Core Practices – The Success Cycle

by Charles Debelak

The success cycle is a core instructional practice at Birchwood. It introduces children to patterns of behavior which lead to success and growth. It is practiced in every classroom across the grade levels so it has the potential to create habits and attitudes which play an important role in academic growth and character development.

The Role of Success
The premise for its practice is easy to understand. Every child, and every human being for that matter, has an internal, natural desire to master their world. We want to grow. We want to become competent in each aspect of life. We want to be successful, to “get good” at stuff. In doing so, we nurture a trajectory of lifelong improvement and growth. Our successes make us feel good about ourselves, and we want to continue those activities which brought us success. A history of success provides us a sturdy sense of selfworth and personal fulfillment. 

The Creation of a Cycle
In the success cycle, each success is the springboard for the next experience of success. Each success, while marking a particular level of achievement, also suggests the next level of achievement. A new goal is established based upon a previous success. The experience of success inspires us to stretch forward toward new goals. A cycle is created, a success cycle, which also becomes the means to forge productive habits of growth.  

In this cycle, the practice of goal setting, of renewed commitment and determination, of industry results in forging productive character traits leading to personal growth lifelong. In other words, the success cycle teaches children how to live a life of becoming.

It is also evident that a teacher cannot begin with a “one-size-fitsall” mentality. He cannot say, “Oh, you are a 10-year-old child, this is the kind of music 10-year-old violinists play?” Or, “Oh, so you are 8-years-old. Well, these are the tennis skills 8-year-old girls possess.” Nor can a teacher claim, “So you are in the fifth grade. These are the standard fifth grade math skills.”

Each child is different and each child needs to be placed on the success cycle in each subject area and each child must be allowed his or her starting point for success. 

I have observed the power of the success cycle for more than 40 years. Every student, if given an appropriate starting point, can experience success in academic subjects again and again and again. From experience, I know that if teachers provide children or young adults with a “doable” starting point, teachers make children successful. And in creating success for each child, teachers will create further interest and deeper participation. 

I have learned that a student can be successful in any domain of knowledge and growth if they are given a realistic starting point. Every child can grow and even thrive in academic fields. But an environment of success is required.  

Whether a student becomes an expert or not is another matter, but every child can experience degrees of success when tasks are matched to their aptitudes.

This article was written by Birchwood’s Head of School Charles Debelak to provide parents with information about sound educational principles and child development issues gleaned from history, contemporary research, and his 50+ years of educating, coaching, and counseling children, young adults, and parents.