“The Little School That Could”

By Gail D’Aurelio, Ed.S., LMFT

There is a confusion of what is self-efficacy vs. what is self-esteem.  Self-esteem is described as how students feel about themselves and their worth, as opposed to self-efficacy which is a person’s judgment of how confident they are about their ability to perform a task. Self-esteem and self-efficacy may even be at odds with each other as a student who reports she is doing well in Math, yet has a failing grade refusing to do her work or ask for help.  For a student to be successful, she must master the ability to exert control over one’s environment and behavior (Bandura, 1997).

In The Little Engine That Could (Piper, 1930 ) after a train breaks down, the smallest (and seemingly least capable) train saves the day by pulling a broken-down train up a mountain with the repeated words of, “I think I can, I think I can.” Once the train reaches the top of the mountain, he says,  “I thought I could, I thought I could!”  Sage Day is comprised of 3 schools, a middle school and 2 high schools which enables students who doubt their own abilities to be able to say on graduation day, “I thought I could!”

Sage Day students comes into our school with the idea that they cannot accomplish set goals, or they may not know what their goals are. Through ongoing therapy and supportive teachers in a small school setting, Sage Day students experience the steps to self-efficacy from  “I won’t do it,” to “I can’t do it,” to “I want to do it,” to “how do I do it?,” to  I’ll try to do it ,” to “I can do it,” to “I will do it”  and finally to “yes, I can do it!”  Like the Little Engine That Could, a Sage student with the assistance of a caring staff and peers can reach to the top of self-efficacy and the ease of “I thought I could”.

Recently, three graduates from June 2012 came to visit to share their accomplishments of enjoying college, driving to see friends and working in local stores. Each separately reported that Sage Day had changed his or her life from being school  avoidant, unhappy, fearful of new things, unable to make friends to the happier place they are today.  Sage Day, a cluster of 3 small schools, helps our students realize that they can identify their goals, and with diligent work achieve them with an “I can do” attitude.