SuperCamp college prep strategies start in summer and continue through life.

By Doug Schlesser

The first month of the school year has always been a struggle for me. While entering my third full year in the classroom, after my second summer as a SuperCamp Facilitator, I decided to focus much more on creating a classroom community, and less on jumping straight into content.

SuperCamp is the same way. We spend an entire day of our ten-day camp establishing the expectations for the other nine. We start day 1 at full speed and don’t pull back until Graduation. Our schools must do the same thing.

While at SuperCamp we create our atmosphere with high energy and Whoa Claps, it’s a bit different in classroom. The QLN terms the classroom community as Home Court Advantage (HCA).

When we think of HCA as equal parts safety, security, and belonging, it isn’t hard to imagine that our classrooms may be our students’ only home court. Increasingly, we live in communities, whether rural, urban or suburban, where pressure is placed on children that not in line with their true place in life.

So, knowing this, how do we create this sense of a Home Court Advantage almost immediately?

I can only think of one clear answer: Being open and honest with our students from day one creates an environment that includes all three aspects of Home Court Advantage.

Honesty? Many of our more jaded colleagues have turned honesty into sarcasm, and truth into hard truth.

Let me offer a personal example: At the beginning of this school year I sat down with my class and had a serious discussion about what school life had been like for them over the past ten years. After the initial silence, the room became a beehive of activity.

Quickly, we reached a conclusion: School hasn’t been that much fun.

Of course, this wasn’t new to anyone involved. And to leave it there would have been the easy part. A simple, “Yes, but this year will be different” is not enough. Asking students what they would do to make this class unlike previous classes was an adventure.

With each outlandish suggestion (Daily Nap Time was the best), they were met with an honest answer. Will that work? Maybe yes, maybe no. Would that really make you a better student or me a better teacher? The key was to make them think through their suggestions. We’d all love some Oreos to start third hour, but is that really going to help us master our grammar skills in order to communicate better?

By that time we were already learning, and learning something that doesn’t fall into the Common Core: This class can work effectively. This class can be respectful from both sides of the desk.

With this activity, those students who had volunteered were shown that even if their ideas was a bit silly, it was safe to express it. The discussion was focused on this secure classroom and not the whole school. At the end of it, we all had a set of guidelines that would help us to be(long) in those four walls for the next 180 days.

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About the Author:
Doug Schlesser is a graduate of Illinois State University. He has been a Quantum Learning Network SuperCamp Facilitator since 2011 and will be at our Loyola Chicago location this summer. During the school year, he is a High School English Teacher in Thornton, Illinois.

About SuperCamp:
SuperCamp offers academic and personal enrichment program summer camps for teens, including specifically designed summer programs for high school students, middle school students, and college students respectively. These educational summer camps provide ideal college prep skills and help instill positive values for life based on The 8 Keys of Excellence by Bobbi DePorter. SuperCamp’s academic summer programs for teens help students increase their grades, confidence and motivation.