By our Smarty friends at The Fletcher School
At Fletcher, the first day back from Winter Break is always buzzing with activity as we welcome back current students and our Falcons who have taken flight — to begin their career, to advance their education, or to take on life’s adventures. On Young Alumni Day, Fletcher’s positive impact shines through our confident, thriving graduates.
Young Alumni Day is an annual Fletcher event, part of which is our engaging and inspiring Alumni Panel. Each year, we welcome Fletcher alumni to serve on this panel to share their post-graduation experiences with our current Fletcher students. Each experience shared is unique, and yet each story is linked by a common thread that is woven during their time at Fletcher and provides the backbone for their success. Our current students benefit from this chance to learn of the opportunities and potential challenges that, as students with learning differences, they might encounter in their next step. Hearing first-hand how our Fletcher graduates meet success post-graduation inspires our students and reaffirms the value of their Fletcher education.
The Backbone of Success for Fletcher Alumni
Because our students learn differently, various Orton-Gillingham principles are utilized throughout the curriculum at The Fletcher School. These include (but aren’t limited to) individualized instruction and multisensory teaching (lessons involving the ears, eyes, and hands) that support each student’s unique learning needs. The result is a learning experience in which students gain an understanding of their learning profile with the ability to select and apply strategies that work for them. This cognitive principle is embedded in our curriculum and allows the student to develop a clear understanding of how he/she learns. This self-understanding is our student’s first step to reaching their full potential as a learner.
Following the development of this self-understanding, the student must then learn what he/she needs (special accommodations, etc.) in order to perform their best. In Upper School (9th-12th grades), this is especially important as students prepare for their next educational experience outside of Fletcher. Our Upper School students, for example, are taught how to create study guides for tests based on their unique learning style. Some students may need to listen to verbally recorded notes; others may need strong visual representations of the information.
Our Fletcher alumni consistently and frequently speak to the importance of developing self-understanding when asked how Fletcher prepared them for success post-graduation:
“[I learned] what I needed and what would help me be the best student I could be.”
– Kate, class of 2013
“You must learn what works for you and realize that it may not work for the kid next to you.” – Emily, class of 2017
An essential part of maximizing the power of self-understanding is learning how to self-advocate. Self-advocacy skills are built into the curriculum at Fletcher, especially in Upper School. Through various courses and lessons, our students learn how to communicate their needs as a student with a Specific Learning Disability (SLD) and/or ADHD. For example, many of our alumni who enroll in college must communicate their needs to the Office of Disability Services and/or their professors to ensure they receive the accommodations necessary to achieve at their highest potential. For example, testing accommodations are especially important for some of our students: small group testing, read aloud, extended time, multiple testing sessions, or a separate setting may be needed.
Kate, a recent college graduate and Fletcher alumna reflected at this year’s Alumni Panel:
“Self-advocacy is important in college where services aren’t built into the curriculum. You must build relationships with your professors and communicate your needs with them.”
Emily also advised while serving on the Alumni Panel that, “your professor isn’t always going to understand [your learning difference]. You often have to meet with your professor and explain in more detail why you need these services…Self-advocacy helps a lot”.
Self-advocacy skills are important in any new setting, be it a gap year program or a new job.
Jeffrey, who attended a gap year program in Wyoming, stressed the importance of the ability to “self-advocate and ask for help”, especially with limited support services.
Assessing Self-advocacy Skills at Fletcher
In addition to assigning letter grades, our teachers use an alternative assessment technique to match our student’s learning styles. Each student is assessed based on “Levels of Independence” in 8 different categories, Self-advocacy being one of them. Assessments are given with a number ranging from 1 (student has difficulty applying knowledge or skills with teacher coaching; requires substantially more practice) to 4 (student applies knowledge or skills effectively and independently on a consistent basis).
Through the Fletcher curriculum, our teachers ensure they provide each student with adequate self-advocacy skills that allow him/her to reach their full potential.
Falcons Take Flight: the Emergence of Motivated, Confident Individuals
Reaching a strong level of independence is progressive, but at Fletcher, it’s built into the curriculum from the start. Our students develop a strong sense of self-understanding and self-advocacy skills that not only enables them to become confident, proficient learners, but creates confident individuals who shine in all aspects of life. Moreover, not to be overlooked is our their apparent drive to succeed and do their best:
“In college, you have to go the extra mile to reach out to your teachers and communicate your needs” – James, class of 2016
“When I started at Queens…I realized I needed to take the extra step to make things work because it’s not the same as High School, it’s much harder work, but if you put forth more effort you will do well.” – Kate
Our students’ motivation to succeed and reach their full potential is equally as extraordinary as their learning experience at Fletcher. Upon leaving, they continue to work diligently to excel in educational and work environments that don’t often accommodate their Learning Difference. The confidence that comes with self-understanding and self-advocacy is essential to their success in life. By encouraging these attributes in our students, Fletcher provides the wings that guide our Falcons on their path to success as they soar into life’s challenges and adventures.