Thursday, March 10, 2016

Inhabit College

I have hosted two focus groups for parents of high school and college students this week.  The point was for them to play OPTION PLAY and for me to tell them about LEARN HOW TO USE YOUR RUBY SLIPPERS.

The groups were small (3 each), which has its own problems because OPTION PLAY requires 6-8 players so that enough answers and discussion happens.  The participants were awesome because they were smart, funny, honest, and gave me good feedback even if they felt something didn't work. It is always a pleasure to play with people who can lose themselves a bit in the process.  It is a challenge to be the parent of a child who is in high school or college because that child is moving into their own journey but still needs the love and support of their parents.  It is a messy time, because learning should be messy as it is full of trial and error.  And, learning is happening when a parent delves into the possible details without having to go into helicopter-mode.

Unfortunately, the road through high school and college for students and their parents has really unrealistic parts.  High school presents so much pressure as students are supposed to take lots of hard classes and do well in them all, shine on standardized tests, have time to do meaningful extracurriculars, and oh, yes -- sleep.  Not to mention being a member of the family, having friends, and being an upstanding member of whatever community they are in.

College is a must, right?  What is the point of high school but to get into a great college.  That is defined by individuals in so many ways.  And, students are then asked to become proactive adults in an environment that may feel similar but may not.  Once a student goes to orientation they should be good, right?

I disagree with that assumption.  It is a big leap from high school to college.  That leap can feel not so big if there isn't a difference between the type of place or people.  But, does a student want a repeat of the last four years in terms of the way subjects are taught or the type of people they interact with daily?

That is why I have designed OPTION PLAY and ENTER THE CAVE, and why it is important to use my workshop LEARNING TO USE YOUR RUBY SLIPPERS.  I help students transition successfully from high school to college by examining scenarios written by college freshmen and sophomores through playing a fun and easy game.  Using those scenarios, through the games or workshop, gives students and their parents a script to begin conversations with and situations to think about or prepare for.

The other night, I did something I have wanted to do for several months.  I went to hear Frank Bruni talk about his book, Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be.   I had already read the book, and then found a copy of his, Born Round.  I am glad I read both books because Mr. Bruni has walked the walk.  In the intro of Where You Go I found a statement that stayed with me through the remainder of data, interviews, and cases that I so love to read.

"College is a singular opportunity to rummage through and luxuriate in ideas, to give your brain a vigorous workout and your soul a thorough investigation, to realize how large the world is and to contemplate your desired place in it.  And, that's being lost in the admissions mania, which sends the message that college is a sanctum to be breached--a border to be crossed--rather than a land to be inhabited and tilled for all that it's worth." (10)

Today, I was talking with a man who is very skilled with working to show young people that they can accomplish more than they thought they could by facing discomfort and leaping into some sense of the unknown (with a harness of course).  I asked him where he had gone to college and he seemed reluctant to tell me after we had been talking about much better known schools.  I pressed him about this, and he told me his college had challenged the Federal Government on the subject of exerting control over the college when its students received Pell Grants,  Grove City College, in the late 70s according to my friend, took the issue all the way to the Supreme Court and won.  And, they told the Federal Government that if the Pell Grant wasn't awarded they, the college, would supply the student's funding.

There is nothing to feel reluctant about there.

Successfully transitioning to college sets up a student to feel confident enough to rummage through and luxuriate in the ideas learned at any college.  It takes some work, and some structured risk, and it is oh, so worth it.

Staying Away from the Changeup

People don't resist change. They resist being changed. Peter Senge

Finding this quote has become essential to me as I move from doing what seems to come naturally to doing what needs to be done.  Initially, the quote looked like an explanation but now it looks like a method.

I realize that throughout my life I haven't wanted to invent something that never existed before, rather, I believe I can help people do what they do in a better way. It is easier now to see where my asking "why?" so often came from.  Filtering through a game encourages players to address real situations while they are flirting with being someone or something else.  My "whys" are no longer as important as my "tries".  

Since 2012, I have learned about high school student, counselor, and parent concerns regarding going to college from focus groups and research. Students work hard academically in high school, and also want their concerns about going to college validated. Counselors balance the application process, producing graduates, and feeling confident about sending their students on to the next step. Parents want their children to succeed, and are at times less appreciative of the importance of trial and error, because they are busy taking care of so much. 

I believe I can help all of these people do what they do more effectively.

According to Senge, there are four challenges in initiating changes.

There must be a compelling case for change (that would be learning to go to college)
There must be time to change (that must be made now)
There must be help during the change process (that would be my games)
As the perceived barriers to change are removed, it is important that some new problem, not before considered important or perhaps not even recognized, doesn't become a critical barrier (that would be a player holding onto who they are, while learning to adapt)

I believe I can help people do what they need to in a better way.

And, then, the next step beckons to me:  Getting Things Done.

The President, Dalai Lama, Prime Minister, Queen, and all the rest of us start our days with the same breath.  And, we all strive to get things done.  What those things are make up the textures of our lives.  
What do I need to do at the moment?  I need a website!?  People are asking, and it is about time I finished this particular task.  Let me try out Mr. Senge's observations:

Compelling case:  I NEED a website.  Not having a website is holding my journey back!
Time to change:  I am piloting this ship, so NOW
Help:  Diva Design, Square Space, what I need to say and offer
New Problem?  I do not know how to do this, and so it becomes another thing to figure out, and I feel overwhelmed, scared, and befuddled.

People don't resist change.  They resist being changed.  I am resisting being changed because I want someone else to do this for me, and I really need to do it myself.     OK, that feels, better...