Real Work Now

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I love a good productive day!!! (#ThursdaysRock) Today we had our first official client meeting for PB;J our project team in ID that is working with the City of Sandy Springs to decrease traffic.

For the past few weeks the team has been working on data collection and research, and today our goal was to present to our clients the information that we have gathered and make them aware of our next steps in the process. I’m pleased to report we blew them away!!! They even said:

“The work you guys have shown us is amazing is amazing despite the fact that you are students; it’s honestly better than some of the other work we’ve been presented with from adult consultants.”

The pictures above on this post show a map that I created that pin points where all of the 662 MVPS families live to help us figure out how people get to school and what roads get most congested. They were very impressed with this visual and found it very powerful, so powerful that they want us to take it even further so one of my next steps is going to be adding onto this map where the locations of different public transportation systems are.

This was a mutually beneficial meeting, because it helped everyone get clarity on the potential and path that this project is taking. We were able to define clear data that we’ve collected and also work with our clients to determine goals for our November meeting:

  1. further develop the map visual to include public transit
  2. identify some focus groups to get the community involved with ideating and getting on board with the importance of reducing traffic to gain early support
  3. continue to work on our digital tool for counting the number of cars coming in and out of MVPS on a daily basis
  4. reach out to specific external experts we’ve identified on the topic to help further our work

To be honest our team felt greatly un-prepared all week. We had to have some serious hard talks as a team about everyone not being on the same page and needing to really step up to be ready for today. Even this morning we were stressed out getting last minute things together. I think what was most helpful to our team was our quick feedback session we set to have with the full ID cohort about 45 minutes before our meeting. This session allowed us to get that last minute feedback we needed to feel more confident in our work and make sure we were communicating in the best way possible. Somehow our team pulled it together and I think this successful client meeting has helped to clarify our internal vision and set clear goals for us to work on in the coming weeks.

I’m so proud of our team, and still so pumped about how excited and impressed our clients were about the work we’ve been working on in ID!!! Students CAN do “real world” work NOW- and do it well!  

Many Roles

One of the most interesting parts about the theater is how everything always seems to somehow come together in the end.

I had another day of rehearsing for “PAINted” today (well technically my aunt’s show is called “The Gender Police” and the whole event is “PAINted,” but that’s just a technicality). Rehearsal was still al little rough today, but it get’s better each time and we all know tomorrow will be great when everything comes together.

I also saw “Finding Neverland”  today which was as magical and inspiring as you hope for any good musical to be. What really intrigued me about the show was actually the casting. Four of the leads are young boys, so there are actually seven boys in all that rotate threw all four parts. I just found that crazy because that means the boys each know four different characters, harmonies in songs, blocking, and choreography, which just seems crazy to think about how rehearsal must have worked. Most people have hard enough time learning one part and maybe an understudy for another, but four different roles is crazy!

The four boys I saw today were amazing as was the entire cast and crew. With each new show I see, I just get even more excited for next year’s theater season at MVPS!! I guess I should probably finish my college essay drafts, so I feel excited and prepared for next year to start…

Different Communication

imgres.jpgI’ve talked to dozens of people about “real world skills” and despite all the debating in terms of which words are the best ones to include on this metaphorical list, good communication skills always seems to come up.

You could be the greatest genius this world has ever known, but if you can’t communicate what you know to others, than your knowledge is relatively useless.

Every  job, every aspect of life is going to require communicating things to other people. From describing how you want your hair cut, to proving you solved the worlds  hardest math problem, everything is communicating. There is no one that works 100% independently in our inter-connected global world. At the very least, there is a conversation between a supplier and a consumer.

With the clear demand for good and diverse communication skills, it’s amazing how many people still struggle with communicating. I’ve talked to countless people that say they wish their employees were better communicators, which isn’t surprising since teachers often note that their students can’t all communicate their ideas effectively.

The problem is clearly identified, so now how do we solve it? How might we create better communicators; people who can explain their thoughts in a number of different ways? Because part of being a communicator means you have to be adaptable to working with different types of people. Not everyone understands best from a written essay, or a lecture, or a presentation, or even a prototype. Everyone has a different way they learn best, and thus the best communicators are ones that can teach in different ways.

In school we tend to focus on academic writing, but there are a myriad of other ways to write, teach, and communicate. I for one have never taken an art class since 6th grade other than band. If someone learned best from seeing a drawing, I would be at a loss. And I know plenty of people who can’t send a good email to save their life, which will soon become a large problem for them. Furthermore, besides the alphabet and a few random words, I wouldn’t know how to communicate with a deaf person through sing language what so ever; that makes 70 million people I can’t communicate with past a kindergarden level. Even writing college essays is a huge problem for many students because they aren’t well versed in talking about themselves.

If communication is such an important skill, if we’ve identified we value it so much, it seems essential that we start putting a greater emphasis on learning to communicate in different ways.

Documenting My Work

Happy belated 4th of July! I spent this weekend with family in Tennessee and accomplished several things I’ve been working on recently: I made good progress on my 5th book of the summer, I finished choreographing more routines for next year, finished an application essay for a weekend program at a college, and I finally got all of the spring showcase routines I choreographed onto youtube!

So now I can finally upload and thus document my work on my blog (The last 5 I am in! And I know one of them has a different background, that’s because I don’t have a recording of the routine done at this meet but it’s the same routine and I still only just got it on youtube recently.):

Strengths

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While this isn’t from today, this actually is a picture of me and my middle and top. (I’m the one holding the other two.) Acro rocks!

It’s acro camp week at Jump Start!!!!! I may not be great at gymnastics anymore, but I’ve loved learning acrobatics these past, as I recently discovered, about 5 years almost now.

I love having one of my groups advance over months of work so that we can increase our difficulty and work on new harder skills. But I also enjoy occasionally working in new groups or pairs, which is what acro camp week is all about!

I like working in new teams sometimes because I love seeing how different people  work together. Every person on the planet is unique in their own way and has a different personality with different talents to bring to a team. Therefore there are an infinite number of combinations of people that can create a team, and every single team will be a little different.

I think my fascination with how different people work together is my individualization strength showing; I’m pretty good at seeing the different talents of others and pairing people based on who might make a good team based on their different skill sets. I think this strength helps me also with creating choreography that’s specific to each girl for gymnastics, and for acro and group routines makes sure each girl looks good alone and as a group.

Ever since taking the Gallup’s Strength Finder quiz for ID I’ve been very intrigued by how I, and others, keep noticing our strengths showing in various aspects of our daily lives.

Climbing Down the Mountain

winning-story-wars-hero-journeyToday was the big day; it was AP Lang exam day. We finally took the real thing- the test that so many are going to use to judge if Kat and I successfully did something unheard of before by teaching our own AP course.

I’ve been conflicted lately. On the one hand I feel accomplished that we actually felt prepared and decent about taking the exam and hope we did well. But on the other hand, I don’t want to judge our success just based on a number after all the work we have done in order to not have to have grades and numbers in order to validate our learning.

Yes, I would like to do well on the exam, but there is also so much more we have accomplished this year even if we don’t do outstanding on the exam-we’ve sparked conversations questioning the fundamental nature of school courses; however, who knows how other people will view the success of the course if we don’t do well… And yet at the same time I can’t help but feel a bit of regret almost. Maybe this is how some teachers feel at the end of the year when they realize they haven’t covered all of the lessons they hoped to teach, and didn’t get to do all of the projects they would have liked to because there is only so much time in the year. I just feel like something is missing.

The year isn’t over just with the exam, and Kat and I still have our final MoVe Talks to wrap up the year, but there are only 3 official classes we have left and I don’t feel the sense of closure yet. I don’t know how I expected to end the year, but the entire course was based on “The Hero’s Journey” and at the end of the journey the hero is suppose to take the road back and return home with the “boon.” I wouldn’t call myself a hero, but I’m definitely a protagonist of this particular story, and I haven’t quite figured out what the boon is. I know it’s there and I’m probably just not thinking clear enough to realize what it is we’ve accomplished. I guess I just feel like there is so much more we could have done and so much more we dreamed to do that simply wasn’t possible at this point in time and yet we were too naive to realize that this time last year.

I’m still working on what to give my MoVe Talk about, but I hope whatever it is helps me find closure to this chapter of my story. I literally just realized that I’ve never really had to have a true project closure before. Between AP Lang and RISE, one thing I’ve been struggling with is the fact that we’ve actually taken ventures all the way to produce this year, and the hard part is figuring out when it’s time to say goodbye and pack up your newly found tools to move on to new mountains to climb. When do you need to make that extra push to reach an even higher point on the mountain, and when should you let others continue up and accept that you can’t climb every mountain in the world and this one isn’t meant for you to go further on.

Saying goodbye to a team is a true real world skill, that as of this moment in history, I’ve yet to learn in any sort of traditional school setting.

A Motivated Team

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Today in ID we were talking about what we aspire to be and how we might reach those goals.

Particularly focusing on how we already are and how we can better at being: Influencers, open, empathic, pioneers, craftsmen, and governors.

I find it interesting though how in any team, even when you manage to come to an agreement about what you know you need to do to improve, sometimes those things still don’t happen. This applies to even simple things like reseting your workstation when you are done using a space.

It’s amazing though what a team can do when there is shared understanding and work ethic. I know because our current cast for drama has been fantastic! People have been showing up on time, working hard during rehearsal, giving lots of energy, taking care of props and the set, memorizing their lines in acceptable amounts of time, and overall just being really supportive to cast and crew mates. The dedication and collaboration of the entire team has made the show even more fun to be a part of, and it gives us all confidence to keep pushing hard so that we can put on a show as good as we hope it to be.

This all makes me wonder about what makes people motivated. I mean sometimes I feel like people know exactly what to say that will make a teammate happy, but then they don’t live by the same philosophies that they speak; why?

What is the secret sauce that can make a team go from just talking about what needs to happen in order for a team to improve, to actually taking action steps in order to improve?

I also wonder if part of the reason why this happens  really does just boil down to the fact that we are teenagers. I never like accepting that as an excuse, but I wonder how much truth there is behind the claim that teenagers just naturally are “lazy and rebellious.”

If I had time, this is when I would go and try to research this more, but I think this may be a question that I leave to be answered by another. Sometimes we ask questions just because they need to be asked, and we don’t have to always find the answer ourselves. Sometimes a question you ask is exactly the question someone else needs to hear, and then they may be curious enough to answer it and can then maybe help tell you about it.

Aspiring For New Goals

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And so it begins.

School is tiring. I always seem to forget that when going back for the first few days.

I think first days back can be especially hard depending on how a teacher decides to start the year. Some teachers like to jump right into crazy philosophical conversations while others like to be more lose with more of an overview of how the semester will be similar and different.

In ID we’ve been spending some time refocusing as a team. Yesterday we did a creative drawing exercise where we got in groups and were given a basic picture, then we had to add details to the picture that helped metaphorically represent a team.

Then today we looked and discussed the latest prototype of a short booklet describing ID. I won’t get supper into the details of this book, but what I found interesting was actually the way of language used.

Some of the language I was very familiar with and have used the same language in the past when describing ID to others. However, some of the language was new to me. The words weren’t ones that we currently use frequently and fluidly amongst the cohort, but they are ones that we aspire to use in our ever growing vocabulary to describe ID.

Words are powerful and have very specific meanings, so it can often be hard to find just the right words to describe something. Therefore, the best way to see what works is to start using a word for a while and see how it feels and how others react to it.

This all just reminded me of the always future thinking attitude we like to have in ID, and I think it’s good for us to constantly aim for new goals.

No One Likes Stress and Anxiety

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It makes me disheartened with education when I see people physically upset (crying actually) due to stress about the end of the year. I truly don’t understand why we make the end of the year so full of stress and anxiety right before the holidays too. No one wants stress and anxiety. Teachers don’t want it, students don’t want it, parents and families don’t want it. Why is it still here?

(This reminds me of my recent post about the SAT.) What if there was a fun  way to end the year that still gave students the opportunity to showcase their learning over the course of the semester?

Like what if the year ended in some big puzzle challenge where you were in small groups, or even a class, and you had to use what you’ve learned over the semester in order to find the answer? Similar to at nerd camp last year when we took 3 hours to break a code as a class and then solve the riddle once decoded. It ended up testing most of what we had learned thus far about cryptology and helped us grow as a team. It tested our collaboration and communication skills as well as the problem solving and creative thinking skills; plus it made us think more about how they used codes in WWII which lead to really interesting conversations. This experience was tons of fun (it’s actually one of my favorite challenges that I’ve ever taken on) and yet it was really challenging and a great test of our knowledge too!

Hands On With Experts

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It’s a lot of fun learning new skills. Today I learned how to make pictures show up in a slide show on my blog, how to build a robot hand, and more tips and tricks for speaking with different accents (specifically British, Scottish, and German for our winter show The 39 Steps).

I find it interesting how skills like this are often best learned and taught if you just have a teacher start doing it and you try to mimic what they’re doing as they provide feedback and work along side of you.

Sure I could have read tens of pages on rules and tendencies that are associated with other accents, but no one says “I can speak in a Scottish accent” after just reading some rules or even after listening to videos. You have to practice the accent and have someone else help tell you how you are doing by providing you with feedback along the way.

And with the robotic hand (which I’m going to be honest, I had to leave before we finished it), I could have been given the instructions and told to figure it out. If this was the case though, I don’t think I ever would have gotten far past step one due to confusion. Especially since the instructions were only pictures… However, this wasn’t the case, and instead I was working with one of my mentors to put this hand together and he was able to help show and tell me what to do, and I think if I was given the same tools now, I could probably replicate the process we went through.

On the flip side, not actually working hands on with a mentor can often make it really challenging to learn new skills. If you aren’t introduced to something, how can you be expected to try using that skill?

I think this fact exposes a struggle in education. Teachers are always trying to encourage their students to present information in new and creative ways, but people tend to stick to what they know. If they aren’t exposed a little to different forms of presentations, it would be hard to make one on their own.

So what if teachers actually co-created creative presentations. What if a teacher worked with students to write a spoken word piece about how we need to protect the rainforest? What if teachers and students worked together to make a documentary about the life of an artist. What if teachers and students worked together to design an art piece that represents the human rights? What if teachers and students worked together to write a letter about how members of their school community feel about the use of social media in education? What if teachers and students worked together to design an advertisement campaign for why it’s important to have proper safety equipment in science labs?

These would all be such cool presentations of ideas, but, while I think it is great to give students freedom, choice, and the ability to wonder and explore, I also think students still need guidance. As humans we naturally copy what we’ve been exposed to and seen other people do. That’s how we learn to walk, and talk, and write our names. We watch. We try. We fail. We repeat. We do. We explore. We teach. We repeat.

Learning is constant– It’s the learning cycle.

So if education wants students to be more creative with presentations, then students need to have more hands on work side by side with experts who can expose them to creative ways to do presentations. Then once they watch, try, fail, and repeat a few times, then eventually they will learn and be able to explore techniques further, and eventually be able to teach and lead others as well.  (And presentations aren’t the only things that this mindset can be applied to.)