How is the program structured and taught?
In the classroom, the program is student-driven, teacher-facilitated. At first, students experience ice-breakers and then set classroom rules and consequences – taking ownership of their learning. Likewise , they also decide who covers individual chapter content for the “group discussion” days. On group discussion days, students lead a conversation about a topic of their choosing related to the chapter content. The group discussions prompt self-reflection and communication skills, as well as teamwork, empathy and self-confidence. During discussions, the room will typically be set up in a circle format so that students can make eye contact with each other and feel included (no more hiding in the back row). Student opinion is never demanded. It is always optional. But respect for fellow students is required at all times to build trust, compassion and collaboration.
On “teacher clarification” days, teachers review chapter content and answer any questions while validating all that was accomplished during the previous group discussion. On other days, teachers may choose to utilize the website or work on group projects related to the material. YSS is structured so that teachers can be flexible and students can help drive their learning experience.
Most often, the books are taught one book per year over the course of three consecutive years although some settings teach all three books in a year. “Research has consistently shown that programs that emphasize a one-time presentation focused on raising awareness rarely produce behavioral change.” (www.mentoring.org) This is why YSS continually reinforces self awareness, emotional management, confidence and self-skills over a more prolonged period (a year to three years). Long lasting change is not achieved in a one time lecture so often found in schools to meet a state mandate. It is only achieved through consistent supportive and reliable information with which a teen engages.
What type of work load is expected of my child?
Similar to other classes, what your child puts into this program will determine what he will get out of it. Only your child can discover who she is – it’s an individual process. However they choose to delve into the program will be reflected in the amount of personal awareness and understanding they achieve.
Of note, the journal is a personal piece of work that your child may choose to keep private. Teachers will not be reading the information entered. At most, teachers will ask students to flip through the book quickly to show the teacher that the work is done (not for teachers to read it). If at any time your child feels uncomfortable answering a question, he can simply write, “I feel uncomfortable answering this.” The content of what is written is for your child’s eyes only. It should only be shared with anyone (including you) when your child wants to do so.
If your child is taking YSS as part of a health or advisory class, she may have a greater amount of reading to do than with more traditional health and advisory classes. However, the reading is not heavy when compared to a traditional textbook – it is conversational in tone. Moreover, no matter what your child decides to do in life, his health – both physical and mental – is a critical area of importance. We may not all use algebra on a daily basis or write poetry, but we all benefit from health information every day for the rest of our lives.
How can I support my child in the YSS program?
First, let your children do the work. YSS is a process of self discovery – to do that, they will need to answer the questions in their own words from their own thoughts and feelings. The more you tell them what you think and feel BEFORE they have thought about a question, the less likely they are to formulate their own unique opinion.
Second, on the flip side!, feel free to discuss the material with your child. You may choose to ask them first to describe the material, what they learned, what they found interesting, what they think, what they feel and with what they agree/disagree. As the conversation develops, your own thoughts and feelings will inevitably enter the picture but as a reflection to their own opinions, helping to increase their awareness and clarify their beliefs.
Third, try not to judge your child’s opinions. You may disagree with what your child has to say and, as a parent, by all means you have the right to express your disagreement, but try to remember that the manner in which you express your disagreement will either foster a relationship of trust and exploration versus one of shame and embarrassment. For instance, “That’s ridiculous!” will provide a much different experience for your child than “Wow, I hear your point but have you thought about…?” or “What do you think of…?” The degree to which you are open to your children exploring themselves, including parts of themselves that may differ from you, will determine how willing and able they are to be themselves.
How is YSS assessed?
As a personal journey, evaluating YSS is challenging.
However, some settings will require formal assessment – health classes in particular – and for such settings your child’s performance will be based upon assessments created from the content of the book, not on your child’s personal interpretation or experience. Your teacher may also assign projects and research stemming from course material that can be graded in the traditional manner. Additionally, your child’s effort and the amount of respect he shows fellows students will also weigh into any assessment given.
Should you think that your child is struggling with something academically or emotionally, we encourage you to ask your child how she is feeling and/or to reach out to your child’s teacher to discuss your concerns.
Again, you can also email us if you have questions.
Can I buy the Series on my own?
Of course! Many parents want to provide a strong foundation for their child so they purchase the Series on their own. Here are just a few key ways parents have told us the Series has been helpful in providing that foundation:
First, many parents report that they forgot what a difficult time the early teen years can be. Reading the Series reminds them of the challenges teens face and helps instill a sense of compassion for what their teen is experiencing.
Second, by providing a teen with the Series, parents are sending the message that they care and want to help.
Third, the books provide a great springboard for conversations to begin… especially the awkward ones. Parents who want to engage with their children in a meaningful manner often use YSS to help begin those conversations.
Your school has chosen YSS because it cares about your children: both academically and emotionally. With all the programs they could choose, they have chosen one that endeavors to give your child confidence, courage and compassion. Although YSS may cover some material that is not traditionally in the school “realm,” it is material necessary for them to succeed in the 21st century and, most important, for them to find happiness along the way.
Please know that our passions lie fully in their feelings of success. We have teens ourselves and know how both inspiring and challenging the teen years can be. Although we have not had the time (yet) to write a book solely for parents, we have written a book for educators that has many strategies for helping teens feel heard, respected, important and worthy. We will announce when the book is published by Corwin Press later this year.
We hope you and your children enjoy and grow from the YSS experience. We wish them all the best in discovering and being who they truly are.
Paula and Chris