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Celebrating Our Children’s Non-Academic Victories

by Deanna Westedt, Ed.D.

There’s a saying in the fitness world: “non-scale victories.” I personally love this phrase because it identifies that there is so much more to being healthy than a number on a scale. It focuses on quality of life issues and brings a healthier lens to the fitness world. This short phrase packs a positive punch because it shifts us to an understanding that there’s a holistic picture.

I’ve thought a lot about how this phrase transfers over into the educational world. In a system so focused on numbers to the point that schools can receive sanctions from the state for not meeting numerical benchmarks, it is critical for us to remember that we are teaching living breathing humans, our future, so much more. Just as in a weight measurement, these standardized numbers are one-dimensional, but so much importance is placed on them. In my twenty-one years of teaching, I have had the privilege to work at many school sites and I can testify to the fact that higher state testing numbers did not always represent a healthy school environment, or even that more learning was going on. I could really take a deep dive into the glaring problems of making important decisions on these numbers alone, but I didn’t come here to do that today: I want to shift the focus to our students’ wins, no matter what their report card says!

Now, I am not coming here to tell you that low grades or tests shouldn’t concern you. I am telling you to balance any concern you may have with the whole picture. So, what are non-academic victories? They are evidence that we are preparing students for life!

Here are some examples:

  1. A student who previously struggled with organizational skills learned some strategies for keeping track of papers and now turns in a higher percentage of assignments (Notice, I did not say ALL assignments…teaching and parenting is all about progress not perfection).
  2. A child discovers a new passion or interest and begins to pursue it whole-heartedly. Friends, this is where genius that blesses the world often begins.
  3. An opportunity to demonstrate compassion and kindness plants a seed of service-mindedness in children.
  4. A student who previously avoided reading is now taking an interest in some books, even if they only want to read the same books over and over.
  5. Students learn how to truly collaborate with each other and how to have self-efficacy.

The message of non-academic victories is especially important right now. In a year that has looked so different than others, some found their academic footing and others did not. Look for those non-academic victories and take a moment to savor them. Often, they lead to life lessons that a student will remember long after the facts they memorized for a test fade away.

When you teach you touch the future and that’s a pretty amazing place to be!

If you like my message and want to hear more, check out my website deannawestedt.com to see the different opportunities I offer for speaking engagements and professional development.

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