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As part of a series of posts highlighting various elements of our structure, Mr. Butt explains why we focus on little things…like making a bed. Since Oak Hill Academy is a boarding school, we have opportunities 24/7 to help instill habits that we think will benefit our students for the long term.

In 2014, William McCraven, a retired Admiral in the United States Navy, gave a commencement speech at the University of Texas.  The speech went viral, and McCraven subsequently wrote a book based on his message, called Make Your Bed:  Little Things That Can Change Your Life . . . and Maybe the World.  In the book he goes through 10 valuable lessons he learned in the Navy – routines and ways of thinking that lead to success.  First, make your bed.  As he writes, it’s not really the actual making of the bed that matters most; it’s the discipline, the pattern, and starting the day with a small, simple, successfully completed task.

At Oak Hill Academy we ask our students to start their day with a clean room.  Before they leave the dorm for class, before 8:30 a.m., their rooms must be up to specific standards:  electronics turned off, beds made neatly, no open food or drink containers, dirty clothes in the hamper, trash cans emptied, clean clothes put away, desks neat, floors free of clutter, and doors locked.  All pretty simple, routine things.  And, as McCraven says, it’s not really about the clean room; it’s about the habit, the routine, the consistency.  It’s about accomplishing a task, starting the day off right.  No matter what the rest of their day is like, students come back to a clean, organized room. 

Well, our students are teenagers.  I remember the state of my room in high school, as I’m sure you remember yours.  Our students don’t always like having to make their beds, and neither did I.  Building this pattern and practice takes time, repetition, and accountability.  If a student’s room doesn’t meet the above standards, they come back to the dorm after school and clean the room until it does.  Sometimes incorporating this habit into the daily plan takes a while.  But we believe in the small things.  We believe in the routines, and we believe that success in the little things leads to success in the big things.

So we make our beds.  We sweep the floor, empty the trash, lock our doors, and head out to class to start the day with a clean room behind us, and waiting for us at the end of the day.

Aaron Butt
OHA Director of Student Affairs