Pay It Forward: Preparing Students for the Future

By Denyse Doerries, Ph.D.

May/June 2011 Link Lines

In the movie Pay It Forward (2000), a somewhat cynical social studies teacher played by Kevin Spacey assigns his class the tasks of thinking of an idea that will change the world and then putting the idea into action. A 12-year-old student decides to pay back a good deed that was done for him by doing good deeds for three new, unknown people. The student’s action starts a revolution—it is Hollywood, after all, but is something like that really so hard to imagine? 

Thoughtful teachers “pay it forward” all the time by accepting the challenge to teach academic and behavior strategies that facilitatepif and enhance student success in the next grade level. This issue of Link Lines is focused on strategies that students can use now and in the future to facilitate the transition process and to provide them with a “bag of tricks” for coping with the new pressures and demands of a different grade level.

Teachers are often excellent at teaching grade-level math and reading skills. The challenge is to provide students with the knowledge and strategies to recognize what they know, when to use what they know, and when they need assistance. The article on Packing the Mathematical Strategy Suitcase for the Next Grade Level focuses on teaching deeper conceptual strategies and procedural supports to help students prepare for the future. Moving Students with Disabilities Forward to Graduation highlights four critical areas necessary to help students with disabilities progress toward graduation:  standards-based individualized education programs, comprehension strategies embedded within the Virginia English Standards of Learning, metacognitive strategies, and effective instruction in higher order comprehension strategies.

These articles will help you send your students to the next grade with strategy suitcases packed full of skills to support them as mathematical thinkers, capable problem solvers, and skillful readers! 

Functional skills that address behaviors necessary to be successful in classrooms are also foundational for students’ future success. Fulfilling the Purpose of IDEA Through Academic and Functional Skill Development describes the powerful relationship between functional and academic skills needed to prepare students for a future filled with multiple options including both employment and education. This author also gives examples of annual goals designed to develop these skills.

Planning Ahead for Success: Goal Setting for Students With Emotional and Behavioral Challenges describes the Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction (SDLMI) and how this model facilitates students’ transition from middle school to high school.

One of the most pressing challenges for current and future educators is creating effective inclusive schools. Leading the Way to Effective Schools provides school leaders with examples of ways to inspire a shared vision and challenge the process to improve inclusive practices based on Kouzes and Posner’s (2007) five practices of highly effective leaders.  

Lastly, fill your own educational suitcase with new knowledge about teaching and learning by exploring new books and library materials at T/TAC W &M highlighted in Check It Out!


Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2007). The leadership challenge (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.