The Secret to Successful Students: Who’s in your Hive?

Technology has changed the way we live, from how information is shared to how we communicate with others and how we stay connected with family, friends and colleagues. Today’s social networks like Facebook and Slack are bristling with activity, connecting us in ways previously impossible due to geographic barriers or lapses in time.

This connectivity isn’t limited to our social lives. In a 2016 quarterly report, McKinsey & Company introduced the concept of a “digital hive” as a way for businesses to use the latest technology to collaborate with remote teams, build relationships and make more effective decisions. In fact, research shows a high-functioning, collaborative “hive” leads to successful outcomes.

Whether you are in technology, education or managing a local sports team, each member of the hive plays a role, and collaboration between members can have an impact on success. Therefore, understanding each member’s role, and having easy access to the information they can contribute, is a critical component for a successful outcome.

Our January blog discussed how parent engagement can positively impact student outcomes, however, it isn’t just parents who can have an impact. Any caregiver who plays a role in a child’s life, from teachers to grandparents to coaches, is a the member of that child’s hive, and as such plays a role in their success. Consider the following:

  • The typical high school student has eight teachers, assuming no overlap of subjects/classes (Quora, 2015).
  • In 2015, 7% of all children lived in the home of their grandparents. In two-thirds of these families, one or both parents were also present (Child Trends Databank, 2014).
  • In 2015, there were 3.3 million cohabiting couples (unmarried) with children under 18 (Child Trends Databank, 2013).
  • In 2016, 61% of families with children had two parents working full time (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017).
  • In 2014, 10.2 million children (18 %) participated in an afterschool program, up 3% from 2009. However, approximately 19.4 million children (41 %) not currently in an afterschool program would be enrolled in a program if one were available to them, according to their parents (After School Alliance, 2014).

What can we conclude from these statistics? It’s not just parents or even extended family who make up a child’s support system. There are a variety of caregivers who participate in a child’s life and play a critical role in the development of that child.

This begs the question: who’s in your hive?

Digital Hives in Education

Think of each student as the center of their own digital hive, and ask yourself who else plays a role in sustaining the collaboration among those members? Parent and teachers immediately come to mind, but let’s not forget extended family members, coaches, school administrators, program leaders, paraprofessionals and spiritual leaders, and suddenly a student’s hive can exceed 10 members. Hives this strong should be an asset, but that isn’t always the case, particularly if the hive isn’t communicating effectively.

Consider the typical school communications. Elementary-age students often have multiple teachers for core subjects and learning groups, yet it is typically the homeroom teacher who is responsible for communicating with the parents. School administrators have a reputation for sending large amounts of information to families, yet parents feel the majority of the information is not relevant to them or their child. With the modern family growing to include grandparents, step-parents, unmarried partners and even older siblings, we can’t assume ‘mom’ is the only person who needs the information.

The sheer volume of people who play a role in a child’s learning journey make it difficult to effectively send and receive information. This is compounded by the amount of information that needs to be shared, and what seems like a decreasing amount of time families have to digest this information. These large support systems require consistent communication among everyone involved to ensure student success, which is why identifying a student’s hive, or support system, is so important.

Identifying the Hive

The framework for a productive hive is already in place for most students, but we need to acknowledge the individuals and define their role to maximize their contributions. Schools play a critical role in this process, as research shows many parents take cues directly from the school regarding how involved they are expected to be in their child’s learning process (Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler, 2005).

Many schools tend to focus their communication on what’s happening inside the classroom, but learning opportunities can also be found in the community, on the playing field, and even at the dinner table. Schools can impact students in a multitude of ways by helping parents recognize the people, places and experiences that can serve as learning opportunities to increase engagement. Consider the following:

  • Frequent family meals are associated with positive behavior, better academic performance and better physical and mental health (Child Trends, Family Meals 2012).
  • Children do better in school when both the father and mother are engaged, regardless of whether they live in the same household (Child Trends, Parental Involvement in Schools 2013).
  • Sports provide motivation for training and preparation, and stimulate athletes intellectually thus relieving stress. Even the non-physical side of sports, from volunteering on a committee to coaching, provides opportunities to develop leadership skills (The Guardian, Do Athletes Make Better Students? 2014).
  • Students who participate in extracurricular activities are three times more likely to have a grade point average of a 3.0 or higher (Positive Effects of Extra Curricular Activities on Students, 2011).
  • Attendance at a religious service has been associated with lower rates of suspension, expulsion and skipping school, and higher levels of participation in student government, sports and volunteer activities (Child Trends, Religious Service Attendance, 2014).

Many of us look at the examples above as ordinary life, not associating them with learning opportunities and not recognizing that they are part of a child’s overall development, or the positive impact they can have within the school classroom and beyond. Schools can help change that perception by suggesting topics for dinner conversation, helping parents understand the benefit of extra-curricular activities, and communicating with all, not just some, members of a student’s hive.

Supporting the Hive

Students aren’t the only ones with a broad support system. Families, local communities, even schools themselves are all dependent on the satisfaction and loyalty of the members in their hive to be successful. Schools are often the common link between all these entities, and students, parents and local organizations can take their engagement cues from the example set by the school.

Consider the scenarios in which a parent typically receives a call from the school. A child is misbehaving, performing poorly, or perhaps injured. If schools only initiate contact when there is a problem parents are conditioned to dread a call from the school. However, what if a teacher reached out to relay positive news? Perhaps a student managed their behavior appropriately instead of losing their temper, or demonstrated a leadership quality for the first time. When parents hear positive news from the school they associate these positive feelings with their child and in turn become more supportive of the school.

Supportive parents help direct time and resources back to the school, but so can the community at large. By acting as a community organizer and partnering with local organizations for community events, fundraising efforts or to rally support to combat problems, schools can develop social capital, a societal and economic benefit of building connections among people. Social capital inspires pride in both the school and the community, thereby increasing engagement for staff members, parents and students (L. J. Hanifan, 1916).

Schools have a lot of information to disseminate, but unless they can make that information relevant to the audience they miss the opportunity to fully engage with their own support systems. Identifying the members of a hive, and recognizing that students have multiple hive members beyond mom, will help them refine their messages to fit the audience. Engaging the community, as well as parents, in the school culture impacts more than just the child’s ability to succeed in the classroom, and inspires support for the school.

Join the Discussion

Schools are often the hub of the community, and as such the greater community is their hive. By partnering with families, sports organizations and local businesses they can help facilitate relationships between those entities and the families they serve, thereby creating a learning environment that breeds success within and outside of the school.

Does your school build relationships with both families and the community? What do you like/dislike about your school’s efforts to build a relationship with you?



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