Sunday, December 7, 2014

Connected We Are: Do you want to Learn How To Select a College?

This week is going to be busy!  Like that is new, ha ha ha..

I am having an adult focus group tomorrow with a group of wonderful adults who have been in this adventure from the beginning!  One is a documentary filmmaker whose work I need to put up in my list of useful links.  One is a homeschool mentor, who is positive and peaceful.  One has ended a career as an education reporter.  One is a skier and game maker.  One is a journalist.  One is a strong, articulate person who makes me marvel at whatever she does.  Everyone is a parent and someone who helps the world evolve toward a better place for all of us to be.

Our work tomorrow is to play the most recent incarnation of One Scene at a Time, formerly Risk It.  We will learn how to play it, rip it to shreds, talk about it and I will try to find college students to give it a go, as they are the ones who I would want to use this.

Later, I will have a catch up Skype call to learn about my Emergent Media Center team's work on concepts for Enter the Cave.

And, now I am looking for focus group participants for Look Where You Are Going.  It is for high school students who think college would be a good direction.  And, that is where a new idea has been planted!  I got an email from KHAN ACADEMY.  I have been invited to become a Khan Academy AMBASSADOR!!  No matter that this offer has probably been sent out to a few others; the important thing is that it was sent NOW to me.  What a wonderful connection!  So, I have decided to offer a class called LEARNING HOW TO SELECT A COLLEGE through Khan Academy.  The lovely thing about Sal Khan's creation is that anyone with a computer can use it, right?  So, if you know someone who is interested in taking LEARNING HOW TO SELECT A COLLEGE, please open a Khan Academy account and find:

Class code: 78VR3J

It may work more easily if you go onto www.khanacademy/a/genevievegriffin

Oh yes, then I just finished reading TRIBES by Seth Godi.  Are you, dear blog reader, a member of my tribe?  I believe everyone has a right to education that has a good fit.  My thinking is a bit out of the box.  I love listening to people's stories.  I believe we are all connected.  I have little patience in doing something just because we are told to, unless I can unearth the reason why.  I believe we are connected by that reason, why.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Let It Go

I just finished meditation, along with working on LOOK WHERE YOU ARE GOING.  Today's centering thought:  I manifest desire easily and naturally.  My journey has been gaining momentum.

In the past few weeks,  I went to the Emergent Media Center at Champlain College to attend the kick-off brainstorming session for the EMC's work on ENTER THE CAVE.  It was a stupendous meeting, where I met ENTER THE CAVE's team, both observed and contributed to discussion about the purpose of the game, who it is serving and what form it might take, and generally glowed.  This meeting pushed me to let go of what was only an idea in my mind not that long ago.  Arriving to find posters advertising the meeting and hearing people talk about ENTER THE CAVE was exhilarating and startling, too.

I have turned RISK IT into a card form and am putting together more focus groups to see where that form will take me.

When I was at the EMC I introduced ENTER THE CAVE as the second in a three game series.  Where did that come from??  Well, it makes sense.  And, LOOK WHERE YOU ARE GOING is the first with RISK IT being the third in that series.

LOOK WHERE YOU ARE GOING is an opportunity for high school juniors to begin the college search process.  High school juniors must work hard to do well in school and on those pesky standardized tests.  Don't they deserve to play around a bit?  LOOK WHERE YOU ARE GOING is going to be a game inviting players to group things and answer funky questions, like "what did you want to be when you were little?"


I wish I could say it is time to get this party started, but the party has been going on for awhile.  How about, let me get out of the kitchen and ask someone to dance!  I am getting the manifesting down; it is the believing I have manifested something valuable and getting someone to play that I am stumbling on.  Maybe it is not Let's Dance; maybe it is Let It Go!

Let it go
Let it go
Can't hold it back anymore
Let it go
Let it go
Turn my back and slam the door

And here I stand
And here I'll stay
Let it go
Let it go

The cold never bothered me anyway

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Uncomfortable Questions, Tough Decisions, and Awkward Discomfort

Today is a good day to tackle the question, why?  I woke up to read an article in The Wall Street Journal about a second nurse possibly being infected with Ebola, on American soil, and the many gaps in the Texas hospital system that is one example of our great, western safeguard against things like that.  WHY did that happen?  It sounds like American policy makers and those who find themselves in charge would rather not ask uncomfortable questions or make tough decisions if it would cause awkward discomfort. (WSJ Push to check spread of Ebola article)

So, let's go with those phrases:  uncomfortable questions, tough decisions, awkward discomfort.  Those phrases kind of sums up some aspects of my almost ten years of homeschooling.  Not running away from the questions, decisions and discomfort gave me a gift earlier today.

I needed to get business cards.  I am tired of trying to put people's information into the already overloaded contacts on my IPhone.  I want something concrete to hand to people, something that represents me.  I have not been able to clearly explain why I blog or design games or care deeply about the education system.  However, I found some of the answer in the business card design I ordered this morning.

Humans know what they need and I believe that children know what they need educationally.  I also recognize that children do not have all of the maturation needed to put the foundation into place to succeed in the world we adult humans have created.  But, ultimately, I choose to trust that children know what they need educationally.  A disconnect happens when this knowing is stymied by the roadblocks set up in the way of "getting it."

My own children's teachers, including me, is a good place to look for roadblocks.  Let's go back to uncomfortable questions, tough decisions and awkward discomfort.  I love options and the chance to delve into areas of interest in all of the ways we have.  So, studying about American political history in the early part of the 20th century included Teddy Roosevelt, the National Parks system,

the stock market,

and yellow fever 

  We used books, websites, videos, wrote papers, visited places.  And, none of this will be on the popup quiz, exam, or standardized tests necessary to gain admittance to a great school.  I cannot give much credible evidence of neatly maintained grades, or that I was always making sure our math was plodding along, or that we studied the right type of science for the right number of hours.  I asked no one to memorize dates or historical figures.  It becomes very uncomfortable when another student can speak in specifics about any part of this grand journey.  But, I know my children will probably never look at a mosquito the same, or that they understand how difficult it is to bring people who have so many different motivations over to the idea that nature must be protected for a future that no one could visualize.  They know about the high of the giddy devil-may-care attitude that eventually led to the devastating down of the stock market crash, and how money outranked humanity.  And, was I a roadblock?  Oh yea.  Do my children know what they need educationally?  I would have to say yes on most days.  They do not easily go along with "that's the way it is" or worse, they are devastatingly realistic about what has to be done to succeed.

Too much professional attitude, expectation and organizational structure separates the teachers from their students and the love of learning and spark that can really help connect all of those interesting things with getting it:  how to use the things we love to learn about.

And so, I proudly post a photo of a compass, below SMALL STEPS GO PLACES. I enjoy the thought of sharing my business cards when they arrive.  It is no fun to keep walking around doing creative things if I do not know where I am headed.  And, when I offer my games or tools to students, it will be with the goal of leading them outside of themselves and then back inside with more of a compass, too.

Let's hear it for uncomfortable questions, tough decisions and awkward discomfort.  Let's hope we all have the guts to employ them when it is necessary.

BONUS:  The Baseball Majors!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Am I bringing anything of value to the table?

It has been way too long since I last posted, but I have been very, very busy and often productive.
I have learned a very important lesson:  STRUCTURE CAN BE YOUR FRIEND.  I have always thought that structure was the bane of creativity, and have fought the lists and priorities that lurk around whatever I am trying to do.  But then, structure slipped in the back door of my creative process.

Well, maybe it wasn't structure, maybe it was the need to stop revolving in the creative process and finally get SOMETHING done!  I have been paralyzed by an overwhelmingly cluttered table, a host of items all needing attention in the rest of my glorious and busy life, and an unhealthy belief that I am bringing nothing of value to the table.  Perhaps I have been in the middle of some kind of pity party extraordinaire.

But, then, my friend Jean got killed.  Jean was the loveliest of people--kind, interested, good people.  She was a dog owner, which is how I originally met her, and had the opportunity to hang out and chat so many times.  Since moving from the neighborhood, the opportunities to run into Jean had dried up to the occasional serendipitous moment.

Then, while giving an architectural Q&A in my building a dog walker who I had known as long as Jean told me the bad news:  she had been killed by a motorist while walking across the street.  She was walking across the same street she had been crossing for years, at probably the same time to do  the same thing.

Was she bringing anything of value to the table?  I do not know; I thought she was valuable, period.  And, in a flash--game over.  So, on some deep cosmic level it occurred to me that I should stop worrying about bringing value to the table, and start bring something to it.  In fact, how about a little decluttering?

And, I realized that I had been doing some things.  I have written a draft manual for Enter the Cave.

In August, I had a preliminary Face Time conversation with someone from the Emergent Media Center at Champlain College.  I unearthed the non-disclosure agreement I had paid a lawyer to write for me.  I had another conversation with the business manager at the EMC, who told me there was some value going on here.  I am working on a board game prototype for Risk It, and have spoken with a peach of a guy who does packaging.  I need some people to check out the game's playability.  What am I afraid of?  Maybe I should call this board game "Bring Some Value to the Table!!"


Thursday, July 31, 2014

What Does Success Look Like?

This question stopped me in my tracks.  I have not been able to answer the question.
I love my life but there has always been that little nudging voice saying there was something missing. Well, I wouldn't say missing.  And, I wouldn't say there isn't a load of things I could be doing with my time that would be helpful.  But, I think of those people who needed to find the answer to something or needed to get the painting correct or the note right or the line with just the right amount of feeling.  And, it really didn't have anything to do with someone else.  Yes, it is gratifying to have an audience or promoter or peanut gallery; someone to tell you that you are doing it right.  And, there are days when all I can find is someone to tell me that, "no, you are not doing it correctly!"
But, ultimately, I am the one who makes the determination.

So, what DOES success look like?  I am sitting at a table filled with games, notes, books and cutout magazine articles looking on a room carpeted with very old carpeting.  There are piles of new wood that will be replacing the carpeting very soon.  Out the window is a lake.  The lake is perfect.
  I did not create the lake, and it is so big there is no chance I can control it.  All I can do is look on in awe, and listen to the lapping of the waves, the cries of the loons and the shadows from the passing clouds.  No matter what I do I will never even approach that kind of success.  I can have the floor laid.  Soon, I will be able to use a really awesome shower.
  I walked up and down a driveway that was laid by someone who really cares about dirt and rocks.

  I am deeply touched by all of those things, but they have nothing to do with what my success looks like.

I am designing games.  Boy, I have been doing that for a while.  And, I am making a lot of progress.  One does not announce that she is having a child and then present it.  It takes time and development.  I forgot about that as I leaped into this game designing thing.  But, even though it is taking longer than I thought I am doing it.

I now have two pro types and a good start on two manuals.  I have returned to one of the first chapters in my old game design textbook to once again trip on the question:  What is the objective of the game?  I opened up the Lawsuit game to read about its objective.  I really want to call all of the students I know and ask them what they think.  But, I have to take a stab, and maybe make a mistake.

Objective of the game:  Succeed at Going to College 101?  Increase the Effectiveness of Navigation Skills?  Get the Most Tokens?  Make it to the Top of the Hill?

Thursday, June 19, 2014


The last week and a half has been breathtakingly full for me.

First, I have been to Florida, then back to NYC, now in Connecticut on my way to Lake Champlain.  Travel is one of my pleasures, because it is an opportunity to see different places and talk with people.  I love the water, even if I do not swim very well.  I love to watch thunderstorms gather, erupt and dissipate. I do not mind getting a little wet.  Hot, humid weather in the grind of a big city is no fun until I can come indoors and have a chai in front of the fan.  But, going outside into the park with a coolish breeze is awesome.

Second, I spoke with someone at a boarding school who asked me to write a draft plan for including ENTER THE CAVE and RISK IT in a program for high school seniors.  Then, I went to a forum for after school programs where I heard (once again) that experiential work makes a difference to students who are planning to attend college.  Finally, I went to a college preparatory program directed by an Olympic athlete.  She is helping students from underperforming high schools use their athletic experience to stay focused on academics, get into good colleges and excel.  She and some of her staff had valuable observations, like matching high school students with college students in the later part of ENTER THE CAVE.  Perhaps, I could use my games in a program they use with their students in December!

The best aspect of the forum and presentation for me was inviting my son, who just completed his first year of college, to attend and assist.  Yes, I design, organize and administrate.  But, it is so powerful to have a person qualified to USE.

Let me take you back to my last post:  LEARNING = PARTICIPATING + MASTERING

It makes me ask if traditional education would be more effective if it were more experiential?  I think I have proven this is correct through the years I home schooled.  It makes me ask if college would be a more successful experience if students had a clearer idea of what was required, before they arrived, and had a chance to practice.   It makes me ask if we marginalize students who do not fit the idea of what is a "good student" because the definition is accepted as is, instead of being enlarged.

Let's look at what may improve executive skills

Today has been one of those breathtakingly complicated yet constructive days.  We were on the road looking at a four hour drive to a beautiful spot when the temperature gauge spiked and one of those red lights came on.  A quick look under the hood revealed issues with the radiator.  Several miles later brought us to Jim's Garage in Canaan where I have been hanging out for the last several hours.  The folks at Jim's have been fabulous:  welcoming us and our dogs, chatting about local wildlife, pointing out mini golf and lunch items, providing coffee and smiles.  Rats on the rats who caused the damage underneath our minivan.  But, I posted!!

Next stop, how do I make a board game?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Learning = Participating + Mastering

This morning I went to a "forum" put together by the after school folks (PASE).  It was a two-part affair on a Monday in rainy, rainy New York city.  And, it was sold out.

The presentations were given by a small group of administrators.  Half were from colleges and half from after school or community based organizations.  Those presentations were given with a great deal of conviction and humor,  and were a valuable reason for me to attend.

I took several pages of notes but came away with some hugely significant ideas, some of which I already know and employ, and some reframed.

People, be they teenagers or older adults, look for a place to fit.  Some may jump in and try to make a college or job (in this case) work but ULTIMATELY a good fit leads to SUCCESS.

Asking for help is an important reason for succeeding but that entire question is fraught with downsides which prevent students (in this case) from taking advantage.

These two observations can be linked by the description of a scenario:

A student applies and is admitted to a college.  The students goes to the college, after attending orientation.  The student THRIVES/CRASHES AND BURNS/MAKES IT?

Learning how to take the many small steps which make up life is an experience that continues all of our lives.

Participating in the struggle which leads to the learning is a normal and necessary aspect.

Mastering each step of the multi-faceted road map is why we participate and how we learn.

Plunking down in the midst of a totally foreign context rarely feels like a good fit.
I think the phrase "asking for help" is different from looking at the road map and seeking the pieces that will lead to successfully mastering it.  Plunking down in the midst of a totally foreign context, and realizing it is not as foreign as it first seemed, may be the difference between choosing to participate and mastering it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Once a student gets into college, he or she WILL GO TO COLLEGE

My life has been filled with so many wonderful moments in the last few weeks!  All three of our children have had moments that make my husband and I glow with gratitude and pride.  My mother came for a visit, and to take in some the festivities.  Projects in our life are finally beginning to finalize.  And, I figured out how to send my scholarship video successfully to my former high school!
Also, I have found a student there who will hopefully collect data about the significance of core high school programs in graduates' college experiences.

I have been speaking with so many interesting, valuable people who are working with high school students.  I am still looking for that group who will play ENTER THE CAVE and RISK IT, but in looking I have learned about a growing number of school programs and individuals who are helping students make good choices.  And, good choices incorporate a good fit.  And, a good fit means knowing clients.  In my case


I have learned that Public Schools are varied and so the guidance offered to students is varied.  Even at the best public school there are lots of students who require the services and support of often one counselor.  Private Schools often have fewer students and better connections.  Home schoolers focus mightily on finding a great fit, but have to work twice as hard to come up with proof of grades and scores. No matter which type of school a students goes to it is very, very important that students and their families are PROACTIVE in this process.  Being proactive is like being a parent -- there is no time unless you make the time.

And, having spoken with students, teachers and counselors in Public School, Private School, and Home School, I see there is so much focus on grades, test scores and cost.   These are all very important parts of the college application process.  However, my games focus on that part of the journey that is not academic.  Yes, it is great that a student has a 4.0 average or can write an amazing term paper on a very relevant topic.  But, can they do their own laundry or speak up if they are no longer the Big Fish?  

Remember my posting of 8/5/11 (Here Comes the Sun)

"When I was young, and watching a lot of TV, I remember seeing an advertisement for BASF.  Their line was "we don't make things, we make them BETTER."  That struck me then, and it still strikes me.  I am a recycler and a re-user.  I want to help people do what they do MORE EFFICIENTLY or MORE EFFECTIVELY.  Or, I want them to realize the answers are right there among their people, if they could just tilt the focus a little."

Once a student gets into a college he or she WILL GO TO COLLEGE.

Knowing how to create a place to live and study, and communicating with a roommate (ENTER THE CAVE) will become valuable.  And, taking apart possible scenarios to figure out how to deal successfully with them (RISK IT) will help students feel confident.  And, when a student
  • can read themselves
  • develops problem-solving and communication skills
  • and feels confident
this will help their college experience be a good investment, both personally and financially.

Along with looking for players, I have been calling residential life and new student program offices asking for answers to my four important questions.  So far, these are the results:

1) What do Freshmen forget to bring, the most, when moving into their dorm rooms?


2) What percentage of first year students bring TOO MUCH STUFF to their dorm rooms?


3) #1 Roommate conflict?


4) During ORIENTATION is there an activity which concretely focuses on finding important places on campus?


Oh yes, here is your bonus Naked Roommate Video!!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Please come play games and have a better transition to college!

This has been a good week for learning for me.  

I began on Sunday working one on one with a student who I have known for years.  She is lovely, intelligent, engaged and has used her high school experience perhaps to the fullest.  She has great college choices, and is taking into consideration perspectives that she feels strongly about.  And, even with all of this I feel she got some positives from playing ENTER THE CAVE and looking at RISK IT.  I want to play my games with more high school students.

On Monday I tried once again to reach guidance counselors at two schools I am personally familiar with, to no avail.  Guidance counselors wear many hats and are rising, in my estimation, to the level of teachers.  If a teacher or guidance counselor is effective, engaging and involved they are not being paid enough and there is not enough of them for all the students they are being asked to serve.  My Sunday game player told me at least once story about her guidance counselor that gave me such pause!  And, it had nothing to do with the guidance counselor's effectiveness, just with the fact there is not enough support for students.

I also went to a college fair with my daughter.  I had some wonderful, engaging moments myself.  My daughter had some wonderful engaging moments.  And, we also each found ourselves in the middle of a large, cattle call that became increasingly hot, loud and chaotic.

Yesterday, I traded emails with another guidance counselor who cannot send his students to my focus group next Monday because the room I am renting is not religiously ok for his students.  I totally get it, but it only increases the frustration of my not being able to rent a "community" room in my local library to offer free access to games for high school students focusing on transitional issues and college.

I realize I have a good product that needs more feedback to increase its relevancy.

Where do I find the warm bodies to give me the feedback?

Today, I had a wonderful, warm conversation with a young woman who works in an innovative high school program (in fact, that is part of their name).  She emailed a colleague and asked for more information.  Perhaps these games could become useful tools in an after school program which helps high school students become better prepared to go to college?

What have I learned?  High schools are institutions which have a preplanned curriculum and little opportunity to adjust as they go to new options.  Businesses that have a central mission or theme, and stick to it, but have the ability to adjust and grow as problems and opportunities present themselves, may succeed more often than businesses that stick to the program, no matter what.

Going to college is complicated.  Going to school is complicated.  Life is complicated.  Could someone just please tell their high school students to come spend two hours playing ENTER THE

CAVE and RISK IT, to help their transition to college?? 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


It occurred to me this morning how scary it is to create something and then share it.  When one is a child most of the time there is no litany of negative responses, jeering or uncomfortably probing questions.  So then, it is easier to say "look at the picture I drew!" with an enthusiastic voice.

Unfortunately, becoming an adult means acquiring some of those negative responses and uncomfortably probing questions, and perhaps even a little jeering.  If you are lucky or talented enough to surround yourself with people who tell you how great you are no matter what, you can move through those moments with a little tougher skin.  If not, another layer to work through has been established.

So, that brings me to what SCARY means, and if it is really an important thing to pay attention to.  I know about this because I have spent so much of my life letting SCARY keep me from trying things. Finally something became so compelling I just followed that still, small voice.  First, it was traveling.  Then, it was finding myself in new communities or job situations.  Then, it was home schooling.  Now, it is designing games.  And, in each of these situations there times when I had to take the risk of someone else reacting negatively, or uncomfortably probing, or even being laughed at when I did not intend this.

However, this designing thing encompasses more than my sharing something and getting varied reactions.  What is the point of designing if the outcome doesn't fit someone's need or if the outcome doesn't improve how something works?  THIS IS A BIG HOWEVER.

When we are children, if we have a supportive and loving upbringing, we can take chances and share and feel validated.  We learn to put our zany ideas out there, and maybe as we grow those ideas become viewed less as zany and more as a new approach.  Or, there is a celebration of zany and we learn to appreciate those who look at the world differently than we do.  If, as children, we encounter too much rigidity and love of rules, we learn to keep that zaniness under wraps, or become known as rebels, or some other neat label.

Here I am trying to develop a tool for teenagers who are embarking on a new step in their lives.  I was thinking this morning, about myself, and how often I can articulate exactly what I feel I need but find it falls on deaf ears.  And, I do the same with the young people in my life.  BAD MOVE.

Sometimes the "customers" or "clients" or "users" we are trying so diligently to serve are telling us exactly what they need, and we ignore the message and then wonder why our answer did not fit.

My meditations the past few days have been about how I have everything I need inside, and that I need to tune in to the still, small voice to get in touch.  I can tone down the noise I am making to tune in, and I wonder if that will be most of the noise?

Now, back to games.  In ENTER THE CAVE, I ask players to answer several questions about the "decoration" of their cave/space/dorm room.  One question is what will be the color of your comforter?  Let's take that to the next step.  When you see a COMFORTER on a bed, what is it or what does it symbolize?

My dorm bed did not look like this.  And, it was a haven, a social place, a study place, a resting place and perhaps could have been a personal statement if I had had the forethought to make it such.

What does a comforter mean to you, or your student?  A simple question?  Please send a comment.  I am trying to come up with another venue for SMALL STEPS GO PLACES followers to comment in some way, but for right now this is it.  You can also go to the bottom of the post and tell me if the post was useful!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Going to College is Complicated

I was reading today how many US students are not ready to succeed in college, because they have not taken and excelled at the core subjects and because they have not scored high enough on tests like the ACT.  Then I read an article entitled Are American Students Grossly Unprepared for College? "where Award-winning Prinicipal Carol Burris of South Side High School in New York  looks at this issue" and dissects some statements made by Education Secretary Arne Duncan.  I also read Kid, I'm Sorry You are Just Not College Material (by Michael Petrilli, in Slate).

It is kind of like the alcohol use and sex perspectives I used to talk with teenaged clients about at The Door, where I designed and ran MY VOICE (an HIV prevention program for young women).  "Everyone my age has tried it," was what many kids would say.  But, the statistics and real life did not back them up.

Yesterday I went to a training at Partnership for After School Education (PASE) entitled Transitioning to College:  Supporting Social and Emotional Readiness.  I was sitting with administrators and counselors that served kids from homes with lower incomes, who may be from families who came to the United States from other countries, kids who had to make a conscience choice to attend a college because they would need grants and loans to pay for the experience.  The message was that the college application process was daunting, but actually going to college could be like visiting a foreign country necessitating learning about how a college works and even learning vocabulary (definition of bursar anyone?)  The training participants were full of recollections of when they went to college, and the instructor encouraged us to draw on those memories as a bridge to working with clients.  The goal was to take back tools that could be used to help clients better negotiate the process.

MY TAKE AWAY was two-fold:  although daunting, going to college IS a smart idea for so many reasons, if it is a good fit  AND  if everyone keeps reading and hearing that students are not going to succeed in college then maybe they will believe it and make it come true.

Finding a good fit is not easy.  It requires a teenager or anyone else who is considering going to college to examine themselves and be honest.  My husband says he always wanted to be a professional basketball player, but unfortunately he isn't tall enough.  I say that there are lots of ways to fulfill that passion that do not require playing professional basketball.  The hard question is whether any of those ways is a good enough fit to provide the other things he desires.  So, if someone wants to go to college the first question is WHY?  If that question has a solid answer the HOW? is not as intimidating.  CAN WE AGREE THAT SOME STUDENTS ARE NOT PREPARED WELL ENOUGH TO GO TO COLLEGE, BUT IF THEY REALLY WANT TO GO THEY HAVE TO FIND OUT HOW TO MAKE IT HAPPEN?

Hanging out with people who continually want to say how bad things are gets to be tedious.  Pointing out that a system doesn't work and needs to be fixed is very powerful.  When the people who continually want to say how bad things are also point out that the education system needs to be fixed it becomes complicated for everyone!  CAN WE AGREE THAT THE AMERICAN EDUCATION SYSTEM DOES NOT WORK AS WELL, ESPECIALLY FOR SOME STUDENTS, AS IT COULD?   But, if a student really wants to go to college for good reasons, then the preparation system is one piece of information but not the entire pie.

I would like to tell you that in the past year I have met students, who are now in college, who will have lots of debt, or no debt, who were straight A students or not, some were bullied in high school, some left high school confused, others were relieved, and the list goes on.  One student entered college thinking there were only two types of lawyers, and now works with a state legislature.  She has to have a job to pay for costs, but she got promoted.  Another student applied to Harvard on a whim, and is now there.  Another student is deaf and an excellent student who wanted to major in Math and Missionary.  Another began in the summer and has made friends, gone to concerts, taken a variety of classes, does crew and has made the college his experience.  Finally, I met a young woman who despite being a great student who is going to a great college, found a passion that may lead her on a journey that is unexpected.  I also know students who left that role and are succeeding in the world of work, where college is not part of the fit.

I'm just saying, going to college is complicated.
It really helps to be prepared, just like being prepared to visit a new country.  And, some of us are coming from systems that do not prepare us as well as they should.

I am glad I went to the training yesterday.  I am going to apply to do a training with my games.  I think it would have been more amusing to play games to emphasize skills that are needed to go to college.  You remember the last time you lost playing Monopoly, right?


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Extraordinary ordinary Jacques Pepin

Okay, I am sick.  That is not good.  It is preventing me from spinning ahead.  And, then, there is the relentless sound from the workmen who are drilling into the exterior of my building.  They have gone out for lunch for a bit and so there is a blissful silence.  My nose is running, I feel like my head is in a bushel basket and I am sneezing.  Oh well, enough about that...

Last night I had the opportunity to go to the French House at Columbia U and hear a conversation with Jacques Pepin, who is one of my favorite people in the world.  I read his autobiography, The Apprentice, a year ago and found him to be just as gracious and upbeat in person as he is as a writer.  He is the embodiment of "a good fit" because he found his passion early on during his childhood, and just dove in with that passion as his rudder.  His life has certainly not been a bed of roses but it has been quite remarkable.  The program has been on my mind all night and throughout the day, today.  I find today, for myself, there is too much going on and no one passion or purpose leading me through the day.  AND THAT FEELS BAD...

He spoke about the different paths a chef could take--technician, artist, food lover, etc., and how each of those things were fine but it was the "love" that made it extraordinary.  That is why it is important to know why one is doing something.  It is simple, but it is also very, very powerful.

I think of extraordinary people, and in very few cases were or are they people with skills or talents that I cannot say I have.  The difference really is the "why".  Making money can be one goal because money is a tool that affords choices, and our culture greatly values money.  Being considered smart with the degree or grades to back that up is also highly valued.  However, I have also known people who do something because they enjoy it or are good at it, and they seem satisfied and happy.  They are not extraordinary, but what they put out there is.

So, back to my disorganized, messy table and life.  WHY HAVE I CREATED THESE GAMES AND WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH THEM?  The first question is not tough to answer.  I create.  I spent a number of years keeping others' creations organized or maintained, but I have no desire to do that anymore.  Home schooling and having children taught me that creating, for me, if the right road. I like helping others come up with answers, choices and options.  Isn't that all about creating?

But,  WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH THEM?  Now, there is a question.  The answer to this question means wading out into the world, and trying to make these creations work.  It means dealing with other people's goals and priorities.  I now know why some people choose to be authors, all holed up in their work place with their blank pages, and selves to wrestle with.  I guess this is the question I am going to wrestle with for a while.

I truly believe that going to college is a good choice for some people; it was a great choice for me.  Going to college was much more than the academics--it was stepping onto an entirely different plain.  I learned to think and experience and create, and became a more evolved person.  Would that have gone better if I had had a leg up on some of the situations I faced?  Yes.  Would that have changed my journey?  I do not know--none of us know.  But, having a chance to try out things before one has to do them does free up energy and skill that one can use elsewhere.

So, I am a game designer in search of players for the moment.  And, I think what I do will grow into even more interesting places.

I wonder if Jacques Pepin thought about what would happen when he was 13 and starting on his journey, or if he just jumped in headlong and searched daily for the love that has made his ordinary life extraordinary?

Monday, March 24, 2014

How many students are carefully considering the idea of going to college?

Hello again,

I have spent the past week on a college road trip with my teenaged daughter.
It was one of the best trips I have ever taken.  I learned how much my daughter has grown up, and how carefully she is considering the idea of going to college.

She kept notes on each of the colleges we visited, asked questions during the tours, shared her opinions of each visit with me and tried to envision herself in each college setting.  I gained an appreciation for how difficult it is to envision oneself in such a familiar but totally different experience that college can be.

The week reconfirmed for me how important it is for high school students and even first year college students to practice those new experiences.  My games address distraction, roommates and the new scenarios that college students face.  Those things are just the beginning to taking the important steps (small steps go places) toward living apart from ones family or home.


Wouldn't it be nice if students would play DISTRACTION ACTION, identify what distracts them, process those distractions and then use what they have learned to deal with the distractions when they come up?  Wow!

Wouldn't it be nice if students had the chance to put a room together for themselves, ENTER THE CAVE,  and then have to sit down and talk about what is important to them with their future roommate?  Wow!

Wouldn't it be nice to have a leg up on the types of scenarios one might find in the first year of college, to RISK IT?  Wow! carefully she is considering the idea of going to college.

How many students are also carefully considering the idea of going to college?

I have just finished listening to Harlan Cohen's Naked Roommate Mini Course about how to pick the perfect college.  If you haven't registered on his site and someone in your family is involved in the college search you should (and I do not use "should" very often).  His presentation, knowledge and experience is priceless and right-on.  But, it leads me back to the same question:  How many students are CAREFULLY considering the idea of going to college?  I think I have to come up with an easier way for those of you who have been reading my blog to communicate with me.  But, in the meantime go to the bottom of this post and check off a reaction!


How do students who have not grown up in American culture deal successfully with attending American colleges?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

There is no them…only us

This is important.  Listen and imprint it on whatever you are setting out to do.  You have got to take the steps.  Remember….Small Steps Go Places.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Going back to the core

I am sitting in Ann Arbor smiling as I hear the Bell Tower toll.

 I LOVE this place.  I lived here for ten years when I was younger and much of who I am was developed here.  It is good to return to that core place and measure what has happened.

The past few days have been a trip like that.  And, I can feel that I took a jump of sorts.
  I guess there has to be a lot of working and weeding,
 and thinking before taking a leap.

I am so excited that I decided to begin working with Alisa, who is now my career coach.  Alisa brings a huge bolt of energy to what I have been working on for so long.  I feel that finally someone is taking me seriously.  I do not know if I will be financially successful.  I hope I am.  But, when I tell people about my games it come from someplace deep inside.  And, I realize that not everyone is a good fit or will appreciate what I am doing, so I shouldn't try to convince them of my worth or the worth of my work.  There is a great deal of freedom in that.

Different people approach tackling problems or learning in different ways --- based on who they are.
(Da, isn't this how I think?)  So, I approach things in my way.  Hence, my games are my take on what a person needs to know before making a decision about college.  And, I focus on "young" people because this is the group I have worked with the most, so far.

Maybe I have found a name for the game I brought with me:  RISK IT.  That name speaks volumes.  And, I am so excited that my game spinners arrived and it was easy to come up with a paradigm.  Aha! Paradigm…now there is a word.

RISK IT asks player to use the spinner to find two parameters which leads to a scenario which leads to deciding how much of a risk to take.

Examples of scenarios are:  Your roommate gets up for class earlier than you and always wakes you up because he/she makes noise while getting ready to go to class.  So much for having a 10am class!

Your favorite class and major interest has always been Literature.  Now you are in your first college English class, which you love.  You have worked hard on your first paper and think you turned in a pretty good product.  Today you got your paper back.  There was a big D on the top.  You really worked hard and do not understand what went so terribly wrong!

These are real scenarios compliments of a fabulous college student named Lucy.  Real to me means relevant.

Would you, as a player, risk asking your roommate to get dressed in the bathroom, or would you buy yourself earplugs,

or just tough it out?  Would you even mention the situation?

Would you, as a player, just accept that D and seek solace in complaining about how tough the professor is, or would you take the paper and what is left of your ego and go have a long conversation about it with the prof and possibly a tutor?

So, now I am going to go back outside, to the 10 degree weather and attempt to get to lunch with two wonderful women without my smile freezing.  I am enjoying going back to my core today.

I would highly recommend it!

A Harlan added BONUS!

You don't have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.

It is the new year and I have been struggling to come up with the "right" post.  Ha, ha, ha…there is no right post.

I have hired a career coach. Wow, that was an amazing move.  It means I have taken myself seriously, and invested in what I am doing. I have researched and invented but my game has not flown off the table.  Now, after a couple of months with Alisa, I have four games which may join into one experience.  I am moving toward a focus group for each and asking myself if I need full prototypes or partial prototypes to offer to teenagers in the focus groups.  I want to know what works and I want to see what's on the other side.  I am taking STEPS.  I just reposted something a friend, R-J Houston quoted from Dr. King:

 "You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step." - Martin Luther King

I truly believe that education is powerful

if the student is fully engaged in the experience.

And, the games put the power of observation and possibility into the hands of the players.  And, I truly believe that to make a successful learning plan one must take a look at who they are as a person and choose accordingly.  More skills can be mastered and interests investigated, but you come with a package and why not assess it, appreciate it and use it to take that first step?very evident that the "product" we were offering wouldn't work for students who couldn't or wouldn't play by the rules of the co-op.  That didn't mean they were bad students or dumb or any of the other labels that get fixed to students.  It meant that the product we were offering came with instructions that needed to be followed to use our way of doing things.  So, our way learning did not work for everyone.  And, so it is with making decisions about going to college.  Some students don't need to assess who they are as people, or what they are drawn to.  Some students already have a picture in their minds of where they want to go and why.  However, some students may find the description they have for their search can be enlarged or changed by being honest with themselves about who they are and what they are willing to be capable of.

It is difficult to accept that one (being me) does not have an answer for everyone.  Ouch!!

It is satisfying to know that one (being me) does have something that is valuable to some people.  Yeaa!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Is Comfort Overrated?

I was sitting in Telluride, Colorado looking out the window at the unbelievable mountains capped in snow and thanking God that this place exists.
We are on the other end of the Christmas holiday, which was full and almost overwhelming with both work and blessings.  My life exists in fits and starts and is never plunking down the road at a comfortable pace.  Maybe "comfortable" is overrated.

The New Year brings a time of disillusionment.  The holidays just happened, with all of the running around, celebrating, reconnecting and being filled with wonder.  The holidays are over.  Now, the cold, stark winter looms before me (and us).  Well, that is almost poetic but there is still a cold, stark winter looming out there.  Or, maybe it is a clean slate to start filling…

I am looking at all of those chances that I don't want to regret not taking and wondering where to begin.
Backtracking to the time my family and I just spent in Telluride, I realize I could have stated that I needed to take a rest from skiing and just hung out in the condo or the spa.  But, that wouldn't be any fun.  So, instead, I met an amazing man who taught me so much about skiing (it is better if you understand the physics of skiing) and approaches to life (I am not ready to do that YET…)

Transitioning from the big city to Telluride and back is not for the faint-hearted.

Now that I am back I know that it is true if I understand the steps behind a situation and that distilling things down to what can get done today and what has to wait until tomorrow makes it all doable.
Some things are just unpleasant but that doesn't mean they are incapacitating, right?