A no excuses policy in the educational setting can come across to some as harsh, insensitive, or lacking context of the real psycho social stressors that many of our urban African American students face. But in my experience as an educator, youth advocate, and parent, a “no excuses” policy is just what we need to expect from our children if we want them to thrive and succeed.
No excuses means that when a student with profound dysfunction in the home and neighborhood arrives at school and says he didn’t complete his homework last night because there was a crisis in his building, the teacher looks at him and says, “I’m sorry to hear about the crisis in your building, but why isn’t the homework done?” . It’s expecting them to find a way, fight harder, work longer, and never give up. It’s continuing to expect great things from children who have chaos, unpredictability, pain and loss in their life. It’s showing them that you care, and because you care, you are going to demand excellence in their school work and behavior.
Yes, along with a “no excuses” policy comes empathy, connection and the acknowledgement that some students just plain have it harder. The ideal relationship with our youth is to help them feel heard and understood, and to hold them to a very high standard in spite of all the hardships in their lives. Making excuses for our students when they fail serves no one. Resources, excellent teachers, school counselors, mentoring programs, coaching and extracurricular activities all help to strengthen our students and give them opportunities to find skills, joy, and success. However, a universal “no excuses” policy by parents, educators and those that love and nurture our youth is more powerful than anything we can provide them. It sends a deep and resonating message: we believe in you and your abilities.
“Urban Prep in Chicago made history when it opened in 2006 as the first all-boys charter school in the nation, said founder Tim King. King was determined to take African-American boys from “tough backgrounds” and get them into college, just as King had succeeded in doing as president of Hales Franciscan.
Four years ago, every freshman at Urban Prep Academy Charter High School-Englewood was given a watch and told they now had no excuse to be late for class at a school dedicated to putting black males into college.
And no excuses were needed Friday, when Urban Prep’s first graduating class celebrated the news that every senior had been accepted to at least one four-year college.”
What Urban Prep has done in “beating the odds” and graduating 100% of their students is beyond impressive. It’s inspirational. Even if a school doesn’t have some of the advantages Urban Prep has, there is one winning attitude any school can have: expect success from your students. Don’t accept the excuses the students provide you when they fall short, and certainly don’t make excuses for them.
Discipline, accountability, goal setting….these are the anchors in the storm all children need. Read more!