The belief that “There is no such thing as an underachieving child…only an unmotivated one,” is a core philosophy underpinning the Oak Hill Academy school mission. In order to reach unmotivated students, or those struggling due to poor study habits or a seemingly underdeveloped ability to get things done, structure is key. The positive relationships formed between teachers and resident managers who “coach” as much as “teach” must be backed up with steps to ensure accountability. We continually demonstrate this in working with our students.
Take the issue of homework – A sticking point for many of the families I speak with who are looking for a new approach. I’m often asked, bluntly, “how does Oak Hill Academy motivate unmotivated students?” Another common question is “how are you going to make sure my student does their homework?” Because we believe that, deep down, students would rather be successful, to feel “on top” of their work, we have several homework interventions designed to foster the mindset of taking care of business and managing time – to value the sense of completion. I’d like to discuss what we do in this area here.
Students are required to observe “quiet” study hours, campus-wide each evening from 8:30-10:30. For most students, this means studying in their dorm rooms, with doors open, computers stowed away (unless required for an assignment), with resident managers circulating through the dorms to offer a hand or a nudge in the right direction. For some students, we see that a more hands on, guided environment is needed. If homework remains an issue, here are some of the intervention steps we can use:
- Some students are assigned to an additional afternoon study hall period monitored by our librarian with one on one assistance in organization and planning.
- Resident managers who identified homework issues with a student will provide more intense coaching in a dedicated study area outside of the dorm room. Each dormitory has such a dedicated space.
- In the school building, homework deficiencies are addressed that same day with 8th period office hours for teachers who can sit shoulder to shoulder with a student who struggled with an assignment, making sure the homework is done, addressing the underlying issue, and ensuring that a student’s homework challenge doesn’t “snowball.”
Our overriding goal in our approach to study time and, in an specific sense, homework, is to provide students with a consistent, productive routine. This involves holding students accountable for their work AND providing appropriate assistance and guidance. Structure and routine leads to habit. As their habits solidify and a sense of responsibility is internalized, opportunities for more autonomy emerge, preparing students for the choices they will need to make in college and life. The goal is to provide structure, yes, but really to teach independence, time management, and healthy self-regulation. Our structure takes our students from guidance to self-reliance, confidence and being better equipped. Homework is but one important factor in this growth.