What’s your plan?

This is the time of the year when we start registering students for next school year. The process of building a school timetable has begun. The timetable that we will build for next year is, of course, driven by student course requests. In order to have a solid schedule, we have to ensure that kids are picking the right courses.
In Alberta, there exist high school diploma requirements. This is the minimum that we would expect a student to accomplish in the three years they are in high school. Students who are going to post-secondary institutions will also be trying to fulfill admission requirements.
For the past week, we have been registering grade 9 students at our feeder junior high schools as well as helping our current grade 10 and 11 students choose courses for next year.
I find myself asking kids the same question. “What is your plan?” To me, this is an important question. Students need to have a plan…not only for the next year but, in the case of grade 9 students, for the next three years. Some students react to this question by taking out sheets of paper on which they have been planning with their parents…I love that! This shows that they have had a conversation at home and that parent and student are in this together. Some students respond with, “What do you mean?” or “You’re not gonna pick courses for me?” I usually reply by saying that I already had my high school experience and now it is my job to help you to have yours. In some ways, courses are selected for students. If their grade 9 marks are not high enough to get into the academic stream, the lower stream must be chosen. In many cases, we have conversations about these courses and I may ask a question like: “So your mark isn’t high enough for this course, so how does that change your plan?” My goal in these sessions is to clearly define a “high school plan” for each student (and parent). As the school year progresses, and students want to change their schedules, I again find myself asking my famous question.”
“Mr. Hatch, French is too hard…I want to drop it.” To this I would respond with something like, “Well, you know the original plan was for you to complete French and use it as a university requirement…and you know that grade 10 students have to have full timetables…so what is your plan?” Then I would listen and see if their plan makes sense. Many times, students have offered a plan that I had not even thought of. If it makes sense, and gives the kid what they need to graduate then it’s a great plan.
I have had great luck with this question. It puts the onus back on the student and makes the student accountable for their high school education. This way, my role is one of support, encouragement, and guidance.
Does any of this make sense?

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About Derek Hatch (Hatcherelli)
Assistant Principal and Technology Leader in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

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