The data that was collected enabled district staff to compare the percentage of happy faces by grade level for each year of the survey. In his terrific book Improving Student Learning, Lee Jenkins, who was then the Enterprise Superintendent, presents a graph that shows a slow, gradual loss of enthusiasm that begins when students are in kindergarten and continues every year thereafter. Jenkins comments that â€œthe data clearly show that each grade level contributed to the loss of enthusiasm.â€ To heighten awareness of this decline, Jenkins makes the point that if 30 kindergartners enter school together, and two children per year lose their enthusiasm for learning, then only a handful would still be enthusiastic as they finish high school.
Jenkins believes that teachers are responsible for both learning and enthusiasm. He considers student enthusiasm to be an invaluable asset that educators must cherish. Students who have lost their enthusiasm for learning are less motivated to learn, less likely to put their learning to use in creative ways, and more likely to cause discipline problems. Jenkins contends that typical kindergartners have enough enthusiasm to last a lifetime, but they donâ€™t have all the knowledge. Educators, he stresses, must guard this enthusiasm, must protect it throughout a childâ€™s academic career. It is a schoolâ€™s most precious resource.
Dr. W. Edwards Demingâ€™s proposed aim for education also influenced the Enterprise School Districtâ€™s decision. In 1992 Deming suggested that the overall aim for education be: â€œIncrease the positives and decrease the negatives so that all students keep their yearning for learning.â€ He believed that if educators preserved studentsâ€™ love of learning by removing the practices that decrease enthusiasm and spreading those that foster it, more students would succeed in school.
In response to both the survey data and Demingâ€™s proposal, the staff of the Enterprise School District wrote and adopted the aim: â€œMaintain enthusiasm while increasing learning.â€ Jenkins remarks, â€œorchestrating classrooms so that all students progress in learning and maintain their enthusiasm for learning is an incredible challenge. It is, however, the responsibility of educators to maintain enthusiasm while increasing learning. We must not allow ourselves to stray from this path.â€
Next week I will share how I have incorporated the aforementioned ideas into my teaching and used them to establish a strong sense of purpose with my students.