Motivational Messages Inspire Students at Camelot Education’s Spartan Academy
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela.
That quote from the late South African anti-apartheid leader is the kind of motivational message students see every day at Camelot Education’s Spartan Academy, a transitional program in partnership with Richmond Public Schools in Virginia. Motivating and inspiring students is a constant affair at the school. The motivation comes from many different sources throughout the day. From meaningful quotes delivered by famous people posted throughout the school’s hallways and classrooms, to thoughtful words of encouragement from staff and teachers, students at Spartan Academy are surrounded by messages meant to inspire them in school and in life.
“We post a daily motivational message on the whiteboard outside every teacher’s classroom,” says the school’s executive director, Raymond Strickland. “It’s up to each teacher to use a message that they feel is appropriate for their students. Sometimes another quote is written on the board inside the classroom and becomes part of the class’ lesson plan.”
Strickland continued, “We do everything we can to make students feel comfortable and motivate them to work harder, through our actions and our educational methods. The posted messages are part of that. Students might see a quote and ask, ‘who is Nelson Mandela?’ We then take that opportunity to explain who that individual is or was and what they accomplished. Students gain knowledge from those interactions but that’s also how we start to form relationships with them. They go from perhaps not wanting to be at our school in the first place to not wanting to leave.”
Camelot Education’s Spartan Academy serves RPS high school students who were referred by the district for behavioral challenges and often risk not matriculating or graduating on time. Camelot understands that in order to help students realize their personal and academic potential, their basic needs must first be met. Food, shelter, safety, love – Spartan Academy staff members address these basic needs daily. If students have not eaten, did not sleep well, or feel unsupported or unloved, they will not be able to turn their attention to the hard work of learning.
“In our school, we continuously provide safety and the essential elements students need to start feeling better about themselves and gain a level of confidence. When you instill that confidence into someone and reinforce it every day, they want to be around that setting,” Strickland said. “I wouldn’t want to go to an environment that’s tearing me down. I’d rather be in an environment that’s building me up, so that’s our philosophy on motivating our kids. They know we care. We’re meeting their needs.”
Katelyn Chappelle, a ninth-grade member of Spartan Academy’s student government, sees the messages everywhere, and they all get tied together at the school assemblies each morning and afternoon.
“Every morning, we go over our school’s norms and watch a little slide show. One of the slide shows will include a video of a person who came from a struggle, and made it to the top. The message basically tells us that no matter where a person comes from, anybody can make it in life. Everyone wants to make their mom proud. Everybody can succeed. At Spartan Academy, they help us do that,” Katelyn said.
Motivation isn’t just reserved for students at Spartan Academy. Strickland says that it’s also imperative to motivate and inspire faculty and staff. One example is the Spartan Academy GOAT (Greatest of All Time) award, a stuffed animal goat, which is presented to a teacher or member of the staff every day.
“It’s a sign of our appreciation for something they’ve done that day,” Strickland said. “The award is presented at either the end-of-day staff meeting or at townhouse assembly so students can share in the appreciation.”
As for the motivational words and messages at school, Katelyn said, “I feel like the motivational messages make you want to come back. It’s not just the written messages; it’s the messages the teachers give out. It makes me want to come to school. It helps me build my self-esteem.”
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