Isan is a student at Beecher 9th Grade Academy in Flint, Michigan; we’ve changed his name to protect his privacy. You’ve probably heard of Flint, a city recently rated by Forbes magazine as the second “most miserable” city in the USA. Although Flint is starting to turn around — thanks to innovative schools such as Beecher — Isan is up against difficult odds.
Like many of his peers, Isan struggled in school. Sometimes he wondered what the point was. He worried that if he gave wrong answers, people would think he was stupid. Not trying was easier.
Barely engaging with schoolwork, Isan described himself as “falling off” — a term used for rappers who fall off the radar because they’re failing to produce a good enough quality and/or quantity of music. For Isan, falling off meant that he was at high risk of dropping out.
When Isan’s teacher introduced EduGuide’s weekly, 15-minute online activities in English class, Isan thought the program was going to be a “stupid waste of time.” But since EduGuide days meant he was allowed to wear headphones and use the school’s nice laptop computers, he figured it was at least better than “the usual classwork.” And it seemed easy enough. So he gave it a shot.
He started out blowing through the content, only entering the bare minimum text to meet the character count requirements so he could move on to the next activity. But a lot of the activities had videos, sometimes featuring celebrities or other interesting characters, and that got Isan’s attention.
Then he started paying more attention to the questions after the stories and videos. They didn’t just ask him to regurgitate boring facts or memorize pointless details. They asked him what he thought. How he felt. What advice he would give to a younger version of himself. Thinking about these things made him realize and articulate what he truly valued in life…the things he wanted to achieve…and what steps he would have to take to achieve them.
“I did this one activity,” Isan explains, “and it made me re-examine my values, which [are] determination, motivation and dedication. It made me re-apply that to everything that I do, and since then, I’ve been doing so much better.”
Isan has only been doing these activities for a few short months, so it’s too soon to say what impact they will have on his life and career trajectory. At this point, though, his teachers confirm that Isan is now producing the quality and quantity of schoolwork he needs to keep far from “falling off” the radar.
“No pain, no gain,” Isan wrote in his EduGuide journal. “Learning new things is sometimes hard to do, but that’s the only way to learn. If you never experience new things that will help your mind grow stronger, you will always be the same naive person. This made me more motivated to learn new things.”