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The best and the brightest

Monday’s circle began, as it always does, with a weekend update — what did you get up to this weekend — and a second question: what did you do to compete with the best and brightest? I prefaced this by talking about the potential I see in all of them and how I want them to someday be their best selves.

I wanted to highlight the fact that they are competing against children who spend far more time reading, writing, and thinking about their schoolwork. This is a hard one to do in circle: I didn’t want to produce automatic adolescent us vs. them stuff but I also didn’t want anyone believing that they’ve made it already. The intense, relationship based culture of our school allows us to see the immense potential of all students. Potential is just potential, though, and nothing’s sadder than when it goes unrealized.

It’s about creating the situation where you realize you need to work harder.

(Also, I’ve not forgotten how the so-called best and the brightest made a hash out of a war. )

Teens and anxiety

Found this article to be provocative and powerful.

This description of the impact of technology on teen anxiety was particularly telling:

At a workshop for parents last fall at the NW Anxiety Institute in Portland, Ore., Kevin Ashworth, the clinical director, warned them of the “illusion of control and certainty” that smartphones offer anxious young people desperate to manage their environments. “Teens will go places if they feel like they know everything that will happen, if they know everyone who will be there, if they can see who’s checked in online,” Ashworth told the parents. “But life doesn’t always come with that kind of certainty, and they’re never practicing the skill of rolling with the punches, of walking into an unknown or awkward social situation and learning that they can survive it.”

A quibble: there’s three all of three paragraphs on the students I’ve taught in West Philly. True, “addressing anxiety is low on the priority list in many economically disadvantaged communities” but that’s because more often than not, students, parents, and teachers are worried about basic needs being met, not because anxiety doesn’t exist. Even if I’m dubious about the political will or economic resources necessary for a treatment protocol to develop, it doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary.

Read this article.

Transfer: one skill to another

One of my big questions for the week is how we bring work we do in one sphere of our lives into another. In other words, do the skills we cultivate in our home matter for what we do at school? The skills we make on the playing field or in the rehearsal room — how do they make our project work, our academic work, our life work better? Do they? What transfers? What doesn’t transfer?

It’s surprisingly difficult to get people to identify things they’re good at, particularly in public, so we wrote first: name three things you’re good at, one from home, one from school, and one from everywhere else. Then we turned to the ways in which those skills/those strengths do support project work and the way they don’t.

I got some tape (amateur hour, I know) but we have some cool artifacts as well.

What we need to work on in our advisory

We graded ourselves on the four words today. Collaborative, Professional, Persistent, and Motivational…students graded themselves on one word, then graded the community on a second word, and then concluded by grading their peers on the two remaining words.

On the back of the paper, they wrote about what they see as the biggest issues facing our advisory:

We need to work on talking less when in big groups.
Not being a liar.
One thing we need to work on is staying focused on the work. I think that a good portion of us take independent work for granted.
Not going on Youtube so much.
We need to work on our own projects.
One thing we need to work on is having one voice when someone else is talking.
Getting the entire class to buckle down and be quiet and get the work done when needed. For example, no side conversations, no singing out loud, etc. Basically like a library when it’s time to work. Otherwise it can be as loud as ever.
Talking to people outside our friend groups.
I think people need to shh…
Our four hours togeher we need to get each other to be involved when we’re doing group work because students are willing to collaborate.
One voice/proper argument debate
We need to learn how to get focused when it’s time to work.
Stop talking over each other.
I don’t want to change anything.
Speaking one at a time.

Why go to college? Why go to night school?

Good Thursday morning conversation about the good and bad reasons people go to college. We drew a line, labelled one side good and the other bad, and then started populating the sheet. There are a lot of reasons people go to college; how many good reasons…not so many.

I was happy that at least one person talked about how you go to college to learn about things you care about. And to learn about what you want to learn about.

Then I started singing this song…

Why go to college? Why stay in night school? Going to be different this time…

Organization and Ownership

Another opening conversation designed to get at the relationship between organization — how do I keep track of my work — and ownership — how do projects become mine?

I did a paper folded in three: left side where students wrote bullet points for what it means to be organized and right side where students wrote bullet points for what it means to own a project.

We used the middle space to discuss the overlap between the two.

Some key insights:
time management is much easier when it’s your time, your choice, from your decisions…
pride helps make you organized.
“When you own a project you need to be organized to keep up with your work and have good time management to get your work to its best.” –SP
“When you’re organized you’re taking ownership over your projects because you’re focused on getting your work done.” — JC