This year my school adopted the No Excuses University vision. While I was hesitant at first, I attended the No Excuses University conference, and really agreed with the basis of the program. Students should work hard to achieve their fullest potential. This could mean a 4 year college for one students, a technical school for another, and the military for someone else. With this vision in mind, each classroom “identified” with a University or College. I chose Stetson University, since my name is Stetson, I thought it was only fitting. I wrote to the University in search of stickers, pencils, or anything else they could send me to get the kids excited about the possibility of attending college someday. Stetson University went above and beyond, and sent not only pencils and stickers but, pennants, fliers, books, sunglasses, and a lanyard for myself. I was absolutely amazed by their generosity.
I created a bulletin to get the kids thinking about college and the possibilities it could open up to them. Seeing Class of 2026 gets them thinking about what they will do after they graduate high school.
With such an outpouring of generosity, I wrote back to Stetson University telling them all about my AR reading mountain and the goals that the students will be striving for. I was again, sent a box overflowing with sunglasses, lanyards, backpacks, visors, t-shirts, and sweatshirts! In my last post I mentioned how I was able to get prizes for all of my students for FREE. Stetson University supplied me with enough memorabilia to award every student with multiple prizes!
When my students read 250,000 words they received a pair of Stetson University sunglasses (in addition to their degrees). 500,000 words earned them a Stetson lanyard (the same one I wear everyday, so I quickly gained mini-mes). 750,000 words earned them their choice of a backpack, pennant or a visor. When they reached 1,000,000 words, they earned a Stetson University t-shirt!
The excitement and motivation these things brought is indescribable. They began begging for silent reading throughout the day and were seen reading books out at recess. I no longer had to lecture them on how important daily reading was, because they were doing it on their own! I expected the motivation to dwindle, but this motivation lasted the entire year! Now, the fact that the school and I share a name, may have motivated the students a bit more. They began calling our classroom “Stetson University” since they were being educated by a Stetson.
Stetson University also published an article about us! The kids were ecstatic! https://www.stetson.edu/today/2018/02/fourth-grade-class-in-california-attends-stetson-university/
Partnerships can lead to unexpected things
This system of motivation would not have been possible without the support and love from Stetson University. We continued to stay in touch and after a few months received a package from Stetson University’s Library. The librarians took the time to send each one of my students a hand-written note on a Stetson bookmark and finger page holder. They sent us a picture signed by all of the librarians, with words of wisdom and inspiration. My students were amazed to receive support from yet another person who wanted to see them succeed. This motivation fostered a love for reading in some students that did not possess this when they entered my classroom. I saw fluency scores rising and students genuinely enjoying a good book! They began enjoying reading so much, that a few would reach a goal and forget about the prize. This taught me a lot about community involvement, even if the community stretches to the other side of the country!
I HIGHLY recommend reaching out to a college or University to “adopt” or support your classroom in whatever way they can. I am still blown away not only the response and support of Stetson University, but the buy in, motivation, and participation of every single student!