Sometimes you have to remind people that they’re awesome. Furthermore, sometimes you have to remind people that they need to remind themselves that they’re awesome.
Today I made a girl yell out loud that she was awesome because who knows how the rest of her day was going but by the time she got to practice she was having some serious self-doubt going on. I don’t feel that self-doubt is something that just get’s better with age either because a similar situation came up with some Tech kids as we’ve begun our first week of school. There was a big conversation I more witnessed and listened than partook in literally after day 1 of school complete with yelling and tears that was essentially all about self-doubt with school, friends, and life in general.
It seems that mental health problems have started hitting kids younger and younger nowadays. I don’t know if the general pressures of life have really gotten that much more stressful or what it is, but I notice more and more kids of all ages doubting themselves daily. I know the feeling and admit it’s one thing to give advice and an entirely different thing to take even your own advice; there’s no simple fix so I’m not going to try to propose one at this point in time.
It’s just hard to see people constantly blaming themselves and not thinking they’re good enough. Since I’ve come to college it seems to just be a norm though, and now that I coach gymnastics more often, I’ve started noticing signs of self-doubt at even younger ages which is even harder to see.
I wish more was being done to combat this. I can’t help but feel the best place to make a difference would be in schools where kids spend the majority of their day-to-day lives. Yet the opposite seems to be happening. We’re always pushing kids to be perfect; to get a “perfect score” specifically. There’s nothing wrong with striving for greatness, but no matter how many teachers try to say “it’s okay to fail because we learn from our mistakes,” at the end of the day I never truly see this mindset in practice. I don’t think we ever will as long as we have grades, standardized tests, and college applications so heavily based on all of the numbers. How often do we just teach kids to love themselves the way they are and that striving for greatness is a personal mission to be the greatest “you” you can be for the world, not a competitive mission to be the best singular thing compared to everyone else?
The competitive nature that comes along with the numbers is inevitable and detrimental. Wheather intentional or not, kids end up comparing and competing in terms of grades. It always happens and it only makes it that much worse when someone slips up. It doesn’t feel good to be “beaten,” and this competitive nature, whether it means vying for valedictorian or messing around with friends about the little participation grades, until the foundational systematic approach to schooling is altered I don’t imagine mental health in society improving anytime soon.
Watch a 10-year-old beat herself up over forgetting two poses in a 3-minute long routine she learned in less than three hours and tell me that mental health isn’t an issue amongst young learners.
I can’t believe this day is here, the first members of the Innovation Diploma who entered as freshman have officially graduated today!
It’s crazy to believe that it’s been four years since this program began with a group of 12 unsuspecting young learners and two facilitators out on a daunting journey to figure out what it would mean to graduate with an additional “Innovation Diploma.”
A lot has changed since then. We went from barely understanding what innovation is to teaching top companies about design thinking. The team currently has Design Briefs in the works with Chick-Fil-A and Delta amongst others!
I love seeing how the program grows every year, even despite me having graduated at this point. I care because each year the program grows it also reflects on all of us who have graduated; it shows how the work we left behind has paved the path for those behind us. Furthermore, it shows how the way we run school is changing a little more each year for the better.
It was a pleasure to work alongside this group of now-graduated seniors while I could and it’s amazing the work they accomplished during their time in the Innovation Diploma. I can’t wait to see what they do next, though it is crazy and a little sad to think that there is no longer anyone left from the original group, theDisney Cohort. It all started back from that first time we hacked the system together by collaborating on what innovator we wanted to be named after, and then it was a crazy ride from there.
Now there will be no one left in the program who lived out that first year, messy as it was at times, it taught us all the true meaning of prototyping early and failing up to continue to make improvements for the future generations. I hope the years to come will remember and appreciate just how far this amazing program has grown in such a short amount of time.
Congrats class of 2018, and goodbye Disney Cohort; continue to dream and design a better tomorrow!
“When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.” – Walt Disney
Yesterday we had kind of a sad moment with our class. While the kids were doing research, we were having a bunch of phone calls and emails, but in the end,logistics proved too problematic and we had to cancel our field trip planned for Monday.
The kids were doing research on tiny homes and eco-hostels and tree houses, etc. Then, we were supposed to be actually going to visit a tiny home but turns out the guy who had previously confirmed with us now says no one can open the building. Then we found a different spot but driving would take far too long compared to the amount of time we could actually stay.
So we finally called it off and instead the guy who was going to give us a tour is going to come to Paideia and present to the class. Obviously, this is not ideal considering such a big part of design thinking is the whole getting out into the world component; however, I guess it goes to show teachers can fail up too.
I guess we should’ve done a better job of getting dates like this overly planned with people ahead of time. This wasn’t something I was in charge of planning and it was a last minute idea, but it still is upsetting that we can’t do it, because it’s so obvious now that we should be.
On the flip side though, we also had a skype call that was not previously planned with a girl who lived in a tree house with a composting toilet for a year and a half which was super helpful. So sometimes last-minute ideas can work out which was also a good learning moment of the day.
Well, everything happened, no one was injured, and there was applause! Some things today looked far prettier than others, but everyone smiled, kept moving forward, and helped put on a good show; for maybe 5 practices there’s not much more you can ask for.
Today was crazy with 25 girls in two group routines and one acro routine, but we pulled it all together and I’m proud of all the girls who participated today. I guess that includes myself since I also performed a basically level 8 acro routine today and that went pretty well. I did have to straight up muscle my partner into one skill because our timing was funny, but I made sure she got up and we finished the skill which I think describes today well: just make it happen and no one will notice if it happened not as planned.
It’s honestly another good performing skill of life. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, but the key is to just make sure it goes at all. We can’t always expect perfection because that’s not realistic. We can and should strive to do our best, but most of the time there will still be something we wish we could have done better. Then there comes a choice: get stuck up on what went wrong and be upset about it, or acknowledge and analyze what happened and why in order to make a note of how to improve next time.
As I start to get my end of the semester grades back, I’ve realized the importance of trying to have the mindset of the later.
This year with routines I learned a few things from what went well and what didn’t and I think some can be applied to more than gymnastics:
don’t do too much all at the same time (I had learned before that acro should be spread out and made the correction and for some reason went back on it this year and learned it still doesn’t work well…)
take more time to understand the skill level of the performers before starting to learn the dance don’t strive for too many new things
if you love a routine but don’t have the people signed up you hoped for, don’t try to do the same routine with the same expectations
sometimes less is more; it’s okay if not every girl is in every part of a routine, people have their strengths and weaknesses
when levels mix they can sometimes be intimidated into being more focused which can be advantageous
remember camera angles and external factors that may not apply until showtime
sometimes performance quality needs to trump wanting to be nice/fair
prior level shouldn’t guarantee anything; you always have to prove yourself, you don’t just “deserve” things
it’s always different when everyone finally works together at the same time; more mandatory practices are necessary but scheduling in advance is key
don’t make assumptions/some people think differently
I’ve officially pushed submit on all of my college applications!!!!!!!! Technically this happened a few nights ago, and I still have a few portfolio pieces left to submit, but everything required is finished which is exciting!! I didn’t blog about it earlier because I’ve been on the road since Thursday night in order to interview at 3 of my 5 schools which are all in the north east… Currently I’m in Pennsylvania with 1/3 interviews done. (And I must say I think the first went rather well.)
Even though I’ve already hit submit, over the past few years I’ve come to learn my strengths and weaknesses well and I know that I’m much better at talking than writing .(Even though my writing has improved tremendously since I started blogging.) However, despite knowing myself better, I still don’t know where I most want to go to college yet. There are just so many options and different factors, and it’s so hard to really know the culture of a school without immersing yourself in it first- a luxury I don’t have when looking at colleges.
It’s times like this- when I feel completely lost in a situation- that I feel grateful for being in drama and thus constantly learning about improv. In fact, last week was show week for our 2nd theater production of the year which was an improv meets comedy sketch variety show called “A Night of Stars.”
There’s a lot we can learn from improv- no matter who you are. I like to call these key learning moments the “Improv Rules for Life.”
Jump In & Have Fun: Improv, like life, can feel scary and uncomfortable, but the only way to stop feeling uncomfortable and move past the fear of the unknown is to jump in and try it out. Put yourself out there and over time it will stop feeling so scary. One of the hardest parts of taking the first step is often just standing up, but once you’re up it’s a lot easier to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Just keep having fun and you’ll be fine.
Go All Out / Believe in Yourself: Make big choices and commit to them! If you are going to use a toy horse as a tennis racket, then you have to do everything in your power to really make that horse seem like a racket. You have to convince yourself of your choices before your audience will ever believe you, so if you start swinging a toy horse around like you truly believe it’s a racket then you’re audience won’t even think about calling it a horse.
Listen and Respond: Help you’re partners out!!! It’s hard to constantly come up with ideas all on your own, so listen to the people you are working with and work off of each other. Listen to what they suggest and respond to it with a new suggest that adds to what they said. When everyone helps each other out, things get most exciting.
Think Positive / “Yes And…”: Saying negative words like “no, but, death, etc” is the fastest way to kill a scene and put your stage partner in a really difficult position. Keep conversations light hearted and agree with your partners; it will make for a much more interesting conversation with some crazy ideas being easily generated.
Fail-Up : Push the editor off your shoulder. Don’t be afraid to fail, because it’s inevitable that you’ll mess up at some point in time. Just keep trying your hardest and commit to everything you do, that way when you fail, it’s a spectacular failure that you can later laugh about because it was just that horrendous. The best improvers still fail, but when they fail, they laugh it off and keep moving forward- sometimes it even becomes a part of a later sketch. It’s true that if you don’t try you won’t fail, but you also won’t succeed that way.
When thinking of college, and many difficult and potentially uncomfortable life situations, I try to remember these improv rules for life. I’m never going to feel 100% ready, but eventually I’m just going to need to jump in, go all out and believe in myself, learn to respond in my new situations, think positively and don’t shut down new ideas, and remember that the fear of failure should never stop me from dreaming big and committing to my actions.
I made a promise to myself what feels like a long time ago to not only blog about the successful things in my life, but to also mention the un-successful moments.
“If you only reflect on your successes, then you aren’t learning as much as you could be… You can’t just completely let go of un-successes because then you can’t use them to fuel better actions next time, but you also can’t dwell on them to the point of madness; it’s when you find the balance that you can learn.” – My Un-Success Reflection (The Life of Pinya)
I wish to honor my previous promise to myself, so here is a story of an un-success of the past few weeks.
For the past few weeks I’ve been working with a team of Innovation Diploma members as consultants for the City of Sandy Springs to decreases traffic at MVPS by 10% (#reMoVe10). The hypothesis is that if we can develop a plan to decrease traffic at our school, then we could create a plan that could be replicated at other schools too. If enough schools decreased their own traffic, then the traffic in Sandy Springs during rush hour times would decrease as well. It’s a lofty goal, but I think we’re on a good path right now.
Our first client meeting went very well two weeks ago; however, the days leading up to that meeting were not so great. Our team has had some major communication problems lately. We’ve done a good job of dividing up responsibilities, but apparently we didn’t do a good job of checking in to make sure everyone was on the same page about why we were doing certain things.
One day I was meeting with a faculty member that has been acting as an external mentor to our team, and when I got back half of our team of 4 was missing. No one knew where they went. We were searching around the school and texting them and then finally we learned that they were out counting cars in the parking lot. We had discussed the value of taking observational data multiple times, so the idea was valid, but not at 10:15 when there isn’t any traffic in and out of the school… Somehow this idea wasn’t communicated well. Moreover, the reason they said they were out there is because they discovered they wouldn’t be able to get a piece of technology working in time for our meeting, so they didn’t know what to do and thought counting cars would be productive.
On the one hand I’m grateful to have a team where members are trying to take initiative and go out and do and observe things rather than always working on a computer; however, this was a major fail-up moment because the data they got from counting cars was information we could have concluded by just sending a quick email to find out how many teachers and students have on campus parking spots, so an entire day was just wasted by half of the team. Furthermore, when one member was asked questions by the facilitators, the member was not able to answer questions about why we were even having a client meeting later that week let alone answer questions about what we were going to talk to them about.
Overhearing this conversation was when it hit me that we really had a problem and part of this is on me.
The team has established that I’m project manager, so this un-success day made me realize that if that’s going to be my role, then I need to do a better job of helping to make sure that everyone understands not only what needs to be done and who needs to do it, but also understand why we are doing it.
I also felt bad because when I later talked to these members about why they thought it would be a good idea to wonder off to count cars without telling anyone, they said they were scared to tell me that they wouldn’t be able to have the tech devise working in time. They had underestimated how difficult the task would be, but they knew the importance of that task, so they were trying to at least get some number so they went out to manually count cars.
I don’t want people to be scared to tell me things, and I’m glad at least that they told me that they were. I tried explaining that I’d never be mad about them not being able to do something based on their skills as long as they were honest about their capabilities upfront so we can plan accordingly as a team. The issue was that they were the only ones with knowledge about the technology since they were working with it, so when they said they could have their experiment up and running by that day, we assumed it would be done. It was frustrating then when the task wasn’t done because for the past few weeks we had been reassured that the timeline was an accurate assessment of when we thought we could have things accomplished by. How do I make it so that people aren’t afraid to tell me when things are not going as planned? I’ve noticed this problem outside of ID too and don’t know what to do about it, because I don’t mean to come off as intimidating but know that I can sometimes according to others.
I’m not really sure if I’m explaining this situation very clearly which is kind of ironic since the whole problem had to do with poor communication between our team. However, at least I can say that we’ve grown some from these hiccups since we’ve learned and improved in some ways.
Our team was able to turn things around before our client meeting, and that went really well! The meeting helped our team we focus and gain clarity in our group understanding of our mission and next steps which was very helpful, plus we impressed our clients which is nice. I hope that my teammates are no longer or at least getting to be less scared to tell me when things aren’t going as planned because I know a team needs to have lots of trust in one another; I don’t know how to help with this yet though. I also think entire team now sees the real importance of being honest and upfront about each of our capabilities that way we don’t have another situation where we essentially waste an entire days worth of work…
At the same time though, we’ve still had a couple instances where teammates will wonder off without telling anyone and not come back for a while, so I know we still have a ways to grow as a team in our communication. This whole post has actually made me realize more-so that our team probably needs a good heart-to-heart conversation, but I’ve never been good about making that happen even when noticing that it needs to; it’s probably the area I most need to grow in terms of responsibilities of a project manager. In school typically the job of bringing a team together to acknowledge dis-connects is done by a teacher or some other adult, and it’s not something you ever get taught despite it being a crucial part of team work. Guess it’s time to learn.
Yay another opening night that went well! Tonight was the middle school production of The Lion King Jr. and it was really fun! (I mean who can’t have fun doing The Lion King???)
Obviously it wasn’t perfect, but hey it’s a middle school show, and the cast shows a lot of potential as they continue to grow as actors and actresses. I’m glad that I got to be a part of it because I’ve had a fun time up on stage with these young talents dancing and singing to some of the greatest Disney songs out there.
I made some mistakes myself tonight, but what I realized is how much I’ve grown since my days as a middle schooler. Once upon a time when I made a mistake in a show, it was pretty obvious and I would be very upset about it afterwards and sometimes it would effect the rest of the show. However, tonight when I messed up, I think I covered it pretty well. Then I was able to brush it off once I got off stage knowing that I did my best to correct the mistake and it didn’t dramatically effect anything and kept moving forward. (I entered a scene early but played it off by turning around and jumping back off confidently. My mom even thought that was actually suppose to happen, and trust me she would be quick to tell me if she knew it was wrong.) Now hopefully I’ll not make the mistake tomorrow.
I guess I really have learned to fail-up in the last few years. 🙂
Backstage I found myself doing some coaching for other kids tonight that were much more dissatisfied with their minor slip ups. To be fair, they have spent much more time on this show and I know I get more upset when I’ve put a lot of effort into making something great and then it isn’t up to my standards. However, I’ve also seen the rehearsal’s and know that they weren’t the most focused group, which also reminded me of how much I’ve grown in terms of focus in the last few years. I now rehearse everyday after school for 3 hours plus many Saturdays as appose to twice a week for 2 hours each, and even with the extra time we have to be even more focused and on point to make sure every detail is worked up as best as we can.
The process of growing up fascinates me, especially because of how often I’m working with younger kids. It’s weird to think about myself growing up too…
It’s been a busy few weeks. Since I last posted I’ve been working at the Stanford d.School, wondering the city of San Francisco, at a Disney hotel, exploring Universal, sick in bed, discovering new facts at interactive museums, catching up on reading, and in general having fun with family and friends relaxing and trying not to worry about school. I’ve dropped the ball on blogging for various reasons, but that is irrelevant right now because inspiration hit me and I’ve finally reached a point where I simply must write.
While in San Fran (though really I was in Palo Alto most of the time…) I did write some posts, but due to internet issues at the time they never made there way online yet.
Rather than multiple posts I shall put the summaries here of our work on the design challenge “HMW establish friendships and build community at Stanford?”
San Fran Day 1
Today was our first day in San Francisco and I’m so excited to be back here again! The city is so much fun! All the bright colors, interesting street people, and pretty scenery just makes me so happy.
Today was our “chill day “ since we only just got into the city and everyone is still adjusting to the time difference. We did a lot of exploring today. We started out just doing a lot of walking to our hotel and then to the pier to visit the Exploritorium. We came to this same interactive museum last year as well and it’s really cool to get to play with all of the science, math, and psychology interactive exhibits.
(Small tangent, this place also has one of the biggest Pi Day celebrations in the country at least, and there is free admission and a bunch of pi activities to do. One year I would love to be in San Fran for Pi Day just to see this supposedly epic event. This year is actually the 28th time they are celebrating apparently.)
One thing at the museum that I didn’t notice last year is that they have a moving sign up front that is constantly changing what it says. At one point in time, it read, “You can’t fail a museum.” I really liked this because it showed how the Exploritorium is really meant to be a place to wander and wonder and simple have fun learning about new things. There is no number or letter attached to anything. There is no sense of “failure” because no matter what you do at a station, you will either learn what works or 10,000 ways that don’t (just like Thomas Jefferson inventing the lightbulb.)
I wonder what schools could learn from the design of the Exploritorium. I know we need to have some form of feedback at school, which is not present at the Exploritorium, but what if we had a section of school that was more like a museum with various interactive exhibits set up. A place where you could wander in everyday and learn something new. Learning without the stress of grades is great.
San Fran Day 2
IDEO and d.School all in one day!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Today was fantastic so many great ideas in such a short amount of time!
We talked about everything from a bathroom note board, to a hackathon bike race, to how to build trust between high schoolers and college reps.
I think what I enjoyed most about today was giving feedback to grad students on their prototypes for trying to figure out how to relieve stress from students trying to go to college.
It’s cool to see ideas that other people have about education transformation and I was making sure to take notes on ideas that connect to ours.
I’ve noticed that most ID members have gotten a lot more comfortable with giving feedback which was very evident today. Everyone was “in the zone” so to say; we seemed comfortable and confident with what we were talking about and how we were explaining our thoughts.
It seems like we gave valuable feedback, but I wish we could have gotten to hear their team’s meeting about what they thought after our feedback. I would like to know if our feedback was actually valuable to them rather than just basing it off of our own observations.
We also did some quick interviews with people today around campus. That was particularly interesting because we don’t often get to experience what it’s like to go out into the “real world” and just ask strangers questions to try to empathize better with our users. Usually it’s someone we know that we’ve been emailing with for a while and then finally get one 30 minute conversation with. There was no real planning on our part with these interviews though (the facilitators at the d.School had talked with the dorm leaders who had talked to the student, but we personally had not connected with any of the students before). We talked less and did more and it was fun, informative, and got us moving further faster I think.
Overall day 2 was fantastic!
San Fran Day 3
Wow today was a full day.
We were talking with college students, doing fun team building dances, unpacking interviews and working a lot on trying to find insights.
It was tiring.
While there is a lot I could talk about tonight, what I’d like to dive in on is how I realized how important it is to have breaks in our day.
When we’re always working non-stop, then it can be hard to really process everything, and your energy level slowly dies down. We’ve had some long days this week so far, and while I’ve appreciated the amount of time we’ve had to work, I wonder if we will have more moments this week where we break out from working. Times to just do weird fun stuff as a team.
We did a dance exercise today, which I can only describe as a leadership exercise that forced us to be goofy and follow each other anyway. We were working with our teams and changing up who was the leader to lead our team in dance moves. This was so much fun and I think we got to know our mini teams better, but I hope we get to have similar experiences with all of the ID family. I think every group can always grow with their understanding and comfort level with each other.
Now I didn’t keep up with blogging after day 3, so I’ll just do a quick recap of my overall thoughts.
To be completely honest (as I like to be), I had many points of frustration. I think this is natural, I’d be lying to say that everything was good and dandy 100% of the time with anything I do. I think the hardest part was being in a place where not everyone sees the same potential in a group of high schoolers as our facilitators and teachers at MVPS do. We are given so much respect at MVPS that it’s hard to leave that environment and remember that not all of the rest of the world thinks of high schoolers as active and involved members of a community. This struggle personally came up for me a few times along with the normal working on a team struggles.
However, these were all minor things compared to the over all experience and everything we gained from it.
The theme of the week was “fail forward” which reminded me of a MVPS phrase we like to say, “fail up”; they essentially mean the same thing, which is a reminder that you have to learn from failures, in order to achieve success. So don’t shut down when you fail, instead lean in and like a clown at a circus, even when you fall you get up and say “ta-da!” I thought it was really neat to hear someone else talk about a mindset that we also have as a norm when doing work.
Some other big take aways were how we learned a lot of new helpful tools and coaching prompts for going through the design process. Another big success was that a lot of ID members seemed to take on new roles while we were at Stanford, and really come out of their comfort zones in positive ways; several people also had “aha” moments where they maybe understood a part of the design process better than they once did. I also think a huge take away was just the number of great ideas generated while we were there. I hope some of these ideas will maybe be adapted a little and implemented at MVPS.
I could tell that all of these take aways helped bring our ID family closer together, and I
hope to see some of these take aways help inspire our work as we continue this year and beyond.
What’s really blowing my mind still is that we had this opportunity. Ya we are a bunch of high schoolers, but we are a bunch of high schoolers that just spent a week with Stanford students thinking up big ideas to problems that are affecting real people. Too bad this wasn’t school all of the time.
I’ve been starting to notice this year how we have really been trying to incorporate aspects of design thinking into even the more “traditional” classes. Which is great! I mean it’s nice to know that teachers recognize the value of using design thinking as a tool and want to use it in their classes even if only portions at a time.
However, design challenges can really get intense; they are a lot of hard work and you are often exhausted when you finish one. Even just having Innovation Diploma time all Thursday morning can sometimes leave me pretty pooped afterwards because you build up and use a ton of energy mentally and even physically some of the time.
Now I’m that person that loves to get involved in tons of things; I’m a multipotentialite as I say. So it’s really easy for me to get curious and want to be involved in new design challenges when they come. (Just today in ID I was having to make a difficult decision as to what path I want to take for ID now that officially our design challenge module on healthy living is over; however, I decided to continue working with a sub set of my design team on our challenge but now as an official coVenture.)
The problem is, that due to the nature of design challenges, you can’t work on a ton at once because each requires a great deal of focus and time commitment.
With this all said, I love how teachers are starting to incorporate design thinking and design challenges into their classrooms, but I’m also a little worried. If I was trying to work on a separate design challenge in each of my 7 periods, then none of them would really be all that great. It’s just not possible to spend the amount of time necessary to do a meaningful design challenge on that many different challenges at once.
So as we grow as a school and community of learners, I wonder how in the future classes might start to collaborate more so that students can maybe be working on 1 or 2 design challenges at once, but they explore aspects of their topic through the lens of different classes. Then students could focus their energies more specifically on challenges, and maybe it would also help teachers to have someone else to help plan with for facilitation purposes; I’ve rarely seen a design challenge facilitated by just one person.
A great example of something like this in action is a redesign the bike challenge created by 3 MVPS teachers combining the Engineering and Tech, AP Physics, and Algebra 2 classes. While I’m not in any of these classes myself, I’ve been reading some of the teachers blog posts about it and was a little more than jealous of the students that did get to participate. From what I’ve heard, there were definitely some struggles with it as expected with any first iteration, but it was a great start that I hope to see iterations on for the future that maybe even involve different classes for new challenges next time.
I wonder what the future of designing thinking in classrooms looks like. I imagine a future where one day there doesn’t even have to be the division of “classrooms”.
I don’t hate feedback or rubrics or growth measurement tools as a whole, but I hate grades. I know I’ve talked about this before; about how humans are more than a symbol, and how important feedback is, and how I believe the future of education must include a limitless growth measurement system. (Actually I didn’t truly process just how much I’ve talked about grades until looking for a few blog posts to tag on this post and realized I had a ton of posts on grades.)
I think the biggest thing that bugs me about grades is that I feel that they limit my drive to be creative because I don’t feel comfortable to put the possibility of failure aside.
When I try to be more creative and do something new for a project, it doesn’t always work out correctly. That’s life. When you try new things, eventually you will fail. That’s why at MVPS we always talk about “failing up”, because we know failure will come eventually in any authentic process, and you can’t necessarily control that; however, you can control how you react to the failure. By failing up it means that you will learn from your failure, and take feedback from the failure to improve your next iteration on an idea.
Failure is valuable. I often learn more from failures than successes. However, grading systems are not designed to allow comfort to fail up.
When your idea for a project doesn’t work- doesn’t fulfill the intended goal you were trying to achieve- you don’t get a good grade. That’s just how it works. Grading systems only look at the final product and access if you achieved your intended goal on the first try. So why try something new if there is at least a 50% chance that something won’t work and then your grade will suffer? Why look for a creative opportunity if you know you have a better chance at being successful, in terms of grades at least, with your old traditional way? Why take the time and effort to do something big and exciting, if a small and non-standoutish presentation is more likely to check the boxes of “what you have to do”?
I live for the creative and different moments in life. I want to try out new ideas for completing assignments. I want to make things exciting and engaging for others.
But when I try and it doesn’t work, I get a worse grade and I don’t feel motivated to try again. I don’t feel like I got feedback on what to do next time to make it better, I just feel like I know this didn’t work. I feel disgruntled because I know I worked hard and know teachers appreciate us trying to think creativly, but my grade doesn’t tell me anything about what I did, or the difficulty of what I tried to do.
And I really hope I’m not communicating this type of perspective like, “wow I totally didn’t deserve the grade I just got. What was the teacher thinking? This is dumb, I hate grades.” Because that isn’t at all what I’m saying!
In fact, given the grading system as it is, I think the grade is accurate, and not even horrible. And I love the teacher that this project was for. Plus I totally understand the feedback provided to my partner and I, and I know now that the presentation formate we choose didn’t quite teach the class the best. It just makes me feel more hesitant about trying new things, because the truth of the situation is that as far as school is concerned, grades matter.
I just wish grades made me truly feel that it was okay to “fail up.”