Wellesley High School (WHS) last year launched the Challenge Success initiative in an effort to broaden the definition of what success means for the Wellesley educational system and community. The program received financial support from the WHS Parent-Teacher-Student Organization (PTSO) and Wellesley Education Foundation (WEF). The idea behind the Stanford University-directed collaboration is to make a place in the WHS curriculum to teach resiliency, and explore methods to better engage students both at school and at home. About 130 schools throughout the United States — including those in nearby systems Dover-Sherborn, Acton-Boxborough, Concord-Carlisle, and Medfield — have used Challenge Success.
Challenge Success — from theory to practice
Wellesley HS Principal Jamie Chisum in an email this week updated families on the program and some of the ways it is being put into practice. Here are some excerpts from Chisum’s email:
“As the students will attest, we are continuing to keep our academic rigor and standards high as well as working hard to help our students realize the skills they will need to thrive our ever-changing professional world. This year we have taken greater strides with the Challenge Success program. As many of you know, our theme this year is balance. We are encouraging our students, as well as faculty and community members to reflect on balance in their days, their weeks, and their lives.
“Many of the Challenge Success initiatives are rolled out during advisory as this is intended to be a comfortable environment for your children and assures the school that every student is getting similar messages. This October we did time tracking for a week, we asked your children to put all twenty-four hours of their day in a spreadsheet for a week and after that week we asked our students to reflect on how they actually spend their time. Over the weekend of November 4th we set the clocks back and on that Friday we showed our students a video on the science of sleep and how important it is for their brains to recover while sleeping so that their brains can optimize its abilities.
It’s a balancing act
“Next week we are focusing on the balanced use of technology. Next Tuesday, your children are going to watch a video about how technology is taking up too much time in the lives of Americans in 2018 and that screens are making people less happy. We will discuss the videos in our advisories and it would be great if you could discuss it at home as well.
“Technology can be an addiction. In our community and country some experts are calling it an epidemic. We are hoping to use next week to make a positive impact on our community, and as a model for future weeks, by encouraging less use of technology and spending some time away from screens for more enjoyable, healthy activities.”
There must be more than just trying to get through high school
In the fall we sat down with Chisum to talk about Challenge Success and how it is rolling out at WHS. In the interview, Chisum talked about how he addressed perceptions that with the program the administration was somehow trying to make high school “easier”; building community in the school, especially for incoming first-year students; and the stress level students today operate under.
Chisum says, “We do feel the call to arms because we have a lot of kids who just report that sometimes they just want to survive high school. I don’t remember that being what high school was like for me. The world is challenging but they’re still teenagers, they’re still kids, they’re still forming. We’ve got to support them enough so that they don’t become overwhelmed. So how do we figure out the balance point?”