What does it mean to be “In the Circle”?

It’s a great place for any of us to be: In the Circle.

We are inside of an arc that includes us!

We want to be in a circle of friends. We want to be working on things in our circle of interest and ability. We want to have time to look around and take note of where we are and what’s going on.

That’s what “In the Circle” means.

Today is the last day of the semester. On my desk is a list of names, four circles of friends that teams have given me of freshmen who are doing school but seem poised for something more. (And yet as I write that, couldn’t that be true of any student?) This group does not have straight A’s and have one or fewer F’s. They know each other and have decent attendance.

The timeline is simple. The steps are sequential. The tasks all laid out. All that is left is reality.

I will meet with these students during the first week of the semester and invite them to step inside this circle. On Friday we will meet for an hour, have pizza, and talk about the circle: the circle of friends, the circle of interest, and the circle of review.

The circle of interest is the most nebulous. I’m asking them to consider something very small that is solidly inside their circle of interest, something that they are interested in doing or developing over the course of the semester. We will talk about SMART goals but only in context. At this first meeting, I will present the challenge to identify something that excites but is also small, nearly daily, and doable with the resources they have on hand.

At this first meeting, I will give them a link to a Google Doc and issue this challenge to the two circles of friends that will be present at each meeting:

The team with the most points wins. The contest is five school days long. Each person can score only one point per day by logging into this Google doc and answering the daily question. We will look at the totals on the following Friday.

The goal of this exercise is buy-in and the development of a daily habit of logging into Google Docs and providing some information.

And so it will begin. Over the course of the next few weeks students will identify that task or activity that is inside their circle of interest, and I will introduce the daily 360 that students will do to review each school day.

The final destination in this journey will be a research project looking at the power of daily review. Does daily review improve a student’s GPA? This group will be my experimental group and this summer I will create a control group made up of students with similar first semester GPA’s, gender, family status, and as much as is possible an identical schedule. I’m looking to create a control group that is twice as large as the experimental group and then compare overall GPA of these two groups.

This side of research is always full of potential and possibility. Not only will I be stepping into this circle but also into the reality of how these students do school.

While we will be In the Circle, I hope I am not going in circles; rather, I hope we can discover a way forward that will help future freshmen find greater success.