Broadway Karaoke Night!

IMG_6648.PNGThis past week in general has been not so great but there was a light at the end of the tunnel: Broadway Karaoke Night! On a few occasions over the past year or so, I’ve had conversations with people about how fun it would be to have an event where we just sing a bunch of Broadway songs, but it had never happened. After winter break though, I decided this was my senior year, I’m president of the Thespian Society, and I wanted to make something happen, so this idea needed to be brought to life.

IMG_6645.PNGSo I met with various members of the performing arts team and pitched the idea to have a Broadway Karaoke night. The pitch was approved! Then we had three weeks to get this event together because we decided it would be good to make it happen sooner than later in case we wanted to make this a recurring event.

FullSizeRender-1.jpgI really wanted to make this a community event to bring together theater fans of all ages. So I reached way back into the alumni information we had to email theater people from long since, some whom I never even knew. Plus I invited lower schoolers, middle schoolers, and faculty that I know love singing Broadway because they have been in past upper school productions. Theater is a community no matter the age, we all gather together to perform the art we love. That’s one of the things I love about drama- you might have never met a person, but if you meet in the theater you immediately have something to bond over.

IMG_6644.PNGWe successfully had around 25 people come to Broadway Karaoke night!!! Including a 4th grader, a 5th grader, 3 seventh graders, 3 alumni, 1 former mustang, 4 faculty members, and a dozen or so high schoolers! The night was tons of fun as we ate Willy’s (a show week traditional meal) while watching some rehearsed and some clearly not rehearsed performances from some Broadway favorites like Wicked and Hamilton.We even had a few props and choreographed pieces thrown into the mix! It felt like a great success of a night, and knowing we didn’t sing so many great Broadway numbers and many people were sick, I think it only makes sense that we have another Broadway Karaoke night in the future!

 

Community of Learners

C10ZOLkUAAAUPp9.jpg

It’s always such a relief to meet with an entire conference of learners who really see the world of possibilities that lies in the future of education! These past few days I have had the immense joy of attending the Pioneering Lab Training hosted by Education Reimagined here in Atlanta, Ga. I was blown away by the people in attendance so much that I needed to take a day before blogging to really process everything.

C10L7mtWEAIktyS.jpgIn my own words, the PioneeringLab is a gathering of educators (of all ages) from learner-centered environments that come together for inquiry sessions around major components of the education transformation movement. What I attended this past week was the training for this lab. The purpose of the training (also in my own words) is to prepare learners for the lab itself by establishing a common understanding of language to use within the learner-centered community.

Having common language is really important for a movement, because if I tell you “x” is a dog and another person tells you “x” is a giraffe, then you will end up just being confused as to what “x” really means. In the world of transformational education, there are lot’s of different words that get used, so the Pioneering Education community has done some intensive ontology and semantics work to create a lexicon which distinguishes key elements of a learner-centered environment. Screen Shot 2017-01-11 at 11.24.14 PM.png

After the close to 24 hours I spent with the attendants of this training, I have come to realize there isn’t really a “short way” to distinguish what these words do and don’t mean in a way that feels satisfactory. While I could try (and have in fact practiced explaining to others during role playing exercises at the training itself), I would prefer to use this space to reflect on what I learned rather than just summarize it; however, here is a link to where you can read more about the context of these words in a learner-centered paradigm.

One of the important distinguishes I learned that I will discuss though, is about the differences between a network and a community. In a network people are connected through one to one relationships because each person has an interest in being connected to the other. A network is similar to a web in this case because not everyone in the network necessarily comes into contact with others. Jack might know John, and John might know Sally, but that doesn’t mean Jack knows Sally. A network is great for solving one time challenges/problems like finding a job based on who knows who; however, a network is not very helpful when trying to do something that requires a lot of people to accomplish a task that will have many little challenges arise throughout the process, like trying to build a house. -This is where a community is required.

1280x960.jpeg.jpgIn a community, individuals elect to contribute their gifts to some greater purpose/task/challenge. A community requires synchronization, timing, and nurturing from others in the community in order for a product to be created, but really the bonds formed amongst community members are just as important as the final product. A community can build a house.

This particular distinction really stuck with me because I know that I personally have used the words network and community interchangeably in the past because I had never found thought about the differences. After this training I now realize that these words have very different meanings.

I believe I have been involved in this movement since my sophomore year of high school in 2014. But I’ve really been involved on more of a network level. I’ve connected with people through Twitter and connections from my school. However, I think now I’m finally starting to feel a real part of the community outside of my school. Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 12.06.42 AM.pngI’ve been blogging, facilitating, and speaking with groups of people for the past three years; however, in this past year, since the summer really, I’ve begun to find myself working with more teams of people with an intent to make change outside of just my own school. I didn’t fully realize this until the last few days, but it’s crazy to think how much has changed since my sophomore year. Now I show up at conferences already knowing and working with some people!

Now to be a tad backwards and give some background context, I came to this training because I am passionate about the movement to transform education due to my own first hand experiences with how different forms of education can effect learners. I dream of the day where every student has the opportunity to experiance learner-centered education because I know it has changed me for the better. It has made me feel more confident in myself, passionate for those around me, and empowered to enact change now rather than waiting to get to the “real world” after graduating.

Furthermore, I came to this training because I believe it is vitally important to include student voice in this movement because students are one of the primary users of school.

When teachers talk about learner-centered education people ask, “Where’s the evidence of this working?” but when students talk about learner-centered education, we are the evidence. It is working. Everyday I feel like I know myself a little bit better and am improving my skills as a learner a little bit more due to the opportunities I have to take ownership of my learning and blur the lines between school and the real world. – The Life of Pinya; The Movement: Transforming Education

I was thrilled that out of the 70 some people at the training, there were about 14 young-learners in the room; I’m ready for even more! Sometimes when wanting student voice, adults gather a group of only young-learners to discuss education transformation topics. While I love speaking with a large group of young-learners, when adults are still in the room there is still this power struggle with the idea that the adults still have the superiority in the room. Something I loved most about this experiance was that everyone-no matter age- was treated the same. There was no separation of groups by age, there were no limits on talking either because C1vNnIzXAAAyjjq.jpgyoung-learners felt overpowered or because adult-learners were prohibited from talking, there wasn’t even the specific placement of more or less of one aged learner at a table. The balance is starting to become more equal, and it was extremely powerful! It was evident by the way conversations were held that no one felt limited by their age to participate or felt forced to hold the pressure of representing all of the student voice by their self.

I personally hope to continue to empower more young-learners to be involved in the movement, because it’s always helpful to have some smaller people in your community in order to hold up the part of the house wall that’s closer to the ground.

reMoVe10

After months of data collecting and interviewing, the reMoVe10 team finally had our big presentation to our City of Sandy Springs clients, representatives from Georgia Clean Commute, and a handful of MVPS admin!!

Background

Spark:

No one likes sitting in traffic. It waste time, energy, and money and it is only getting worse each year. Early September of 2016 representatives from the City of Sandy Spring
contacted the Innovation Diploma to partner with us as consultants in a Design Brief in order to achieve the city goal to decrease traffic in the city by 10%.

Goal:

Lead conversations and experiments at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School to decrease traffic in the school community by 10%. Then using MVPS as a small area case study group, develop traffic recommendations for schools in the Sandy Springs area and the city as a whole.

1101161046.jpgPartners:

  • City of Sandy Springs council (Client)
  • Mount Vernon Presbyterian School
  • Georgia Commute Options

Data Collection

The first phase of our work was to better understand our community by learning how and where from people commute to school. In order to do this, we compiled data from our school directory, manually counted cars coming into the school early in the morning, and observed traffic patterns during our morning and afternoon carpool. Screen Shot 2016-12-05 at 1.03.34 PM.png

After working with our school’s registrar, we were able to take information we had gathered and develop this visual of where our families come from.

 

unnamed-1.jpgWe also created this info-graphic which we sent out to the MVPS community to gain support and focus group partners for the movement. We learned that we currently have 662 cars coming into MVPS every morning. Based on estimates for the growth of our school, we should have around 770 cars by the year 2020 when our new high school building is finished being built. With this projected growth rate, it’s imperative that we act now to decrease traffic. If we successfully cut traffic down by 10% now, then we will be decreasing the number of future cars by 180 cars, decreasing pollution by 2,730 lbs of CO2, and saving 5,000 minutes of time commuting as a community (based on the average distances families currently travel from in order to get to MVPS).

Focus Group Insights

After collecting numerical data, the reMoVe10 team wanted to reach out to members of the MVPS community to better understand the MVPS carpool process from the primary users. After sending out our info-graphic, we gathered two parent/faculty focus groups to speak to where we discovered that the Lower School carpool line was more congested than the Upper School since less lower school students stay after school for sports and clubs. We then met with two fourth grade groups and two kindergarden groups in order to hear from the students about how they get to their cars in the afternoon.

Here were some of our take aways:

Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 4.54.26 PM.pngScreen Shot 2016-12-21 at 4.54.37 PM.pngScreen Shot 2016-12-21 at 4.54.50 PM.pngScreen Shot 2016-12-21 at 4.55.02 PM.png

Next Steps:

 

Removing traffic in an area doesn’t take a revolutionary idea. There are some rather simple things that we can do as a community to decrease traffic. The key is communication and everyone getting passionate and involved in the movement.

The reMoVe10 team is partnering with Georgia Commute Options, a government funded program that promotes taking cleaner routes to school and work by providing incentives and help with finding carpool partners. Our team plans to give presentations to parent and student drivers in the upcoming weeks to get them excited and signed up with the free Georgia Commute Options app that gives members access to these benefits. We then will work with the organization to see how traffic is effected based on the number of people with the app associated with the Mount Vernon community.

The team will also explore more ways to promote alternative travel options in order to decrease the number of cars on the road. We already have a hashtag (#reMoVe10) and several blog posts on our Innovation Diploma website, and will do a deeper dive into other forms of effective mass communication techniques.

Reflection

The reMoVe10 team has come a long way in the past few months (this link goes to my blog posts along the journey). As a team we had various struggles with communication along the way; people would be absent and not notify anyone as to why, people would wonder out of the work space without a reason, people would not answer texts, etc. While this was very frustrating in the moment, we grew a lot with being able to confront these situations. We had many “come to Jesus moments” where we would talk about these problems and establish a new plan, and by the end of the semester everyone was doing a much better job at communicating with only minor hiccups.

It’s really hard to call a fellow teammate out, but when doing real world work, it is a necessary uncomfortably moment. If problems aren’t addressed, then they will keep happening, and that creates an unhealthy work environment. I think one of the places I grew most as a leader on this team was by being able to facilitate these necessary conversations that no one really wanted to have.

Even in the last week leading up to our big presentation we were struggling to bring things together. We realized that there is a lot of empathy work that we could have done earlier in the process. Our focus group meetings happened back to back only a few weeks before our final deadline, and it was great that they happened, but we realized the insights we identified would have been valuable at an earlier point in time. Furthermore, there are more people that we would have liked to talk to and we should have observed carpool more often, and now we’re having to go back and make up for what we really should have done earlier in the process. The jump from researching to empathizing is often the hardest hurdle to get over in my opinion, and our team truly experienced this. It was most evident in our practice pitch we gave two days before the big presentation, that we had some gaps in our project. However, we were able to pull it all together in the final hours and shifted the focus of our presentation to highlight the great work we had done. In every project it’s easy to later identify things you wish you would have done, but that shouldn’t discredit what you did do, and I was really proud of the quality of the presentation we gave in the end. Our clients even said, “This is better that some of the presentations we hear from adults that we pay to do this kind of work!”

A big part of the purpose of our presentation was to just get the right people in the room to make connections between all of the partners we’ve been working with. We achieved this goal better than we could have planned for; there were people still talking about the possibilities our work has brought up for nearly an hour after we thanked people for coming and said we were finished with their time. These conversations made me really excited with where this project could go in the upcoming months.

Our team had originally planned on disbanding after this presentation and not working 100% on this project (though we would do monthly check ins to keep up with the work). However, after the success and momentum the reMoVe10 movement gained after this presentation, we realized that we can’t stop now. The team is still in the process of figuring out who and how everyone will  be involved  next year, but I can guarantee the project will not die with the end of a semester.

 

Part of Life

IMG_4221.jpgI know I’m a nerd and an actress, as do many others, but a lot of people don’t realize, or remember at least, that I’m also an athlete- and I’m not just talking about gymnastics/acrobatics. I’ve been playing soccer since I was three years old and I’ve played on a number of teams from the YMCA, to Concord Fire, to Windsor’s select team, and my freshman and sophomore year I attempted to juggle playing Varsity on top of everything else.

Last year was actually the first year since being three that I didn’t play soccer for any team. My rec team didn’t have enough girls signed up to play in the fall. Then in the spring, I quit Varsity because trying to go between drama and soccer was challenging, and being the only girl in the grade playing on top of not really making practices made it hard to connect with everyone. But connection is in my opinion one of the most important parts to having a successful team of any kind. My rec team has been playing together since u8, so for about 10 years now. Back then we had two teams because there were so many girls and our coach had two daughters about 2 years apart, so there was an older team and a younger team and some of us played for both. Every year we have some people leave, some people get too old to be on the team, and some new people join, but the team has always had a strong core of people who have been playing together since the beginning. This strong core has continued to make the team so much stronger because we all know how each other play and can trust each other on and off of the field. The group mind is so good that there are times where we can say nothing and yet know exactly how people will move on the field and get the ball to our team.

I use to go to school with a lot of my teammates and they’ve always been some of my best friends, so not having this team last year was really hard because then I didn’t see people as often. Luckily this year our team is back and I’ve had a great time so far at our two games getting to play a sport I love with people I love. We call ourselves the Misfits since most of us have past playing for really good teams, but now we just play rec, don’t practice, have barely enough to play each game, and typically play the entire game, yet we are still able to win 4-0 like this weekend’s game even with two new girls who have never played before.

Playing on this team reminds me of how sad it is when you stop seeing some of your best friends all of the time. School is such a big part of our lives that once you go to a different school it becomes so much harder to stay in touch with people. That’s what I’m least looking forward to about college- saying goodbye to so many great friends. Sure I hope to stay in contact with people, but I know from experience that you never stay as close to people once you stop seeing them everyday. Even seeing my soccer friends again this year at games doesn’t feel like enough. It often seems that there will never be enough time, so I’ve just learned to remember to cherish every moment of time we do get to spend together.

Sometimes We Need a Retreat

CrCWoiyW8AAPE1J.jpgIt’s been a long week for me, and one that was blog-less. A lot of things have been happening in life not just for me but for several of my friends as well which has created some extra stress, so I think it was good to retreat from blogging.

And it was great to have our senior retreat this past Sunday-Monday! We desperately needed a break from the world. My grade is honestly just wonderful; I couldn’t imagine a better group of peers to have gone through high school with. I love how everyone get’s along so well and we all feel comfortable with each other enough to start conversations with anyone. It makes team challenges way more fun and successful which I always think is a plus.

Though we did less activities than past retreats- swimming in a wave pool and paint ball this time- the trip as a whole was exceedingly meaningful to every senior at our school.CrDzAPtVYAAIVCE-1.jpg

There is one particular activity we did as sophomores that we did again now as seniors that was heart wrenching both times, which we just call “circle time.” We pick our own small group of people to go out anywhere around the site, then we sit in a circle with one person in the middle. That person then goes around and every person on the outside says something they appreshiate about the inside person that just needs to be shared.

As sophomores, this activity meant the world to my friend group. The next 3 years of high school were strongly built on the moments we shared in that circle.

As seniors, some people were almost in tears before we even started; just the thought of the love that was about to be shared between family (we’ve long passed mere friendship) was enough to cry happy tears about for the past, and sad tears for a future not as connected to each other.

Everyone was a happy mess by the end of the night. And as we circled around the Cq_2WBkWEAAlX1e.jpgcampfire, gazing at the stars and each other by the light of the fire, everyone left their own hopes and burdens aside, if only for a moment, to appreshiate the community of support we’ve built up over the past 4 years.

Sometimes you just need to have those deep, thoughtful, and appreciative conversations with others. We all just need a break sometimes. Time to let go of all of the stress if even just for a moment, and to appreshiate the supportive people around us that inspire us to be better humans each and everyday.

Our senior class bonded in ways unmeasurable by any school scale in these past few days. We were already close, but this retreat was well needed and invaluable. To think that we almost didn’t have this retreat (this year only seniors got a retreat) is inconceivable because I can’t describe just how much it meant to all of us. Everyone came home and started texting on the group chat we created for all of the Cq_NKBDXEAU-3zg.jpgseniors about how we loved the trip so much that we want to plan another for later in the year; even if not school related, most of the grade is interested in going camping, or having some sort of all senior retreat part 2.

Retreats are something everyone needs every now and then. I’m so glad that our grade got the opportunity to go on a retreat every year of high school because each one meant so much to me. They were some of the high lights of each year because they were moments where my friendships strengthened in ways I couldn’t imagine possible. I’m so grateful for our teachers who fought for us to keep this tradition alive at least for seniors; I already know it will be a notable moment for the entire year still ahead of us.

One Last Time

CqOTaazWEAA8wH8.jpgSenior year has a lot of exciting moments, but there are also a serious of emotionally sad moments because in order for us to embark on a sea of new adventures, we have to sail away from our home land. We have to say good bye.

Senior year is full of “Aww this is our last ______!” So far we’ve had our last first day, last time reading the same syllabus we’ve grown up with, last first chapel, and just today was our last Convocation.

CqOSnBeWIAEu0qg.jpgConvocation is a time when the entire school comes together to listen to a few speeches focused on getting us into a collective mindset to help us tackle the year ahead of us. To be honest, while it’s a great ideology and concept to bring everyone together, from a student’s perspective one of the take aways I hear people say every year is, “Ow my back hurts so much from sitting on the gym floor for so long!” It’s kind of sad that this is the biggest take away, but without a doubt it happens every year. Though, at least during the event everyone sings during the praise band portion and cheers when their grade is called (especially the senior class). We’re also always very supportive of our student speakers, because every one knows that an audience of your peers is the hardest to perform in front of.

What I’ve realized though is that not all last moments during senior year are particularly sad ones. For example, no one was too emotional much about our last convocation. And yet, it’s still weird to process that these are some of our last timesCqOxf4VWIAAvEC3.jpg at some of these events or having some of these experiences. We have one last year, one last time to imprint a little of ourselves into the community around us. I wonder our legacy will be. When people think back to the class of 2017 what’ll they remember? What do we want them to remember?

For one thing our class is highly collaborative. Currently we even have a group chat with just about everyone in the grade on it. Plus in the past we’ve been known for making intense and well organized study guides with a bunch of people collaborating on them. The way our class bonds together always makes me happy and I definitely think it makes our grade better off when working together so often. But I wonder if that’s how we’ll be remembered. I hope we’re remembered. A legacy is important to me, though I haven’t thought deeply enough on the topic to understand why quite yet. I guess it’s because in order to be remembered you had to have made an impact.

 

(Side note: This post’s title and theme was highly inspired by Hamilton the Musical. I just can’t help but think of the Hamilton song “One Last Time” when thinking about senior year because it’s all about George Washington deciding to step down from being president and telling Hamilton that he needs to teach the people how to say goodbye.)

It’s a Small World

Drew for Waitress.jpegAnother fun day in the great city of NYC! I woke up late today, but to my surprise my grandma already had an idea for today, since our previous plans of visiting Hampshire College got delayed until Monday due to transportation. We ended up deciding to get dressed up and head down to midtown and see if we could get last minute tickets to a matinee for some show.

As awesome as luck can be, we ended up getting seats for “The Waitress” despite arriving
at the theater only 15 minutes before show time! It’s unlike most Broadway musicals because it’s very real; there’s no flying or make believe lands or seemingly impossible plot lines. The show is about a fantastic pie maker and waitress who’s in a bad marriage, has an unwanted pregnancy, an affair with her married doctor, and is really just searching for a way to make a happy life for herself and her baby on the way.

Waitress set.jpegThe show was touching and had a very talented ensemble, but what really inspired me today was right after the show. Being an actress herself, my aunt has come to know many people in the theater industry. In fact her ex-boyfriend who she’s still good friends with, is the conductor for the “Book of Mormon” currently, and he seems to know people in everything. Between the two of them, they knew several people in the show we saw this afternoon and after a few texts and phone calls, we were able to arrange for us to go backstage with the male lead.

What inspired me about this situation is how it’s such a small world in the theater industry. Everyone seems to know someone else, and most everyone is happy to do a favor for a friend. It’s just such a tight group of people that you’d be kind of surprised. Plus even if people don’t know each other, theater people are some of the most open and naturally collaborative people I know. (Most of the time, there are always exceptions…)Anya pose Waitress.jpeg

The connections today, as well as my work with PAINted this week, even gave me an idea for next year’s hopeful new theater club some of my friends are trying to start. The idea is for one of the things for us to do next year is to spend time seeing shows at other high schools to try to build our own community of theater students in Atlanta.