Tim Borg has important advice for fellow teachers: Check out the SUCCESS for Teens program. It teaches life skills in five to 10 minutes each day for eight weeks; curriculum materials are free to qualifying schools, churches and nonprofit youth development groups; and—best of all—“you’re doing reading, writing, decision-making, life skills and life applications, all wrapped up in those few minutes.”
Borg speaks from experience: He has been teaching the program for about five years, previously in high school and now in middle school health classes, in Elkhart, Ind. He requests SUCCESS for Teens books—core curriculum for the program—from the SUCCESS Foundation through its website, SUCCESSFoundation.org. (The website also offers free downloads of the program’s facilitator’s guide as well as free downloads of electronic and audio copies of the book.)
The program can be administered in many ways, but here’s Borg’s M.O.: As students come into class, he has them read one key section (each chapter has four key points or steps that are just a few pages long), such as on making wise choices, personal philosophies, the power of planning, etc. Then, on each page, he asks students to write something related to the point that’s interesting to them or that someone else might find interesting.
He requires at least a sentence per page from his 13- and 14-year-old students to increase the odds they’re really reading the material. “Some kids read all the words, some kids read a few of the words, and some kids only look like they’re reading,” he says—and he’s not joking about the last category. Those who “only look like they’re reading” tend to write random sentences, but “eventually they’re going to write something that means something, and they’re going to catch that. [It’s an] I’m-tricking-you-into-learning kind of thing.” More advanced readers tend to find passages that offer good advice. All students answer the action steps at the end of each point.
Borg completes the SUCCESS for Teens program in eight weeks, one chapter per week. He created a goal worksheet to supplement the concluding chapter, “Make Your Dreams Come True.” Students fill in their dreams, why their dream is important to them, when they should accomplish it and their plan for reaching the dream using small steps. It takes “all the aspects of visualizing their dreams to knowing when they’re going to do it, putting it in the present, then giving them something that they’ve got to work on to get to it—their short-term goals,” the teacher says.
He believes the book resonates strongly with his students—just as it immediately did with him. Borg first saw SUCCESS for Teens during a conference for a small-business group he belonged to. The book “took hold of me,” he says—particularly SUCCESS for Teens’ central message that “it doesn’t matter where you live or what you’ve gone through. Start from where you are and go from there.”