Thursday, April 19, 2012

Student Achievement Best Practices Thanks to Collaboration

When Children Help Others, Everyone Benefits

 by Renee Heiss, Retired Teacher

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Student achievement best practices are sometimes not educators' practices at all--when students collaborate, students learn.
image courtesy of
So often, teachers focus on the student and the learning, but forget about the value of helping others to change student behavior.  The mind set for today’s youth appears to be one of guided egoism. I say “guided,” because most teachers, counselors, and parents help children to achieve high grades through a rewards system.  Honor roll certificates, stickers, National Honor Society membership, and other grade-based rewards force the child to focus on the grade.  While there’s nothing wrong with this system, it’s not the total package.  When children learn that there are others who are less fortunate, and that they can help those people, the children become more responsible with everything they do.

When children think of others first, everyone benefits. There will be fewer fights in schools and fewer bullies in the hallways. A child's boosted self-esteem usually carries over to better class work and regular attendance. Philanthropy empowers children to be positive members of the community. According to Dorothy A. Johnson, President of the Council of Michigan Foundations, “The earlier we introduce the concept of giving and public service, the more successfully we incorporate it into a child’s daily behavior, and the greater the impact on society as a whole.”

Whatever children learn when they are young generally carries through to their adult years. If they learn that you need to get all that you can to become successful, they will probably become greedy adults. If they learn that in helping others, they help themselves, these children are more likely to grow up to be responsible members of the greater community.

When children are responsible for the welfare of others, they also learn the value of commitment. Teens learn punctuality, for example, when a senior citizen waits patiently for a visit and then is disappointed when the youth is late.

Sacrificing time or money for a charitable cause shows the young person that personal needs may not be as critical as they once thought. It is gratifying to the child and his parents when he spends a Saturday morning volunteering at a soup kitchen instead of playing video games. Again, everyone benefits.

Volunteering also teaches the child to budget her time wisely so that she can find time for her own activities and the charitable project. When young people have less free time, they are less likely to cause problems for teachers, parents, and the community. Surprisingly, they also manage to get their homework done in record time with more accuracy when they know that their “cause” waits for their help.

Teens who volunteer regularly become more self-assured in their ability to make a difference in other people’s lives. This same mentality carries over into their own lives. They may find ways to help family members. They should be able to present oral reports with confidence. They will probably become proactive about their future. They contribute positively wherever they go.

When kids work in the community, they see people of many different ages and ethnicity. They learn that senior citizens have unique personalities just like their friends. They learn that people with a foreign heritage have amazing life stories to share. They learn that everyone is different and should be respected for those differences.

So how do you help your students reach their potential?  By showing them how to help others reach theirs.  Organize a buddy system with younger grades.  Arrange for a planned field trip to a nursing home.  Create books for children in hospitals while using the vocabulary words for the week.  Have a fund raiser that incorporates concepts in your science or social studies classroom (imagine a toga car wash, for example!) The possibilities are endless if you have some creativity and a dedication to helping others while you help your students to help themselves.  Try it - I think you’ll like the change in your classroom!

 Renee Heiss is the author of several books for teachers (Feng Shui for the Classroom, Helping Kids Help, and The Kinetic Classroom), and three books for children (Somebody Cares!, Woody's World, and Ducklings in a Row).  Although retired from public school teaching, she keeps active in education as an instructor for the Institute of Children's Literature.  Visit her website to see all her activities: and her blog for tips for teachers and parents from her experience and research:

1 comment:

  1. This is valuable, true information that needs to be put into practice on a huge scale- what an impact!