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