Jordyn Peake is a tenth grader who thinks about what she wants for her future every single day.
“I think about goals a lot now. I didn’t use to think about them at all,” says Peake, a student at Batesburg-Leesville High School (BLHS) in Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina. “But now I leave school thinking about what I can go out and do to achieve my goals. I’m thinking about the bigger picture; I’m thinking about what I’m going to do today to achieve my bigger goal for the future.”
Peake’s big goal for her future is graduating high school and getting her diploma. Reaching the proverbial finish line is a big deal in her town: the median income for a household in Batesburg-Leesville is $32K, and the biggest employer is the school district, followed by manufacturing and poultry harvesting. The high school has a 66 percent free and reduced lunch population, and assistant principal Era Roberts positions the district’s push toward personalized learning as an effort to support at-risk students in becoming self-regulated learners.
“We talk with all of our teachers: connect with kids, connect with kids,” says Roberts. “It’s about the person and then about the learning.”
It hasn’t been easy for Jordyn – she cites her slipping grades in elementary and middle school leading to her not having as much confidence in herself and feeling like she ought to give up. Her brother dropped out of school, but Peake wanted more. In the summer following her eighth-grade year, she got involved with a summer cheerleading program that was mostly older girls who helped her shift her perspective from the day-to-day to what she needed to do to have the kind of future she wanted.
“I adapted myself,” says Peake. “When I reached high school, I looked at things with a different perspective.”
Learning how to learn.
Peake is taking advantage of her high school’s recent restructuring of the lunch hour to seek out extra help in classes where she’s struggling. All students at BLHS can use half-an-hour of their lunch hour, what they call “half-time,” to get one-on-one time with their teachers, revise papers, retake quizzes or just get more time in subjects where they need it. Peake is a student who has taken advantage of half-time more than any of her peers.
“Everybody makes mistakes – you learn off of your mistakes,” says Peake. In a traditional learning environment, Peake’s understanding of content might’ve been assessed once or twice before moving on, whether she’d learned it or not. But in a personalized learning environment that supports flexibility, she’s given the opportunity not only to master content, but also to understand what she needs to succeed, and how to connect what she’s learning with what she wants for her future.
A self-proclaimed “hands-on” learner, Peake recognizes the roles her teachers have played in adapting their classrooms to meet her needs through half-time, and she’s also seeking out opportunities on her own. She connected with a family friend to participate in a program with Lexington County Public Safety to participate in job shadowing and ride-alongs with EMTs and first responders.
“I want to be a paramedic. I got into the program when I started thinking about getting myself ready for the future now,” Peake says. In addition to the ride-alongs, the program convenes participants to talk about what they’ve learned and present to others. Peake appreciates the opportunity to practice these social skills, too, as well as a new hands-on opportunity at school in the welding program. “It’s been proven that females are better welders because they have a more steady hand – maybe I’ll weld on the side.”
Remember who you are and what you’re trying to do.
Roberts stresses that students like Peake can easily fly under the radar – but the efforts made by her teachers and the district-wide push to personalize learning have made relationship-building a priority.
“She shows up and she does the right thing, but she does it in a very quiet way,” says Roberts. “I can’t imagine anything stopping her.”
Peake is always looking forward, even when it’s tough.
“There are some days, bad days, where I almost want to give up,” says Peake. “But you start a new day and remember who you are and what you’re trying to do.”