Saturday, October 27, 2012

Is the student in your life ready to choose a college?

If I believe that I can make a "dent in the universe" with the game about the college process then I should feel good about sharing some aspects of it, and I do.  I feel that a "good fit" is important.  I believe that when I get this game to a place where families, students, teachers and counselors can use it, that it will improve their experience with this complicated process.

Step 1 will be for students alone to complete, but for right now students can draw a picture of an avatar for themselves.  Reflect what characteristic defines you to the outside world!  Are you an athlete, scholar or something that doesn't fit into the regular categories?

Then comes an important question:  College or No College?  Have you really truly thought about the answer to this question?  I'm working on a concrete comparison!  And, it will involve knowing how much your loan payments will be at the end of college.

How about What Frames Choosing a College?  I bet most students base their initial choices on Location or Size, right?    There is so much more.

Try this:  Look at this very short list (there are more) and make a list of Important and Not Important.

Family affiliation
Sports to play
Sports to watch
Know people who are going
Want to get away from parents
Want to recreate self

Then choose the top 3.

Oh!  Go back three spaces...
How do you move from a high school or home model to a college model?
Are you in your own room?  Do you wait to be told what to do?  Can you do your own laundry?  Do new experiences make you energized or does it make you break out in a sweat?

Finally (for now), are you an early riser or a night owl?  Are you a neat freak, a lover of piles, or do you not care as the debris rises around you?  You are paired up with your opposite -- that means really living with another human being in a small space daily.  Who gets who up?  Who decides the condition of the room? And, who gets to decide what goes into the mini-fridge?

Enough for now...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What if Einstein Colored Inside the Lines?

I have been reading a book that was on my daughter's reading list for last summer: Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.  It is a startling book because it states a number of things that are the direct opposite of what I have learned or been told about starting a business.  And, I am finding that many of the statements seem to ring true for me.

"To do great work, you need to feel that you're making a difference.  That you're putting a meaningful dent in the universe.  That you're part of something important." (31)  And they go on to say it doesn't have to be earth shattering like a cure for cancer, but rather something that would make customers say it made their life better in some way.  Which makes me ask myself how many times I have delayed doing something because it wasn't important enough.  And, how times have I known it was important enough to just do it regardless of the reactions I would end up with.  I wish I had more times in the latter.

These guys really push for taking a stand and having an opinion based on what matters.  (Draw a Line in the Sand--43)  But, even bigger was reading "Decisions are progress.  Each one you make is a brick in your foundation." (77)

Today while I was waiting for my youngest to finish the ISEE test (a necessary hoop in our high school admittance journey) I had a long conversation with a couple who were having their much younger child tested.  I wish I could say it was a new conversation or a new story, but it wasn't.  Smart child in a public school already becoming bored.  Turns out he taught himself to read by asking his mom to tell him what was written on the back of the cereal box, and then used what she said to phonetically translate kids' books for himself.  That sounds pretty motivated to me.  How far can he go?  And, what happens when he interrupts the teacher's instruction to say he really wants to know about something she doesn't know or care about instead of what she is presenting?

Hey, I know kids need a good base with grammar, math, scientific thought, etc.  But, they also need adults in their lives who are willing to switch gears to accommodate those important off-road excursions.  It must have been hell to be Thomas Edison or Einstein's teacher but where would we be if they had colored inside the lines and really worked just to get those gold stars?

So here I am trying to find that stand to take.  And, it is based on what feels way impossible right now.  It's all about having a good fit and not having to always fit into someone else's idea of what is the right thing.  But, the magic happens when a few good fits come together to really spark a new approach to some problem that has been lying around for a while.  Or, even more simply when a group of kids talk about a really challenging book like The Jungle with as much passion as they do Harry Potter.

A good fit comes from spending the time to get to know the people involved.  I know that and that is why I have been designing a game for high school students embarking on a college search.  I feel that kids who work through the steps to getting clearer about applying for college will make a better choice.  And, I know that listening to parents talk about what they feel their kids need to succeed in learning is work toward a good fit for their kids.  Enough with the policy studies and grand plans and arguments.  How about some good old-fashioned listening and then doing.  Not big plans and certainly not things that make teachers and students feel bad.  How about figuring out what kids need to know, and then doing that?  Like I said, it's way impossible right now.

But I am confident that applying that good fit will lead me to doing something that will put a meaningful dent in the universe.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

TIME - This I Must Engineer

I have enjoyed using the acronym TIME (This I Must Earn) for years as a way a reminding myself that sometimes I need to just be with a thought or change for a while before it works.  But, I am now realizing that in my daily life I have to add another acronym for TIME (This I Must Engineer).  There are way too many choices to take one-at-a-time.  I can no longer be thoughtful about everything!

All of these observations and choices are floating around me like satellites orbiting the globe, threatening to run into each other or me, possibly blowing up or burning up.  It is all I can do to not run and hide someplace!  I have detailed fantasies of transplanting myself to a cabin in the woods.  And, regardless of centering myself and getting into a flow, I think a little transplantation might be a wise move.

So, how do I get into the flow instead of the satellite orbit?  Strangely enough I think the key is voicing my own priorities and goals; and sharing what I really feel.  Isn't that ironic?  Some of us in the world fancy our skills in running the show, and some of us relish supporting the engineer.  For years I have felt that I did best as a promoter -- and I am an excellent connector and promoter.  But recently I have deeply desired the return favor.

But perhaps most important is the fact that to become, I have t let go.  And I know that letting go is one of the most challenging things to do.  I take comfort in the fact that by being a good connector and promoter I have set up some of the people in my life to really excel.  It is just that first step requiring either courage or the mettle to face some discomfort.

So, here is to engineering.  I can run the train for awhile, and take it on an interesting set of tracks.  And, hopefully I will do it right most of the time.  But what if my running the train isn't about leading a group of people?  What if it is leading people to step out of their comfort zones as I am stepping out of mine.  To try an alternative reality with the purpose of altering that orbit, and maybe putting some of the choices and observations into real play.

TIME:  This I Must Engineer so I can EARN.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Order versus Freedom

I feel psychology bruised this morning.  Back and forth, back and forth in so many areas of my life do I bounce.  Yesterday, in an attempt to help my daughter understand the question of order versus freedom for an essay I found a thread that has been marching its way through the fabric of my life.

Glorious, wonderful FREEDOM -- isn't that why I ask so many questions of everything, and isn't that why I chose to home-school?  Isn't that why the United States of America came into being?  No one can tell US what to do!!!  But, down deep there is a lot of responsibility that goes with that glorious, wonderful, freedom.  And, sometimes there is a small, hidden wish that PLEASE WON'T SOMEONE TAKE RESPONSIBILITY!

Then there is steady, solid ORDER.  No matter what happens it will be done according to a template that everyone knows about -- no surprises here.  I don't get things done unless there is some sort of list or template running underneath it.  It is the value of order that led me to read How Self-Expression Damaged My Students by Robert Poniscio, a former South Bronx teacher who recalls how his own idealism kept his class from learning how to write.  This is an article I found much value in when I surprised myself by reading it.

That, perhaps, is the real kernel I've gained today.  Yes, I am really one of the Freedom-lovers.  I like to ask questions and mix it up.  On some level I know that discomfort born of being in a place that is unfamiliar leads to growth.  And, that growth, if used properly, can be the source of small changes whose ripple effects can shake whole systems.  But, my freedom-loving steps don't get taken unless there is something beneath them, for them to stand on.

I am blessed because I am married to an order person who tolerates freedom, and our children have some of both and are using those talents really well.  And, I am finding that I have to speak up (exhausting) if I don't want to be pigeon-holed in one of the many roles I have carved out for myself.  But, isn't that what my freedom-loving self is asking for?