Blogging Helps with College

Image result for essay writingIt’s amazing how much blogging has made my life better. Not only has it made me a better writer, increased my network, allowed me to track my learning, helped me clarify thoughts in my head, and gotten incredible writing opportunities, but it’s also helped a lot in the college process.

Most students have a hard time writing about themselves because creative non-fiction is a genre of writing that is focused on hardly at all in grade school. However, my blog is entirely about myself in someway or another because it’s all about my thoughts on the world, and my actions, and my life in general. My blog has helped me find my voice- not just the voice I take on when trying to write for school- but my authentic internal voice, which is supposedly what colleges want to see.

I’ve had the opposite problem of most students when writing my college essay because most students don’t know what to say or where to begin. Meanwhile, I’ve grown so use to writing a story every single day, that I felt like I had a million stories I could potentially use for my Common App essay. I had 3 different drafts done by Senior BootCamp, and had many more stories I could’ve told. I then narrowed it down to two, but thought they both represented me well. Finally, after some help from my college councilor tonight, I was able to pick one for my Common App essay which has to do primarily with when I first gave my MoVe Talk: Thinking Like a Designer.

I can only wait until I start working on college specific essays and other supplement questions, because with my blog it’s so easy to just scroll through the past few years and remember not only things that I’ve done, but also how I felt and what I was thinking about the day they happened. It’s kind of the best!


Stress of Standardized Tests

I write the following as a voice for the general population of high school students currently going through the college process. Not all of the feelings expressed below I have personally experienced, but for every feeling expressed I know of at least one individual who has experienced that particular feeling.


I hate standardized tests- no, I loath them. I believe I’ve made this clear in the past, but today I think I discovered my biggest issue with them. It isn’t that it takes up a whole Saturday morning of my time, or that I have to fill in multiple choice questions for hours, or that people can guess and make better scores, or that the questions are trying to trick you, or that the testing environment is dour, or that writing an essay in 20 minutes is a pain, or even just the fact that colleges weigh these arguably meaningless numbers so heavily in the admissions process. What bothers me so sticking much about standardized tests, more specifically the SAT and ACT, is that they make you feel depressed and alone.

Stories are always being told about teenagers having a hard time in high school do to various social aspects that make them feel bad about themselves: body image, bulling, struggling in school, family issues, friend drama, “who likes who,” etc. In fact, over 2.1 million teens have reported having a major depression incident in the past year, and depression is the number one cause of suicide- the third leading cause of death for Americans 15-24.

Depression is already a serious problem amongst adolescents and standardized tests only make matters worse.

The problem is that there is no good option for someone to talk to about the stressfulness of the process.

You want to talk to your friends, because you tell each other everything. However, if you talk to your friends you end up in a bad position no matter how you look at it because of this truth: one of you scored better than the other.

I’ve never met any two people that have gotten the exact same score in every area of the SAT or ACT every time they took it, meaning there must be some difference upon which you will compare yourselves. You don’t want to compare yourself to your friends, but it is human nature to think, “Why are we not the same?” We are naturally curious and sometimes the cat isn’t the only one who dies from curiosity.

If you talk to your friend that did better than you, then you feel bad about yourself because you wonder why you didn’t do as well. Then you fear that you won’t get into colleges you want to get in to because you didn’t score well enough. Then you will just get upset about the whole process and a little bit upset with your friend because while you are happy they did well, you are upset that they did better than you. (It’s the same as playing your friend in a soccer game and having mixed emotions when they score, because you’re happy to see them happy, but you’re still losing on the board. Even if you both had fun in your hearts, virtually no one cares about that when the question of, “Who won the game?,” is asked.)

On the other hand, if you talk to your friend that you did better than, then you still end up in a bad position. You then get put in the awkward situation where your friend is the one feeling upset about not doing great, and they think they didn’t do great because of comparing it to other people; you are one of those people… You want to tell your friend that it will be fine and give them advice, because that’s what friends do, but at the same time you still feel like you could do better yourself and then it makes you feel weird about complaining even though you technically scored higher. The problem is while you and your friends may understand that you should only compare your scores to yourself and how well you think you can do, to some level you still know that you are up against millions of kids in the country for a spot at certain schools and test scores still play a large part at deciding who gets in.

As many times as I tell myself, or others tell me, “You don’t need to worry so much about test scores because there are a myriad of other factors about you that play into why you are a good college candidate,” it doesn’t mean I don’t care about the scores still. I try so hard to think past them, but I know for a fact that many schools still just need a way to narrow down the lot, and even if I’m not applying to those schools I feel bad for my friends who are because it just seems so wrong. And yet again, some friends don’t care about it being wrong, they just see it as the way life is, and so if this topic is brought up it is yet another uncomfortable situation to talk to even the closet of friends about.

Bringing up test scores with friends simply never ends well. No one want to talk about it. Someone always feels weird because they scored higher and are trying to act humble. Many always feels bad because they don’t feel like they are doing as well as they should be. And everyone feels awkward. For these reasons, I don’t think any group of friends ever feels truly open when having a test scores conversations, and I say this having been on multiple sides of this conversation and hearing side rants from many others.

Now any adult I’m close with is probably reading this post right now thinking, “You can always talk to me!” But the other truth is that teens simply don’t want to talk to adults about this kind of thing for the simple and debatable reason that, “They won’t understand.” I hate to say it because it just feels so “teenagery”, but I know in my heart I believe it to some degree. Adults in our lives took these standardized tests many years ago, so the stress from these tests and the entirety of the college process is not as recent. Plus a lot has changed in those years. The question use to be “Are you going to college?” and now it is, “Where are you going for college?” Every generation kids get smarter and the average test score raises and thus the race to college gets even closer, making it more and more stressful. I don’t want to talk to adults because they all tell me the same thing, “Don’t stress about it.” Telling a person to not be stressed is like telling an alcoholic “Just stop drinking”; words alone can’t really help fix the problem at this point.

When you can’t talk to friends completely honestly, and you don’t want to talk to adults, it just makes everything more stressful and you feel as if there is no one to truly talk to. In fact I ended up ranting to a younger friend of mine today because I just needed someone to get this out to, but even that wasn’t satisfactory because they had no experience to relate to which made it very one sided. Now I wouldn’t say I’m depressed, but I definitely get frustrated when I think I can do better and even after lots of studying have a very small change in my score. And then more stressed and annoyed when trying to talk to others about my frustration.

With the amount of teens that drive themselves crazy over testing, I wish we would just change the system already. There is always something that can be done, no matter how small of a change. Clearly there is a problem, and while I think the new SAT is moving in a good direction, I don’t think this change will change any stress related to scores.

What I wonder is if there is a way to have the test score based on improvement somehow. What if we could measure how much a student has improved/how much they have learned from the time they were a freshman to a senior and that was the number sent to colleges? This way students were being compared based on how hard they personally worked in order to learn more.

To try and explain this further, take math on the SAT for an example. It is honestly is a lot of stuff I did in 8th grade, like geometry questions. However, some kids were learning that just last year. What if after 8th grade I just stopped caring in math? (Which isn’t true because I happen to love math and love learning about it, but this is hypothetical.) What if I knew I learned all I needed to know for the SAT, so after that I didn’t really try to learn much new and just memorized and regurgitated for tests at school? If that was me I wouldn’t be able to say I really grew much between being a freshman and a senior, but I could potentially score just as high as the kid who went from barely knowing how to do long division to then acing pre calculus- a much larger knowledge gap that had to be overcome. Yet, standardized testing does not currently account for how far you have come, only where you are at the end. I find this kind of unfair actually because everyone has different situations that they are put in, so by the nature of standardized testing, some people are given a better opportunity at doing well and you as a student have no control over that.

I don’t believe this is true today, but I hope for this to be possible someday: Students should have full control over their chance at getting into the college of their choice.

I don’t know how any of this would work, but I know something needs to change because standardized tests make too many students way too stressed which isn’t good for health.

I’m sick of this struggle and don’t know what to do, which is why I write, so maybe something good comes from it.


ID and the d.School

Happy Pi Day!!!!  12814732_1506744409355007_4470129584779643494_n-1.jpg

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

CcWIqrQWIAAwCux.jpgToday 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.
CcU_AhQUUAAse33.jpg(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. TherCcVjr92UUAAmzLY.jpge 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! CcZkU3SXIAEP3TT.jpg

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.

CclIt1oWwAEADMZ.jpgWe 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.

We saw David Kelley!

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.

Paper plate awards for everyone! (I got the “mathlete” award cus I was memorizing pi all week, but also playing some intense ultimate frisbee; which I learned at nerd camp!) 

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

We got official d.School pins as well as our own awesome mustaches as inspired by David Kelley. 

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.

Venturing Forward


It seems like it has been far too long since I’ve given just a general update about how things have been going in our Collab Course AP Lang class designed and run by Kat and myself.

Things have been going really well lately, and as we venture forward I just want to share some highlights of exciting things that have, are, and will be happening in this class.

We recently had our paper discussing solutions to The Creativity Crisis published on #Satchat Daily (under education) one of the biggest sources for education resources, as well as on the MViFi blog.

We’ve been reading Grant Lichtman’s book #EdJourney, and have been creating blog posts about our reflections on the book. These posts have also had their fair share of retweets and likes on Twitter! We’re also currently trying to work out a time where we can actually have a Google Hangout with Mr. Lichtman to get to discuss some of his book as well as how he went about the actual creation of the book since that is something Kat and I are both interested in.

In general, Kat and I have also started to get into a better flow as far as how we decide what to work on each day. For the most part, Mondays and Wednesdays are what we call “APLle Days” where we work on more of your typical AP Lang stuff like timed essays, multiple choice, vocab (both AP Lang terms to know as well as our running list that we each add 5 new words to a week that we read and think the other should also know), discussions, that kind of stuff that we know just has to be done to some extent still since this is an AP class. Then on Thursdays and Fridays we have “Explore Days” where the schedule is a little more open ended to allow time and space for our “normal” routine to be disrupted allowing for creativity and learning to flourish. Sometimes these days involve working on iVenture work that involves writing that we can use each other for feedback on. Other times we end up in deep discussions around forms of feedback and assessment and design thinking with some of our ID facilitators who often work close by. At times situations and opportunities could arise where we end up trying to decipher an instruction booklet with no words and put together a robotic hand. Sometimes it just means having meetings with mentors to work on ways to further enhance our skills as innovative learners and further develop our AP Lang program itself.

One of the recent programatic decisions that Kat and I made about a month or so ago was starting a new activity we call a “20/20“. Typically we do a 20/20 on Monday’s since it is our shortest class together each week, so over the weekend we will each read some piece. (Lately this has been a mixture of #EdJourney sections or pieces related to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.) Then on Monday in class we will spend 20 minutes discussing the reading piece, then we will spend 20 minutes writing a blog post reflection on the discussion. This gets us in the habit of enhancing our discussion skills while also getting us to practice having to organize and write down our thoughts in a short amount of time. So far these have been going really well and I’ve actually appreciated the time constraint since it has challenged me to try and be creative, articulate, and clear quickly.

I’ve already talked some about #EdJourney, but I would like to talk more about Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. From the start of the creation of this course, both Kat and I knew we wanted to read The Allegory of the Cave no matter what. As sophomores the piece had come up a few times in discussions and it sounded really interesting to us since some of the main points have to do with education and what is the “truth”–two things we are both passionate about. After reading the piece even just once, we both absolutely loved it!! So we did some research on how other people responded to the piece and furthered our understanding of its meaning.

However, just reading Plato once doesn’t help get everything across. We were so inspired by the piece that we started talking with my Latin teacher about how we might do more with the piece. He too thinks the piece is great and even made an interesting comparison to the work we do with our class and how it’s like the prisoner in the story who is let out of the cave. Since then he has helped us pick other pieces of Plato’s work to read (actually we will have a 20/20 on book 1 of The Republic this Friday) and helped us figure out a big theme we want to focus on: status quo. What is the status quo? How is it defined? Why do cultures value the status quo? What does it mean to go against the status quo? What happens to the people who challenge the status quo? Why do they do it? Kat and I hope to read and discuss much more over the coming days before the end of first semester, and hopefully create a joint MoVe Talk to help express our findings while also tying in work we’ve done throughout the year.

A few other things that we hope to do before the end of the year are to revamp our blog sites to work on better organizing and capturing our work, and also to learn more about what a good portfolio looks like and go back through our work to pick out bright spots from our journey so far.

What I’ve really loved about our course is that we have truly had the freedom to explore while learning and doing meaningful work. When I write something for a class that then ends up getting published and talked about by people you don’t even know, I feel incredibly proud and motivated to continue writing and improving my skills. Getting to talk to a wide array of mentors has also been amazingly fun and helpful because it means we are getting feedback from a multitude of perspectives from a California student to educators we’ve never met in person to our own Latin teacher, which hopefully has made us more rounded with our writing.

Plus I can’t even begin to emphasize how amazing it feels to not have to stress about grades. I feel more courageous to take risks and try new things, plus I don’t find myself up late worrying about a quiz, but instead I find myself curious and researching to be prepared for a discussion and writing assignment that I’m happy to get feedback on. Without grades our feedback feels like it is more focused on really trying to help us improve as a reader and writer, and have end products that go somewhere and contribute to larger conversations. I even had a teacher comment on one of my posts about The Allegory of the Cave about how she wanted to share my work with her students who were learning about different perspectives.

While we still take the AP Lang exam at the end of the year, and even the same midterm as the traditional AP Lang course students will take, I am not going to be judging the value of this course based on how we score. Sure we want to score well, but even if we aren’t spectacular, I don’t want to judge a whole year off of two tests. Learning is so much more than that. I know I’ve been learning; with reading and writing, as well as many other skills like sending emails to people you haven’t met, and organizing class structures, and knowing when to pivot and how to manage the unexpected. I’ve seen my improvement. I’ve read and heard my feedback. I know I have room to grow, but I also know I’ve been growing, and that to me means success.

As this year goes on I can’t wait to see what else comes out of this course. It may only be two weeks until Thanksgiving break, but there is still so much learning ahead of us, and I’m excited for it!

Putting on a Leadership Hat


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.)

Jumping Hurdles!


Amongst all of the chaos of today with quizzes, meetings, and lines, something absolutely fantastic happened: OUR AP LANG SYLLABUS WAS APPROVED BY THE COLLEGE BOARD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

All of our hard work over the summer payed off, and now we are officially an AP class!!!!!! I found out during the end of a Latin quiz actually, and I almost jumped out of my chair I was so happy! (Instead I just wailed my arms and bounced in my chair a little with a huge grin on my face!)

I must say, I was a little shocked for some reason. I knew we had covered all of the standards and had a bunch of people look it over, but part of me still thought the syllabus would to have to be edited more to get credit just because it’s so different from most AP class structures to my knowledge. Plus, since we’ve never done this before, I didn’t know what to expect.

It’s a pretty awesome feeling to know that even the College Board is behind our ideas, and this is a huge hurdle that we’ve just made it over! It’s also just super encouraging to think that a couple of students were actually able to pull something like this off! I mean think about all of the possibilities of what students can do with the right mindset and help from great mentors!!!

Also in AP Lang today, we had an interview Q&A session with some faculty members which went really well! The big things we talked about were what we are  doing, why we are doing, and how we think it will impact our future, and I think it went over nicely. We also recorded it, because the hope is that we will use parts of this footage for a video we will be making soon about our Collab Course, so that we have another medium to share our story with!

All the while we are also currently working on papers about the Creativity Crisis and our first draft of those will be due Monday, and our goal is that, after some editing, we will submit these papers to online publications, and hopefully our work will actually get to a bigger audience than just school.

Today was just a super day for AP Lang, and I can’t wait to see what hurdle we jump next!!!

New Season, New Rules, and Newbees


I’m not a great singer, and I know this. However, I love band and being in musicals, so I would really like to improve my singing capabilities. So now, officially as of today, I’ve joined the new a cappella club at MVPS.

We were talking about what to name ourselves and it just made me think about all of the big choices that have to be made when starting a team. Or even when continuing a team but for a new season.

We’ve been in the process of organizing Kemps Khoas club stuff for what will now be our 3rd season, and every year we have new challenges because we try to make new tweaks to better the experience for everyone. Since year one, based on feedback from players, we have more than doubled the size of our tournament, we have made more concrete rules, we have changed the system for creating teams, we’ve added some fun all play days, we’ve gotten more efficient at scheduling game times and dealers, we have an official council helping to organize and make decisions, and this year we will even have a snazzy trophy being designed that will be 3D printed for our champions.

Every year, while the game has stayed the same, the full program as you may call it, has had to change to keep up with what is and isn’t working and to take account for the newbees that join each year, many that have never even heard of Kemps before.

After today, I realized how stinking similar this process is going to be (but on a much large scale) for ID as we start to experience it for multiple years now. We made it through a year, and it was great, but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve upon the system. In fact, it means we have to change the system because now, like in Kemps, we have newbees, many that are still trying to figure out how they fit into ID.

One change we made for Kemps this year is that we are requiring people who signed up at the club fair to come to at least one of our 3 info meetings in September to show that they really are dedicated and want to play. At these sessions we informed the returning people on the changes we’ve made for this year, and for the newbees we do the same, but we also have to teach them how to even play at all.

After our first info session which was held yesterday, I realized that it probably wasn’t super efficient with having both newbees and oldies there at the same time because the way I needed to present the information was very different. I tried to explain to the oldies first so that way they could move on to other work if they didn’t want to stick around to play practice games. The newbees were still in the area when I was explaining the changes to the oldies, but to them it all sounded like jargon at that point because at that point they didn’t know the basics of how to play so they didn’t have the content for the ideas to latch onto (so I assume based on observations at least). Therefore, in the end I actually had to repeat myself a little so that the newbees could better understand after they were given more content.

I notice the fail up opportunities in this system, but I also recognize that we’ve still made an improvement even from last year. Last year, if you didn’t know how to play then you had to taken upon yourself to reach out to someone that did know in order to learn and rules and regulations were emailed to everyone in a google doc, which most people didn’t really read… Therefore, a lot of people played their first ever match during the tournament, and big overarching things to know about the club, were mainly spread by word of mouth we discovered. We took these observations to try and make improvements this year, but with new ideas will always come new obstacles to jump over.

And now is about when I’m realizing, ID is facing similar challenges. With year 2 we have many new ideas being experimented with due to observations and discoveries from year one. However, we also have the added ball in our jugglers hands, of having a large group of newbees that have to first learn the content of the game in order to understand the whole game process. As an oldie now to this process, I may not need to relearn the entire game, but I still need to understand the changed rules which can sometimes require a little backtracking and relearning in a new way to come to a better understanding in the end.

In ID today we what some may consider a “serious talk”. We had everyone seated down in the conference room and our mentors discussed with us how they don’t see “the light in 100% of our eyes”, meaning not everyone has been keeping up with the responsibilities we all agreed to keep up with as a member of the Innovation Diploma. So they read some passages, and showed us some video clips, all with the intent of making us think about what we want to get out of ID and about what we can do to help make sure everyone feels successful at the end of the year.

I’m going to be honest, I blanked when reflecting on my definition of success in ID for me personally. I don’t know what success will look like because I’m not even sure on what my goals are yet. I have a problem, that most everyone is well aware of at least from the Disney Cohort, where I get involved in a bunch of things, but never dedicate specific focus to do one thing really well. This makes defining goals extremely difficult for me. And I think this is why I have better success when working on a team.

For example, while Kemps club was my idea/brain baby creation, it was the motivation from my peers that really inspired me to get it started. Year one it wasn’t even a real club. I had suggested the idea at the end of 8th grade, and then the next year, while playing during lunch one day, the idea came up again. So my friends and I pulled out a computer and started making a draft of what the letter would look like that we would send to teachers, since almost none of them had ever played/heard of Kemps before. The letter amused us so much that we all agreed we should actually make it happen. That’s team decision, which almost felt like a challenge and thusly a new obligation to complete it in a way, is what motivated me to start the steps needed to make the first year tournament a thing. Then after that first success, the next year we were able to up our game with a new challenge: make it an official MVPS club. This years main challenge is to gain participation and excitement to start thinking about how to keep the club going after my grade (which includes most of the club currently) graduates high school.

I also find that when I make my challenges more public, I feel more obligated and dedicated to get them done. Even when I first started this blog, it all started due to first a challenge, and then my first post where I shared my challenge, and once that happened I felt obligated to my followers and also to myself to prove I could complete the challenge. I can often feel the moment when I take ownership of a project/venture, because in that moment is when I feel energized to see it all the way through. It’s the moment of no going back. To reach that point though, there is often a lot of struggle and doubt where it’s the support of others and reminder of a goal that keeps pushing me forward.

I remember going through these moments even with mine and Kat’s AP Lang Collab-Course. At first the class was just an idea. I got on board more as a “why not? The opportunity seems like a good solution based on my needs, so sure I’ll go for it.” Then slowly as more people started to get interested and ask questions about the idea, and we really started to immerse ourselves into the venture, we got to the point where we now feel immensely proud about how it’s even a thing at all! Since we are only a team of 2, rather than most of our support coming from a team mate, we really had to put a lot of trust in our mentors and I think that’s what made us successful in the end.

At fuse15 during my MoVe Talk I talked about how important the role of a mentor is to thinking like a designer. I believe so strongly in this! All of the time I look back on my high school experience and just think, “I don’t know how I would have gotten through that without such awesome mentors.” Kat and I based our course off of The Hero’s Journey, and an early step on that journey is specifically dedicated to “meeting the mentor” because every great hero has a mentor. Just like Mr. Miagi, mentor’s often use some wacky plan or analogy, like constantly referencing The Lion King when talking about school struggles, or having students do improv for a whole week of class, or going on tangents in other languages and subjects, or letting students dress up in wacky costumes to intensely debate a case for an ancient and dead warrior, or starting off a new semester by playing cranium. To some, these methods may seem insane and not make much sense, but if you trust the mentor and wait out the process with full dedication, eventually the method to the madness becomes clear and it turns out that all of these crazy methods have immensely helped my learning.

Games, systems, and new organizations, they can all be tricky to develop at first, and future years always bring new obstacles with every new opportunity. However, with support, commitment, and trust, success can be found.