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Failure Is Not an Option with Great Expectations at Michigan High School

Methodology creates intentional habits at Bay City High School for college and career readiness

Sitting near the base of Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron in Michigan, Bay City Public Schools comprises nine campuses and 8,000 students. One of the two high schools in the area, Bay City Central High School, had an ISD curriculum coordinator named Molly Bruzewski who suggested a professional development training called Great Expectations, which she had used in her previous position in Oklahoma City.   

Bay City Central High School was searching for a way to better fulfill its mission of providing each student with the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to ensure success, and was convinced that Great Expectations would be the perfect fit.

In 2009, Bay City Central High School sent 19 educators to a weeklong Summer Institute run by Great Expectations. They were immediately hooked. One of those educators was Connie Beson-Steger, an advanced placement (AP) social studies teacher who taught English overseas for five years before returning to the United States where she has been instructing for the last 13 years. Attending the Summer Institute and learning about the program’s methodology via the six tenets and 17 best practices, Connie has truly transformed her classroom into a place where every student will experience success. 

The Answer
Before Great Expectations, Bay City Central’s mission statement said that failure wasn’t an option for its students, and was looking for answers to essential questions: “what does success look like and how do we make it tangible for our students?” Great Expectations was their answer.

“Great Expectations brings all aspects of good teaching to life,” said Connie. “The methodology integrates the whole school, each unique classroom teacher, and every individual student to create a climate where every student truly can succeed.”

Real World Skills
With almost 90 percent of the staff trained in Great Expectations, Bay City Central High School has a palpable charisma that any visitor, parent and educator can feel.

To practice interpersonal communications skills, students regularly greet their teachers at the door with a handshake and while in class you will find them addressing the instructor and their classmates by name when engaged in discussion and/or answering questions aloud. Educators also celebrate in the students’ success both inside and outside the classroom by showcasing student work, assignments and projects as well as celebrating when great things happen outside the classroom such as passing a driver’s test or being hired for a new job.  

To increase vocabulary and promote critical thinking skills, the high school has an SAT prep question of the day, enriched vocabulary word of the day and you can often find students participating in ‘walk and whispers,’ an innovative strategy in which students move through the hallways while reviewing content and/or discussing new material.

“Great Expectations provides the complete package of what education looks like, sounds like and feels like,” said Connie. “It puts an intentionality into the mix for educators as well as for students. It doesn’t simply tell students why this is important; it puts those words into action and models those interpersonal, real life communication and critical thinking skills that they will need for college, future careers, and a lifetime.”