1. Students are attending this sliver of time without fail. As in most public high schools students are still scurrying to class when the bell rings for traditional classes at our high school, some moving faster than others. I have noticed besides the occasional student who did not realize their 'success group' rotated to a new teacher, students are eager to attend these sessions. Hallways are empty and classes are fully attended. From my non-official polling of a few students, the main reason is this is a "great break from day to day classes". This 'recess' from traditional classes is welcomed and our staff are doing a wonderful job 'tricking' them into learning during this 'non class' time!
2. Teachers are at ease with their rotating students and success lessons. As I have popped in to these success times, all across the building every room seems to be at ease and engaged. I believe the absence of a 'set of standards and chapters' that must be covered for these lessons has freed up some teachers to use other means of instruction. Video clips, class discussions and personal teacher stories abound during these success times. Also, constantly rotating students allow teachers to meet new students they may otherwise not have in class which has improved adult/student hallway interactions.
3. Teachers are passionate with the soft/executive skills that they have chosen. When we created these success times we had staff choose what grade level and topics they'd like to teach. This has allowed teachers to teach their passion once a week that may or may not be outside of their 'highly effective' label allowed by the State of Michigan. We do not take traditional attendance or grade these success times but the teachers' passion for their topics has students engaged and learning weekly. It's a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together, isn't it?
4. Applications to colleges are up greatly for seniors. We did a modified seniors-only version of this success time last school year. Our success rate and our graduating seniors being accepted was 90%+ which was pretty good for our small rural school. Our goal this year is to not only beat that percentage but also to allow students more choice in where they want to go to college. Our senior success time has been dedicated to researching and applying to colleges thus far this year and including "College Application Week" which had extended success time has resulted in 230+ applications submitted so far. This is a 2 apps per student average and we have less than 5 seniors yet to apply which is far ahead of last year's schedule.
5. Collaboration among staff has risen. Our success student groups are rotating teachers every 3 to 4 weeks and there are frequently whole class assemblies focusing on big topics with guest speakers. Staff meeting and professional development time has been given to staff to help coordinate all of these efforts and to keep their success time curriculum scaffolded. Even with this available time, collaboration via Google Apps and frequent email has occurred seamlessly. Google documents created by many, calendar invites criss-crossing our domain, and proofing of shared schedules and agendas is common weekly. The classic '1 teacher-1 set of plans' has given way to a bigger shared purpose of success time goals.
While our high school's Success Time is still a work in progress the above successes show our pilot project is going in the right direction. Building a plane while flying it is never easy but the willingness of our staff to make this time each week productive is infectious. If 30 minutes off of traditional coursework can bring students and staff closer together and more successful overall, I believe it is time well spent.