What I Learned From the Class of 2017

 

It’s officially been a little over a week since I graduated high school and it’s still just barely sinking in for me. It probably doesn’t help that I haven’t actually gone an entire week without being at the school. Between picking up my siblings and attending meetings for various Innovation Diploma projects that I haven’t stoped even though I have the diploma now- still not use to saying that- I’ve kept myself busy around MVPS.

However, even though I can’t quite imagine it yet, I know that next year I won’t be waking up in my room on the first day of school and heading back to MVPS to see all of my same friends and teachers. And going through old pictures for my mom while at the lake this weekend has gotten me reminiscent of all of the great times I’ve had over the years with some amazing people.

IMG_7574.JPG
(The 7 members of the GT Squad! Go Yellow Jackets!!!)

On more than one occasion the class of 2017 has been called the “greatest class yet,” as I’m sure all of the years before us have been told. Despite whether or not our class really will be harder to beat than the years before us, I believe that there is something “great” about our class and I’ve been trying to figure out just what that is and I haven’t been able to narrow it down to one thing. So I wanted to share the top 5 things that I’ve been most grateful to learn from the class of 2017:

  1. Motivation from Healthy Competition
  2. Collaboration is a Necessity of Life 
  3. How to Dream Big and Make Dreams Come True 
  4. Question Everything and Ask for Help 
  5. The Importance of Giving Back 

1. Motivation from Healthy Competition

Any teacher who has ever taught the class of 2017 knows that we have always been a highly competitive class. It’s not particularly “normal” for a group of students to turn a simple history debate project into a full blown mock trial complete with costumes and an audience of students and teachers from other classes, but this Mongol trial is still one of my personal favorite projects to talk about because the competitive nature we had made the project more enjoyable and helped me better learn the material. We’ve even called ourselves the Mongol Grade because we learned to love that period of history so much and believe we are often “the exception” to many school norms.IMG_1875.JPG

While this kind of competition has undoubtedly caused some tension at times, healthy competition has helped make learning fun for me over the years. My peers have pushed me to work harder and strive to do my personal best. I’m never going to lie and say that I have found 100% of my schooling thus far to always be fun and engaging- I may be an odd nerdy kid who enjoys learning but school has yet to get to that great a level even for me yet- however, when I wasn’t the most engaged, having my peers pushing me helped make school more enjoyable for me.

2. Collaboration is a Necessity of Life

While competition has helped me try my personal hardest in school, collaboration is what allowed me to do constantly improve “my best.” The class of 2017 has been more than just a group of students working to get through k-12, we’ve been a family to one another. I remember when Google Docs first started to take off as a classroom tool, our grade took full advantage of the sharing capabilities. Back when everyone took pretty much the same classes, we would create study guides that practically the entire grade would help collaborate on in order to prepare for assessments. Our opinion was that everyone would have to study the same stuff, so if we all worked together to compile the information, it would make everyone’s life easier- and it did!CrDzAPtVYAAIVCE.jpg

This collaborative nature is evident not just in our school work, but also how we’ve bonded as a grade. During our Baccalaureate one of the speakers mentioned how there is no clear divide between “jocks” or “nerds” or “actors” etc, and that’s because everyone tends to get along with each other and help each other out. Members of other grades have often said that they were jealous of how close our grade has bonded over the years. This year we even maintained a group chat with the entire grade on it all year without anyone just spamming it into oblivion, which is an impressive feat for that large of a group of teenagers. It’s because of this kind of bonding that I know the class of 2017 will always be my family and though we may be moving far away from each other, I can count on these people to be there if I really need them.

3. How to Dream Big and Make Dreams Come True

I’ve had some pretty crazy ideas over the years, and while some people may be tempted to just say “Well that’ll never happen,” my peers have always been supportive to help make my crazy ideas into reality. For example, since freshman year I had been talking about how cool it would be to write an original show, and everyone always said it would be hard and take a lot of time, but no one ever said it was impossible to make happen. Sure enough, while freshman year might not have been the right time, I graduated having helped to write, direct, and perform an original show which wouldn’t have been possible if the idea wasn’t encouraged even back when I was just an ambitious, semi-clueless freshman.IMG_7671

This kind of positive spirit just makes life more enjoyable, and sure enough, we’ve been able to pull of some incredible things because of this “can do” attitude! The first step to doing the impossible is to dream of the impossible, which is truly impossible to do without supportive people by your side letting you know that anything is possible if you try hard enough. The class of 2017 has truly taught me to never let go of the childhood nature of dreaming like anything is possible, and that’s why we’ve been able to accomplish so many amazing things that get talked about as part of what makes us “great.”

4. Question Everything and Ask for Help 

The world is changing every single day and changes don’t happen without something first being questioned. Even schools are finally changing because of the people that are unafraid to question the norm. The class of 2017 is constantly questioning the norm and that’s why our class has been a part of making so many changes happen at our school. Members of our class participated in the first Council on Innovation where the Innovation Diploma started to further take shape. Members of our class were the ones to pioneer founding a student designed AP course. Member of our class helped prototype the maker space on campus. And I’m sure there are a number of other things that not only am I not mentioning, but somethings I probably don’t even know about that members of our class helped play an important role in.Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 11.52.08 PM.png

Furthermore, we know that when you have a lot of questions about life, you need good mentors to ask your questions to. I’ve truly learned how important it is to not just ask questions, but to find someone who really is good at listening to questions. I have formed some incredible bonds with some of my teachers and peers whom I’ve had the privilege of calling mentors to me over the course of my years in high school, and I know others can say the same. I’ve learned when in life you truly just need to ask for help and thankfully I’ve found people that know how to listen and give advice, with the understanding that when they need advice, I can be that ear for them to rant to. Part of what I love about the class of 2017 is that we aren’t afraid of sharing the stuff that’s hard to talk about and it’s allowed us to form bonds with each other as well as people all around the school that will last long beyond the past 4 years; this is a big part of why I’ll miss my years of high school so much, and I imagine it’s a big part of why other students and teachers say they will miss us.

5. The Importance of Giving Back 

Last but not least, I’m so grateful that the class of 2017 has taught me how to really show how much people have meant to us. I can’t even count the number of times we have thrown parties for various teachers for birthdays, holidays, and farewells. We’ve gotten the nickname of “the stalker grade” over the years because we care enough to do some deep digging to figure out just the right gifts for people. Whether that means a video of pictures and an original song, a homemade grandmother’s recipe birthday cake, a signed copy of a favorite book, a video of a play we saw in France, a custom ordered hand sticked college bag, or a framed collage of inside jokes in the form of stickers, we have managed to put together some pretty great gifts for teachers where a bunch of us chip in to make it happen. I can confidently say they’ve been great because of the expressions on our teachers faces when they realize what we’ve done and it’s always wonderful to see someone you appreciate so much completely filled of joy.IMG_7509.jpg

Even our senior prank was so fitting of our grade because we were a tad annoying while also helping the community. We bought close to 300 cans at least and used them to block off the front entrances to the building, so while it was hard to get into the building that one day, our school went on to beat the all time record for the amount of cans donated to the Community Action Center by the end of the can food drive week. The class of 2017 has taught me how important it is to thank those that have meant a lot to you, and that’s why I never think I’ll be able to thank the class of 2017 enough for everything they’ve taught and done for me.

Thank you class of 2017 for being the greatest class a girl could ask to graduate with! You have all taught me so much, and while our time together may have come to a close, memories last a life time and I will never forget all we have learned together.

 

(And now for some of my favorite photos of high school…)

Performance Bonanza

IMG_5540.JPG
Level 4 and up group routine to “We Built This City” ending pose. (video of full routine coming soon)

9 SUCCESSFUL ROUTINES IN ONE DAY!!!!

This past week was endless. All of last week I was working like crazy to prepare over 50 kids for various routines to perform at our spring showcase yesterday. Then Saturday was crunch time, trying to get in last minute practices, but only up until one of the girls had her Bat Mitzvah. And if you’ve ever been to a Bat Mitzvah then you would know they last all night long… Then Sunday was the big day and I was at the gym working for 12 hours straight, but it was worth it to see all of the smiling faces of kids and impressed parents.

I always say the most exciting part of a show is what happens backstage, but it’s typically not viewed as entertaining until after the show is over. I’m glad the audience mostly though everything ran smoothly because in the back room it was crazy. There were girls changing leos and getting hair done while some people were stretching and warming up skills. Then there were last minute order changes in the program. And what was most stressful was that I had to change all 4 of the huge routines about 20-1 minute before each show because so many people just didn’t show up… I had to re-block two routines slightly, teach a level 4 boy a routine to fill in for someone, and I even ended up having to be in one routine because I was the only other person that knew it and could do the acro skill with a girl.

IMG_5539.JPG
Level 4 and 5 team pose.

However, thankfully everything went still went surprisingly well and I was so proud of all of the girls. I even had a couple people say they were close to tears during some of the routines because the choreography was so good, which of course made me want to do a little happy dance!

I’m sure there were some mistakes, and I know there were more last minute “oops” moments, but the show must go on and I was very happy with all of the team and acro kids.

Then today my acro tops started asking “what are we going to do now in acro; are we going level 9?” We aren’t ready for level 9 yet, and I told them how we still need to work on improving and advancing our level 8 skills first. However, we did start working on learning new skills today which everyone was excited for. It made me think about how in school it’s also the end of the year, but in school if you repeat a level that’s like taboo even if you are

IMG_7995[1].JPG
Hot Shots (ages 4-6 soon to be on team) final pose after their group routine to “Little Bitty Pretty One.”
working on more advanced skills. Furthermore, in school there isn’t the same excitement about it being summer time and that meaning you get to work on a bunch of new skills and try different things than normal.

I wonder how we can bring the excitement of getting to learning something new back into school.

Ends and Beginnings

CSAkr7eUYAAoiYS IMG_4709

This weekend was crazy fun!!! So much was going on that I didn’t even get a chance to blog. The Council on Innovation (COI) happened Friday and was a great success, then we had our drama one act play competition which was super fun and exciting, then my friends and I went to the lake, and then my girl scout troop had a mini Halloween party tonight!

In my opinion, the coolest part about COI this year was getting to watch all of the light bulb moments that council members were having. You could visibly see people thinking about how schools should be starting to find ways to further develop and showcase  EQ and CQ instead of just IQ, and how students can add great value to conversations.

I personally had a really fun time getting to talk with the council members and hear potential areas for future Design Briefs, where ID cohort members will work for extended amounts of time to help solve problems faced by people in their work. Design Briefs are our version 2.0 of last year’s Consultivations the biggest change being the idea of working on a project for an “extended amount of time” rather than just 90 minutes.

Working on Friday with business leaders just made me even more excited for the day when there is no difference between “school” and the “real world”, and it is just the norm for businesses and students to working along side each other, to not only learn, but also to positively affect the world around them. I hope the council members walked away from Friday feeling that this future isn’t impossible, and in fact has already begun with steps we are piloting with MVPS and MViFi.

I’d like to think the MVAllstars positively affected people all week, and especially Saturday morning for our one act play competition with our show Lions in Illryia. I had so much fun putting on the performance and then getting to watch other actors put on their shows too, plus all of the drama people there were so nice and fun to talk to. Plus we walked away with 2nd place overall, best ensemble, best supporting actor, and 3 all star cast awards!!!!!! (I was pretty psyched to get an all star cast award even as a musician!) It was a great day of fun, and lot’s of talk about “yes and” and working as a team with your fellow actors which I think are great lessons for life even out of theater.

With all of the work I had been putting into these 2 big events for the past few weeks, and especially last week, it was nice to then just hang out with friends some this weekend.

And now I’m super excited for this week because all week are auditions for our winter show The 39 Steps and our spring musical Shrek, the Musical!! Plus tomorrow is our arts concert where I’ll be performing with both the middle and high school bands, and also our a cappella club will have our debut performance at MVPS!!!

It’s sad when things end, but it’s exciting when it springboards something else to take off for the first time!

Putting on a Leadership Hat

images

Today Kat and I had our first big discussion on #EdJourney after having finished “Part 1: Roadblocks: How Can We Overcome the Biggest Obstacles to School Reform”. Now to be honest, Kat and I both felt that the book is more written for an audience that is either a teacher or educator rather than a student, but that’s ok it just challenged us to change how we read. Personally I’ve been reading the book through the perspective of a leader.

We are trying to make this a timed writing piece so rather than going into depth on our discussion I would like to point out a few key insights I found through our reading and discussion today:

  • Teams and organizations need to break the mold of pyramid structured leadership if they wish to innovate and instead have a richer system of many levels and different people that can be trusted to lead.
  • Leaders must be challenged in order for improvement and innovation to occur. It is uncomfortable to ask teammates hard questions, but it is necessary. This is a cultural change that needs to take place.
  • Decision making should not all be done by one person; therefore, people need to be able to trust others with the responsibility involved in making decisions in order to innovate.
  • Giving people a title helps them feel more empowered as a leader that can be responsible in that area of work, and helps give others someone to go to other than a “top dog” on a traditional leadership pyramid.
  • I wonder when it is right to lead by example versus letting others experience and struggle with something on their own.
  • We wish there was a book like this exploring innovative colleges and universities are the country.
    • And it would be really cool if we could do this as high schoolers or college students… (including writing a book about the findings.)
  • We wonder what it would be like for high schoolers to have more opportunities like those of college students to go on long “breaks” for learning outside of school. Like building a school in the rainforest of Thailand. Or traveling the country talking to different educators. Or trying to find a solution to clean water. Or apprenticing artist for a few weeks. (We both went on college visits this weekend so study abroad, internships, and co-op  opportunities are on our minds.)

Life = Humanities “and” STEM not “or”

images-1

MVPS is on fall break currently so we have a long weekend with no school today. It was such a great day!!!

And I spent half my day at school by choice. 🙂

While the students had today off, teachers had a planning day. While I haven’t been to a planning day before, I do know that this was not the normal planning day because it was run by MViFi and set up like a conference. Teachers seemed to really enjoy being able to have the choice of what sessions they attended and also being able to do a lot of hands on work.

The reason I was at the planning day was because I was offered the opportunity to co-facilitate one of the sessions, specifically the recycling session. This was a great and fun opportunity to lead and share our work in ID with teachers from across divisions. After years of talking about recycling problems that need to be solved for, I’m excited with the conversations that have been started and can’t wait to see how things continue. It’s also always nice when people get excited about your prototype. (Which is officially done and in place in a middle school classroom collecting data!!!!)

However, what I think I enjoyed most about today actually was my second session on designing a humanities course that will be launched for freshman to take for 2016-2017. It was a great group and a great challenge that sparked great conversation!

One of the big take away thoughts that I had was around the idea of fun work versus meaningful work.

My table had a conversation about how the humanities are about humans, which also has a lot to do with struggle. (By the way also there was an important distinction with “humanities” not just meaning English and history classes, but also arts and language and being more about culture than just being a combo of subjects.) Both analyzing and communicating the struggles of others, and having to struggle yourself to get work done. The truth is that there is a lot of struggle in life. I might not have the years of experience to really be able to say this, but I’d like to think, while I may not be able to empathize, I can at least understand on some level.

Sometimes you will have work that you simply don’t want to do, but you still have to get it done. In life you don’t always get to do what you want. It’s not always fun. That’s ok thought.

We talked about how you can do really hard work, that might not be the most fun while you’re working on it, but afterwards it can feel so rewarding. Rewarding to the point where students even comment by saying, “This was really hard, but I loved it! I feel like I really learned something.” One of the teachers mentioned our past show “Beast on the Moon”, and how it obviously was not a very up lifting comedy kind of show. The show was very serious, with lots of emotions and moving pieces constantly changing, and in general it was a tough drama, not to mention the amount of lines to memorize. However, after the show, we were thrilled with what we had just pulled off. It was rewarding to know we went through all of the hard work and then could put on a show that truly moved people.

However, the interesting question/struggle comes with how to make the hard work then feel rewarding at the end. In my opinion, this requires for students to be given the opportunity to do meaningful work.

Meaningful work can be fun. Feeling happy about learning something I think is pretty meaningful– being happy is important to a healthy life.

However, meaningful work can also be hard. It can be tiring and stressful and time consuming and still be meaningful.

In AP Lang we’ve been working on our Creativity Crisis papers (in fact I was going to officially share mine today, but I was much too passionate about today’s adventures to not talk about them). Now while we were still writing a paper, and staying up late to meet deadlines, and getting specific feedback that wasn’t always positive, we have been ok with all of it because we know that we have to go through all of that hard work in order to share something valuable with a wider audience. That is how we are choosing to try and make the work we do meaningful in this situation.

Teachers can’t just make work meaningful because for work to be meaningful, students have to find that meaning. However, it is possible for the work to not be given the chance to be meaningful. When this happens, this is when work feels tedious on top of being tiring and stressful and time consuming.

I feel like there is a common assumption that students (especially those of us helping more significantly with shaping our own learning experience) think we should only do work we find to be fun work. Another assumption being that your typical “STEM student” (a bubble to which I find myself often included) thinks everything should be about brainstorming and creating a product.

I’d like to dispel these beliefs at least a little because I don’t believe either of these assumptions to be true.

In fact I don’t want to ever only be doing fun work because after a while it stops being fun if it isn’t also challenging. While “fun stuff” is needed to help relieve stress and keep high energy levels to be able to work on harder stuff, overcoming challenges often feels more rewarding then just doing the fun stuff.

Also I find it interesting, because while I do love STEM and will likely go into a STEM field, I have found myself in a lot of humanities conversations lately. Sometimes it is important to just have a conversation. To not be focused on trying to make an end product, but to just sit and have a deep talk. However, you can’t always just sit and talk because eventually it will start to feel like you are having an empty conversation because it’s the same type of conversation you’ve had before but nothing is changing.

STEM and the Humanities need each other. Humanities, understanding humans, is at the basis of any thing you are trying to design, and you need the STEM skills to then actually design it to help provoke change which then leads to new conversations.

I feel like my thoughts have been all over the place tonight. (Probably doesn’t help with it being so late and my flight to Ohio being such chaos tonight.) I think part of the disjointedness to this writing tonight is because I have so many thoughts about this idea of Humanities and STEM; it feels like they are always working in competition with one another rather than collaboration with one another.

My big thought I guess is that great learning is about overcoming challenges that leads to something where you are able to feel happy and proud about what you’ve accomplished at the end. If you aren’t happy and proud at the end, then why did you do it?

Hello October

37310-Dear-October

Today I really felt like school was back. The reason being because I had one of my first days this school year where I had a ton of different things to do and people to talk to during my “free time”.

The funny thing is that this feeling made me a little exited actually. Being busy makes me feel productive and helpful which I enjoy. Sometimes it’s just a pain to have so much to do and so little time, but this was different because it was the first time.

October in general is a busy month for me. We have our drama performance and competition, a band concert, auditions for the winter play and spring musical, people start touring MVPS, I’m going to Ohio this weekend to tour Case Western and visit my grandparents, the Council on Innovation happens, I’m helping facilitate a few other things, we have a design challenge coming to an “end”, Halloween, pre-Halloween laser tag in our costumes with Girl Scouts, and this isn’t even including school work…

October is just a lot of fun. A lot of work, but a lot of fun. So many great things are in the works and I can’t wait for every one of them!

From Camp to School

page63_picture0_slide_1348969387

Wow it feels like it’s been forever since I last blogged because so much was going on with so many late nights. I’m officially back at home now for the rest of the summer (which is basically just a week that is flying by). I’m also now in my new house as of 12:30am last night/this morning.

I must say it’s pretty weird coming home to a new home where you can’t even find everything yet.

My last few nights at Yale were great too! The last full day we had all of our big projects coming to an end in the moment of truths. First up was our sea perch competition. We had designed both a surface and underwater robot that had to be able to collect tennis balls as well as ping pong balls for the surface one. These robots were made out of pvc pipes, zip ties, limited duck tape (which had to last all 10 days for every project by the way), a wooden dowel, some netting, and then everything that went with the 6 motors and control box (6 total so we split them 3 on each robot).

Our design did not work out very well… We got some balls on the top, but none underwater because the robot itself flipped upside down a few times and I also don’t know if we had made the best decisions for who was controlling them. It really stunk that we weren’t able to test while building and also we didn’t even get to test ours in the kiddy pool the night before because our motors hadn’t finished drying onto the sea perches fast enough. The experience reminded me of the value of prototyping and testing as well as how to be creative when given limited supplies.

Later that day we also had our product pitch presentation where we pitched “The All-Year-Lawn Mower”. This machine would act similarly to a roomba but for the outdoors. It would be 2.5-1.5 ft wide and would use ultrasonic sensor technology to complete one of 5 tasks at a time: mow your lawn (mow mode), blow snow off of your driveway (snow mode), fertilize your lawn (grow mode), weed spray your lawn (no-no grow mode), or salt your driveway (no-no snow mode).

In my opinion this was the biggest project we did since we had to also create a design document and presentation (as well as a commercial) for our product. For us this project was a lot more challenging then the sea perch because it was more complicated and harder for us to make decisions since there were so many more possibilities about what we wanted to design. In the end we pulled it together and gave a pretty solid presentation. Our product was probably the most complicated and I think that was more evident when people started to question us. (It’s amazing how much harsher your peers like to be then the judges  because everyone wants to win.)

At the end of the night we had a leadership session called “What I Discovered”. We walked in semi-silently because we didn’t quite realize that we were suppose to be silent and our instructor then told us how interesting it was that people so naturally want to resist silence but that’s often when we can further understand ourselves.

After that he pretty much just opened up the floor for anyone to speak. It was interesting for me because I think often times in small groups I’m fairly quick to step up at least after a little if not first. However, this night I didn’t step up to speak, but the important thing was that I was okay with that decision. Our instructor talked about how often people that got up didn’t think they said what they meant, and sometimes those that didn’t then regret what they said, but sometimes you may be just ok with whatever choice you made.

On this particular night I was quite aware of what I was thinking and feeling and I quite honestly couldn’t think of anything to say. NSLC was a fantastic experience and I learned a lot about engineering, but I didn’t really feel like I “discovered” anything significant. I was reminded of some past ideas, but nothing was super new to me. Which I guess was kind of a discovery in itself because I realized how well exposed in leadership I’ve been becoming lately which is pretty cool, but I hadn’t even thought of that until just now. In that moment I was perfectly okay with the silence which was kind of something new for me so it stood out in an interesting kind of way.

On our last day we finally got to discover who won which events from our full competition that was taking place throughout our stay. We knew we had won some of the smaller more team oriented events like minute to win it and mission impossible, but we also knew we lost some big ones like trebuchets and probably sea perch and weren’t sure about others. We ended up coming in last for sea perch (which we expected based on the what the other teams said about how they did), and we came in second on our product pitch which was a big one. Overall we came in second which may not be first, but it still means we beat two other teams so that’s pretty good still!

There was absolutely no prize for coming in any position, but it’s amazing how hard the teams worked to try and win. In the right situations a little competition really can do a lot to motivate kids and I’m always wondering how we could better use this human instinct in the class room without it being detrimental to anyones feelings in the long run.

NSLC was a fantastic experience and I’m really glad I got to go because it really helped give me a better understanding of engineering and introduced me to a lot of important engineering skills. While no where close to TIP emotional level for me, it was sad to say good bye to such great friends and TAs. We had a random group of people show up from all over the country for this event, and yet we bonded so closely so quickly. Many people said they felt more comfortable there then back at school, but it doesn’t have to be that way. School is practically a random group of people as well, so who is to say that the underlying level of trust and comfort with your peers can’t be the same? Why do connections form so easily at camp? I think it may be because there is focus on more than just gaining task oriented skills, but also a focus on creating bonds through leadership sessions and just general moments dedicated to fun.

What if school was more like camp? Both are experiences where students learn and work as a team with others, but what if school had more moments dedicated to just fun? Moments where students could let go of the stress of the classroom and focus on being a kid creating trusting relationships with there peers and dare I say, “their team”. Would students feel more comfortable and  trusting of their peers? Who knows until someone’s brave enough to try?