External Mentors Make Things Real

I love getting feedback from new people. I’m glad I get to work in an environment where we are all constantly giving each other feedback (by this I mean Innovation Diploma), but it’s always nice to hear from someone you don’t talk to everyday just as a reassurance that you all aren’t just crazy (well we are but for good reasons). Plus so many great ideas can come out of conversations between people with different and new perspectives compared to the people you normally talk to.

Today felt like a great day of feedback for me. I got to spend my morning and lunch/enrichment people talking with teachers from the Watershed School in Colorado. As the MVIFI Fellow, I spent my morning talking with the Watershed team about my current iVenture work and getting feedback on new ideas I’ve been cooking up. Then over lunch a few of us in ID met with them to have more of a general discussion where they were asking us some questions about MVPS to get the student perspective on topics. 

Later, in AP Lang today, Kat and I recorded the spoken word pieces we’ve been working on around the “American Dream” to send it to people asking for feedback, including Mike Young, a professional spoken word artist who’s been mentoring us. Kat and I talked a lot about how ID has trained us so much about the value of prototyping and really preparing even early drafts of presentations. We’ve been muddling over different words and phrases for a few weeks and today was our due date (which we assigned ourselves) to have them finished so we could record them. However, “finished” in this sense doesn’t mean “time to turn it in for a grade,” but instead means that we’ve given ourselves and each other lots of feedback and now we are ready to start sharing them with others so that we can eventually perform the best spoken word piece to our current capabilities. We are hoping to have this performance next week though the details are still fuzzy as of now.

I’ve really enjoyed this project because we’ve gotten to not just focus on words, but how we can use words to literally say something in a hopefully powerful way. We’ve been having to not just work on grammar and  word choice, but also the rhetoric involved with saying something out loud and getting feedback on our delivery of the language. It’s been fun and I’m excited to hear what feedback we get because I’ve become really invested in this project and want it to be something more than just another piece of writing I’ve done.

With both of my big feedback moments today, I’ve been reminded of just how much I find working with external mentors beneficial to learning. Working with an external mentor reminds me that someone else is kind of expecting me to follow through, and they are also interested in the work I’m doing, even at school. This inspires me to really work hard because this isn’t just about some number, it is about me putting myself out there in the “real world”, and that to me is meaningful work.

Feedback, even cold feedback, always seems to make me happy because it means you’re doing something others care enough about to comment on and try to help you make it into your best.



Unrelated, but also exciting news for today: The paint finally settled so I got to use my whiteboard wall and desk today that I painted on Monday!!!!!!



Making Latin Art

(Sorry about my sticker being in yellow, I know it makes it hard to see in the picture.) 

The Makers Movement is spreading; are you on board?

This story requires a bit of a backstory.

A week or so ago one of my mentors, Tedwards as we call him, walked by during my Latin class and stuck a vinyl sticker on the glass wall. It said “et tu Baroody” and had a picture of the colosseum. My entire class thought it was great, but our marvelously OCD class got frustrated with the fact that it was slightly crooked on the glass. Our natural conclusion was that we needed more, so that it looked like it was purposefully crooked.

Then, earlier this week, Tedwards came to take down the sticker and a few of my friends said no we wanted it and wanted more! So we set up a time for Tedwards to come work with my Latin class, so we could make more Latin stickers!

This Friday was that day!

We were given the challenge to help Tedwards with a Guerrilla Art idea he’s been wanting to start up for a while.

Guerilla art is a fun and insidious way of sharing your vision with the world. It is a method of art making which entails leaving anonymous art pieces in public places. It can be done for a variety of reasons, to make a statement, to share your ideas, to send out good karma, or just for fun. –Keri Smith

So each of us was tasked with picking another high school teacher and creating a sticker for them that connected their class to something about Latin.

While some may think that this day was just a pure day of fun, I think the mixture of Latin and Makers proved to be a great day of learning, which also happened to be fun! I mean just think about everything we accomplished:

  1. We learned how to use a new tool– the vinyl printer.
  2. We worked on Latin prose composition when writing our Latin phrases.
  3. We learned some History while picking what Latin images best conveyed our message to the other teacher.
  4. We promoted the use of art and technology as a learning tool in the classroom by tagging other teachers with our stickers. (Most haven’t been tagged yet because most of us hadn’t finished Friday so we worked over the weekend on finishing.)
  5. We got students excited about learning and talking about their experience with other kids that aren’t in the class.

Sounds like a pretty  productive, successful, and fun day to me! I love it when things that start as a little joke turn into a great learning experience. 🙂

Hard Work Paying Off

Pre-team Anya.JPGAnya level 2.PNG

IMG_4017.JPGIMG_1742.JPGScreen Shot 2014-12-01 at 2.27.17 PM.png

Gymnastics has been a part of my life since the womb.( Literally, my mom was still teaching some classes while pregnant with me.) Yet I am still constantly impressed by the amount of work these girls and boys put into the sport. We had our first meet of the year today and it went surprisingly smoothly. These young people can do big things, and they aren’t the only ones; young and old, everyone has something they’re good at and it’s always great to see those moments when hard work pays off.

Make Your Purpose Clear


I find it funny how sometimes you can know exactly what kind of feedback to give someone else, but then you later realize that you needed the same feedback. That happened to me today where I didn’t even realize I needed the same feedback until someone gave me feedback and I realized, “Wait a minute I said that exact thing earlier today! That makes a lot of sense…”

Before giving any presentation, it’s important to be clear about what you’re asking from your audience, what your goals are, and what evidence you have to show your goals are reasonable and needed; so practice how you will make it clear.

Clicking Points


Some student’s do incredible things in high school, but what I’ve found is that this only happens when a student has a “clicking point”. The point where they realize for themselves that there is more to learning than just school, and that they have the capability to do these incredible things as a teenager even.

Not all students have this realization. Not everyone feels motivated to take projects and make them more than just “a school thing.” Not everyone is passionate enough to put forth the extra effort to “make a difference.” Not everyone sees the  relation to the “real world” and the purpose behind some steps we take in order to do meaningful work.

Some students do though. And this post isn’t just to talk about Innovation Diploma students, because frankly while many students in ID have had their “click moment”, not everyone has, and there are several outside of ID who have also had this moment. One of my best friends, Emily Moseley, is one of those people that has had her “click moment.”

Last year she was in the first semester ever of a new course offered at MVPS called TED: Technology, Engineering, and Design taught by one of my mentors TJ Edwards. In this course they ended up creating a 3D printed prosthetic hand for another high schooler from a outside of MVPS named Alex. From what I’ve heard, this project went incredibly well, and has inspired Emily to actually continue on similar projects outside of this class. She has even set big goals for herself as she continues to work on this project this year, which is described in more depth in an article that came out today about her and her work.

What is it that causes some students to have this “clicking moment”? I mean I feel like it’s almost like asking “what makes a good student?” If you were to look at a school, people will sometimes say subjective things like “oh that’s a good student/teacher”, but what does that mean? What are some students doing that makes people think they are a “good student”?

Personally I believe part of what makes a “good student” isn’t about the grades they get or test scores they receive, but it is about the drive and motivation they have for learning and the desire to do meaningful work.

But how might we support other students in a way that allows them to  and develop a desire to learn and act upon ideas further than just a “school project” level? While obviously on some level a student must be the one to make this mindset shift, I think  we can help by providing opportunities for students to have their “clicking points”.

I’m not going to lie, this post may feel unfinished because I didn’t give examples as to how we would actually create these opportunities. But I don’t have all of the answers. I don’t know what these experiences look like…yet. I’ve constantly been wrestling with these questions, and I hope to do more investigation at some point by talking to students about what their clicking point looked liked. I hope maybe that will provide some insights on how to help support others on their journeys.

Expanding Vision to Find Purpose

imagesMy old head of school that has gone back to school, tweeted at me today with an intriguing question: “What are ur go-to sources (books, tests, etc.) 4 helping students expand their vision & find purpose?”

I don’t think I’m quite condensed enough in my thoughts to be able to respond in a single tweet, so I thought I would blog about it.

My initial thought is that the source is face-to-face communication to form personal connections and relationships.

Often times students already have passions and they just need help to see how that passion can have a greater purpose. In my experience students benefit more from 1 on 1 conversations with a mentor or even conversations in a small group, than they ever do from taking some online survey for example. Sometimes just giving ideas about bigger goals can help trigger motivation in a student.

Even books about team work, design, or goal setting (just to give some examples, any book you want you fit this gap) are only beneficial to a person if you are able to connect with their meaning and interpret what they are trying to say.

In ID we occasionally look at excerpts from books to help us when we are at a “stuck point”, but I think the meaningful part isn’t just reading the text, but it is when we discuss the text as a group afterwards. (This actually happened today even when we read an excerpt from Linchpin.) 

I’ve also noticed that a lot of ID members have really developed their vision after a close examination of the connects between different passions. For myself, I realized how story telling (blogging and acting), student voice (being involved in meetings and opportunities for students at school), space (I’ve had various “bug” items about wasted space and then there is the iStudio space redesign), and coaching/participating in sports with various age groups are all connected by the overarching concept of “creating an innovative culture” that I have been describing as my big goal.

To go back to that idea of face-to-face communication, things matter so much more when you know that someone else cares about the work you are doing. As a mentor, sometimes you just need to help make those connections at first until a student gets comfortable with making them on their own.

Back in the fall ID went to the CDC early on in the year before many of us really knew what was going on or what we were interested in or had any clue about our iVentures were/would become. However, after that experience we all took notice of how adults, outside of our everyday school teachers, were responding to our leadership skills and took genuine interest in our thoughts and ideas. This was a big turning point for a lot of us as far as how we viewed ourselves as more than just high school students. It was also a great spark of energy that helped some people in determining things they were interested in. Often times experience is the key to passion and goal finding.

The more I think about it, the more I have to say that it is dependent on every individual. Everyone has their own tool preferences and their own ways of thinking, so the best way to help students find their vision as a mentor is to understand an individual and how they learn and make discoveries to then help accordingly to how they respond.

I hope this answers your question!