leadership · Mandy Froehlich · reflections · relationships

Don’t Mistake Control for Influence

I think sometimes there is a misperception that the amount of influence you have comes from how much control you can exert. You can influence people if you can get them to do what you want by creating a situation where they have no choice, whether they realize that or not. Some people believe that influence is the same as power, and power is gained with compliance measures that people are forced to do in order to prove that person has that power, and then that power is perceived as influence.

The fact of the matter is that even with what I know about education and my beliefs about leadership, I will still do what I’m told when it comes to compliance measures because realistically I want to keep my job. But that’s the only reason why. Compliance measures rarely create buy-in. Now accountability is another story, but creating opportunities for me to show I am doing my job well and forcing me to do something that I don’t feel is best for kids is two totally separate things. Many compliance measures that I’m made to do may not directly affect students, but they do take up valuable time that I could be spending in classrooms with teachers or with kids. But, I digress. My point is that just because I participate in a compliance measure does not mean the person who implemented that measure has influenced me.

As I’ve watched people throughout the years, there are few characteristics that I always find an influential people, at least the ones that have been influential in my life.

  • They are kind. Some of them exceedingly so.
  • They can laugh at themselves and be okay with you laughing with them.
  • They ask how you are with genuine interest.
  • They give a compliment without expecting one back.
  • They give quality feedback; feedback that people can actually implement immediately. They welcome feedback in return.
  • They admit when they don’t know, and they say they’re sorry when they are wrong.
  • They are passionate, knowledgeable and engaged in whatever their focus is because they truly believe that what they know is valuable and can help people in some way.
  • They never ask me to do anything that they wouldn’t be willing do themselves.

Influencers create change because their passion makes you want to believe what they believe. And when I look back on that list, every single characteristic that I have seen in the influencers I know have to do with creating relationships and maintaining those relationships. Just treating other people like valuable human beings. The second you forget that we work with other people, who have stories and struggles and personalities and quirks and different strengths and weaknesses, is this second that you have officially missed your mark. If you start to believe that the amount of power you exert over somebody else is more important than their well-being, you have forgotten why you’re in education. I heard a quote from an amazing commencement speech called the Wisdom of a Third Grade Dropout by Rick Rigsby the other day that said always make sure your servant’s towel is bigger than your ego. Always remembering that legitimate passion and genuine compassion for other people is the way that you change their hearts and then their minds.

steve jobs

leadership · Mandy Froehlich · my classroom · PLN · reflections · relationships

Five Things My Mentors Taught Me

While I truly value my professional learning network that I’ve worked so diligently to build, there a few people in my life that I have carefully chosen to study the way they operate because I have such a massive amount of personal and professional respect for them. I have learned an immense amount of life and professional lessons from them. These people have been my mentors, my friends, and my biggest supporters. They have listened to me complain, celebrated my successes, and have laughed with me when I inevitably say or do something ridiculous. They have become like family to me, like a weird concoction of uncles and step-brothers and mothers that have made me who I am by being absolutely amazing leaders and mentors. And through them, I have learned the following lessons.

Ask for what you want

I have a terrible habit of hedging or asking questions in a passive voice. I’ve learned, however, that this tends to give the impression that I’m not confident in what I’m saying or asking. The secret is that I’m usually not confident, but I certainly don’t want people to know that. One of my mentors taught me that how you speak is as important as what you’re saying, and that the confidence you exhibit can dictate the way that people react to you. I always need to be especially cognizant of this when I’m speaking with people that intimidate me.

So, what happens if you don’t have the confidence that’s necessary? Another one of my mentors taught me this: fake it ’til you make it. I’ve learned myself that when you fake it long enough, you start to believe in yourself and build your own confidence until you’re not faking it anymore. Whenever I fall upon a situation that makes me feel like I don’t have the confidence I need, I fall back upon this rule to get me through.

Leaving a legacy is not about getting the credit

Especially not in education. Recently, I was at a volleyball tournament and a few of my former students came over to tell me that one of their former classmates still talks about me all the time and wants to get in touch with me to say hi. I would be willing to bet that she couldn’t pick out anything specific I taught her, and years down the line, she might not even remember my name, but she will remember the way she felt in my classroom and the connections that she made. Leaving a legacy in education isn’t about massive changes or a total disruption, although a few people are able to create those types of movements. For most of us, the legacy is in the way that we instill certain values in our students, whether it’s a love of learning, knowing that there are consequences for our decisions, or that everyone deserves someone who sticks by them no matter what choices they make. It’s about the small changes that we create in the educators around us, the programs we start to do things like help provide canned goods to the food pantry, or even leading a school-wide or district-wide mindset change. Our legacies are not in things, and years down the road people might not remember our names, but they will remember the connections, the programs that supported them or made them feel worthwhile, and the feeling they got from changes and relationships we made.

People make time for what they think is important

If people don’t jump on a new idea or initiative, it is most likely not because they are completely unwilling to learn something new. It is usually because they have not been given the why behind the change and how it is going to enhance learning. I have learned that when people think something is important, they will make time. When they think that their students will truly benefit and it could transform learning, they will be all in. People will move mountains for the things they believe are important.

The same is true with students and their learning. If they have not been shown the importance or connection of what they’re learning, or if they are not encouraged to find what inspires them, they will not spend the time to truly engage in what they are doing. They might do it out of compliance or just to get through their days, but they won’t show the qualities of an empowered learner that we want to see when a child truly loves what they’re doing.

Never forget your teacher’s heart

It doesn’t matter what position you’re currently in. It’s that feeling you get when a kid has a lightbulb moment, or when a child with difficult behaviors seems happy instead of angry, or when a student comes back to your classroom years later and says, “Remember when we did __________ in class? That was awesome.” It is the combination of moments and feelings that you can only get from working with students, hearing them laugh, and watching them triumph over struggles. Because those are the moments that keep us pushing in education when we’re also dealing with new initiatives, rules made by government officials that have never been in a classroom as an educator, and active shooter drills. The second we forget our teacher’s heart, it will become significantly more difficult to remember why we teach to begin with, and kids deserve better than that.

Being a leader was never about you

If you are truly serving people as a leader, your personal professional agenda will never be considered, because being a real leader is never about you. Instead, it’s about what the people around you need and the best way they can be supported. All the time. Period. I’ve seen agendas that include things like being seen as the first district to “pave the way” for other districts all the time, or implementing copious numbers of devices to prove they have more than their neighbors, or building a massive football field. Many times these agendas might start out with student learning as the reason (sometimes they don’t) but the focus gets lost along the way because the focus becomes the agenda instead. Sometimes, these agendas are followed up with or connected to the desire to build a legacy. But, like legacies are not about things, a true leader is not concerned with leaving a legacy, and certainly not worried about agendas because they realize that leading is not about them but rather the ones they serve.

I continue to learn from the people around me every day, but the people who believe in me and mentor me on a daily basis have made a profound impact on my personal and professional life. It’s the reason that I believe choosing mentors that support the different areas of your different facets of your career is one of the most important professional decisions you can make. Recently, a new connection without any prior knowledge, actually asked me if I somehow knew one of my mentors because my work had pieces of him in it. At first, honestly, I was embarrassed that my work was seen as that close to his. After reflecting on it though, I thought that I couldn’t imagine connecting myself to many other people that I respected more. Eventually, I hope that there is a little of all my mentors inside my work, because I chose to model myself after these amazing people for a reason.

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Genius Bar · innovation · Mandy Froehlich · my classroom · PLN · reflections · relationships · Social Media · Trust

The Creation of a Genius Bar: How our student led tech teams have formed

Although our district has been 1:1 for about eight years, this is the first year we have implemented a student led helpdesk. I’m not going to lie, at first I was dreading it, not because I didn’t believe in the idea or think it would be fantastic for students, but because I didn’t even know where to start or how to manage it. There are logistics to the helpdesk when it’s been led by students that are difficult to anticipate. I didn’t know what they were going to do all day. I didn’t know how they would interact with our tech department. I didn’t even know how we were going to take attendance since their assigned teacher wasn’t in the same spot as the physical helpdesk. It has been a project that has taken me a year to put together with researching other helpdesks, and calling up my teacher instincts and going with them. I’m proud with what we have put together so far, but as with every major implementation, will need to continue to adjust throughout the year.

Where did you go to research?

As per usual, I used my professional learning network to really connect and see what other people were doing. I had gotten some amazing information from the Director of Technology for the Leyden School District, Bryan Weinert. Their TSI system is a nationally recognized student led tech support program with pathways that the students choose and follow to support the skills that they want to focus on. As part of the program, Leyden pays for the students to get the certifications. Thanks to Bryan, I was able to get invaluable information on how they started their program and continue to make it a successful way for students to be involved in the technology department for both students and the district.

I also loved this article by Jennifer Scheffer. I have borrowed many ideas of how they run their Genius Bar (as ours is called as well) and have implemented them. Basically, our Genius Bar is a combination of information from this article and the resources and information I received from Bryan.

How did you recruit kids?

Our Genius Bar is a class that is available every hour throughout the day. In our first semester, we have 16 kids who have taken the course. Realistically, some kids have taken it because they needed something to fill an hour in their schedule. Some have taken it because they wanted to try something different and had an interest in technology. Some are a part of the program because they had formed a relationship with our department and were excited to be a part of the Genius Bar. The most important thing we did was explain to teachers and the guidance counselors that the Genius Bar kids did NOT need to know a lot about technology. When I first told them this, they looked at me like I had lost my mind (a look that I feel I get a lot), but here’s my reasoning: if they have an interest but don’t think they know enough to be a part of the program, how are they ever going to learn if it’s something they really want to do or not? I made sure I erased “tech-savvy” out of our vocabulary. Might this change as the program becomes more popular? I have no idea, but I sure hope not. I want anyone to feel comfortable at any level coming to the Genius Bar, knowing they’re going to learn, not that they are only going to employ the skills they already have. This has hands-down been my best decision.

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When talking to one of the girls that now works the Genius Bar, she told me she doesn’t really know anything about technology and that she is not tech-savvy. The next day she was so insanely excited when we told her to YouTube how to change a Chromebook screen and handed her a broken one, and she did it on her first try (with the support of one of our tech services ladies). To me, THAT is the function of the Genius Bar. We want to open kids up to the possibility that technology might be an area they want to look at, and when we tell them they need to be tech savvy, we automatically exclude the population of kids that have an interest but don’t consider themselves to know a lot about tech.

What do they do all day?

The Genius Bar assistants are the the first line of defense for technology that faculty and other students are having difficulty with whether it’s that it is actually broken or just isn’t working right. They troubleshoot and have forms to fill out to document issues so we can see patterns in the data. They must answer help request emails and tickets assigned to them. Beyond the technical aspects of the Genius Bar, they are also responsible for researching new tech learning tools and working with students and teachers to use them. Aside from their actual desk functions, they work on these things:

Canvas LMS Course: Our students have a course that they complete in Canvas that is a work in progress. They have access to the logistical parts of the course, video explanations with how to use the forms and what their expectations are. We use discussion boards to collaborate on projects as a team since the kids are scattered across seven class periods. There are also learning modules and assignments on concepts like customer service and creating a positive digital footprint.

Blog: We have a helpdesk manager, which is a student that is a paid internship. This year, it is a student named Brock (an absolutely amazing person) who spent some of his free time last year helping me brainstorm and develop the Genius Bar, and he is in charge of various projects, and has both designed and will maintain and schedule blog posts that focus on technology integration for both students and faculty. Genius Bar students will be expected to contribute to the blog on a regular basis.

20% Time Project: Students will be creating goals based on what area of technology they would like to know more about. There are multiple ways they could design this project, but if the project requires the knowledge base of a certification to support that goal, the technology department will support them by paying for the certification. Project goals are monitored by myself and the assigned teacher, and the students will meet with us on a regular basis to update us on their progress and let us know if they need support in any way. Their 20% time project will also be documented in a portfolio on EduBlogs that they will be able to take with them when they graduate.

Additional projects: The Genius Bar assistants are also in charge of additional projects that might come up as needed. For example, currently we found that third through fifth grade kiddos are not handling their Chromebooks with as much care as we would like. As our Kinder through second graders’ touchscreen Chromebooks are coming in soon, we are anticipating a similar issue. The Genius Bar kids have been asked to create videos for each level demonstrating the proper use of the devices. So far, they have been brainstorming if they would like to create cartoons or use the green screen, but they are in charge of producing the videos.

The students always have a multitude of things to be working on. They will need to manage their time wisely, stay focused and organized. They also will need to collaborate with each other and our tech services department, as well as students and teachers that they may not know or necessarily have. They are treated as they an extension of our department. We have placed immediate trust in every student that works behind the desk, no matter what. Another decision that I think is imperative to the success of the students, and ultimately the Genius Bar.

Moreover, as a director, I have been more removed from the classroom than any other position I’ve had in education. My focus has become the adults, and I do enjoy this because I know that I can affect student learning by supporting their amazing teachers. However, an unexpected side-effect from working with the kids from the Genius Bar has been remembering how incredible it is to work directly with students again. One day, I was sitting in my office, and I could hear them laughing while they worked. I literally stopped what I was doing and just listened. Working with the Genius Bar students has kept me focused on why I do what I do. I might be supporting their learning, and I hope that I have awakened or support a love for technology in the students like I have, but they are reminding me every day why I keep going when things get difficult, and why I love being in this profession so much. They do so much more for me on a daily basis than I could ever do for them.

 

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leadership · Mandy Froehlich · reflections · relationships

Adversity: Are you reacting like a leader?

Consistently exhibiting good leadership qualities is not always easy. Sometimes, I even find myself slipping into thoughts that would not indicate a good leadership mindset. For example, recently when a colleague relentlessly questioned a decision I had made, I eventually wanted to just tell her, “Please, just do it.” I wanted to say those words so badly. I was tired, it had been a long day, and I just wanted something accomplished so I could check it off my list. It was absolutely necessary for me to actually keep what I know about good leadership at the forefront of my mind, and run everything I was thinking through a filter prior to it coming out of my mouth. It took effort. Lots and lots of effort.

It is easy to be a leader when everything is going smoothly. It’s those times when you’re exhausted, you’re busy, and when you have people advocating strongly for their own beliefs, that it’s easy to slip into the easiest way to answer people and deal with situations; rely on compliance and “pull the boss card”, which is never the right way. Leadership is not always pretty. We often discuss leaders and managers as being opposites, like they’re good versus evil, but I don’t think that’s true. I think that there are few times when managing is appropriate. Oftentimes, people that try to lead but exhibit negative qualities are just impersonators. They may look like leaders, they think they know what leadership should look like, they might call themselves leaders, but they don’t know how to fully think like a leader. They have not been given the tools to transform how they react into a supportive, functional, relationship-based, servant leadership.

Feedback

When a leader responds to feedback, their first thought will revolve around the fact that perception is everything. They will validate the person’s feelings, but will ask themselves what they can adjust to change this perception. They will start from within.

When an impersonator responds to feedback, they will look for excuses as to why that person feels the way they do. Maybe they will blame outside influences, maybe they will say it’s personality issues, maybe they will blame their team. Either way they will have little to no internal reflection to base their response.

Tone

When a leader responds, at any time, the tone of their response will be humble and understanding. They will know that their response will determine the outcome to the situation, and that sincerity must be the foundation of their message.

When an impersonator responds, their message will either be sarcastic or defensive. They may give information, but it will be in a “I don’t have time for this” or “I am really above answering this question” manner. They might give you answers that don’t make sense because they haven’t really heard what you said. No matter the words used, an impersonator leaves behind an air of condescension.

Relationships

A leader looks at relationships as the foundation for what all other learning and interactions are based on. They know that spending the time building quality relationships creates the positive climate & robust culture that supports learning.

An impersonator values relationships only from the standpoint of when they are valuable. While they might seem to value them during good times, when adversity comes around, the relationships are valued only as much as they are useful.

Support

This one is simple. When you’ve finished working with a leader, you’ll feel lifted up.

When you’ve finished working with a impersonator, you’ll feel pushed down.

Sometimes, it takes experiencing these two different types in order to really see the difference. As I’ve always said, you can learn just as much from someone you do not want to be like as someone you do, but it’s so much more rewarding and uplifting of an experience to work with the latter. And it’s not easy to be a leader. There are times when I struggle with what is easy and what is right when situations are hectic and hard and stressful. I mess up sometimes, and then I apologize. I adjust my course to be better. I just try to be the leader that I would want to have, and learn what I don’t want to be from the impersonators I meet.

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Climate · Culture · leadership · Mandy Froehlich · reflections · relationships

Making Good Choices

Whenever I hear the phrase “Make good choices!” it makes me smile and brings me back to my elementary teaching days. It always seemed like a blanket statement that could mean just about anything. “Make good choices!” could translate to “Don’t hit your neighbor!” or “Throw away your scrap paper!” or “Don’t jump and hit the exit sign on the way down the hall!” It was a firm but friendly reminder that everything we do is a choice, and every choice we make has consequences. But, the choices we make go so far beyond just our actions. There are choices we make internally every day as well, and they can determine our mood, our relationships, and our interactions with others. Sometimes, I just think that those choices aren’t as obvious because they happen inside ourselves.

I’ve often written about choosing to trust and choosing to take a risks, but because we work in a people focused profession, we make more decisions internally that affect both the way we operate and the people around us. We can also choose the affect that people have us, and this might actually be one of the most important choices we make.

I once worked in a school where I did not work well with another teacher. Our personalities were vastly different, as were our teaching styles, and even our attitudes towards teaching were not the same. There were times where I felt like I was being berated, and times where I would go home from work crying because I allowed the way she treated me to affect me. I had made the choice, subconsciously at the time, to allow this person to bring me down. To make me think something about myself that I didn’t actually believe was true.

I have since realized, however, that the choice of allowing someone to make me feel something is entirely mine, and disliking someone for what they’ve done or who they are is not only giving them power over my thoughts, but making their unhappiness too important in my life. Nobody is responsible for choosing my reactions, my attitude, and my actions except me. And, it’s really not fair to the people around me, little or big, that my attitude reflects my choice of allowing negativity to affect me.

Sometimes, we tell others that they should just forget what someone has said to them, or let stuff “bounce off us” or “go in one ear and out the other”, but in reality, it takes a significant amount of mental and emotional effort to do any of those things. A friend of mine once told me that when people say things about him or to him that he disagrees with, that he acknowledges it and puts the thought away. Even thought it’s really just a change in mindset, I feel like this is a less negative way to deal with unwanted information. And like my friend Marypat says, negativity is exhausting. All of us need less of that in our lives.

Going into a new school year and having multiple discussions with people about climate and culture, I think that taking control of how you choose to let other people affect you is especially important. There will almost be that person who is disengaged from their profession, or who is ready to retire, and it is so much harder to be positive when people around you are dripping with negativity. But, we can choose to continue to be positive because when it comes down to it, we aren’t there for those people anyway. We are there for the kids, and they deserve to have the most positive, best teachers and role models that we can muster.

This is not an easy endeavor. It requires a significant amount of self-reflection and self-control to be able to recognize when what we feel is a choice, and then making the choice to feel something entirely different. But if we want a positive climate and to create a strong culture, especially if we are attempting to repair it, looking inside ourselves for our options as to how we want to move forward and be for our students should be our first stop. Change will always start with us.

Always one of my favorite quotes:

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So, choose positive…both inside and out.

 

Climate · Culture · leadership · Mandy Froehlich · reflections · relationships · Trust

The Breakdown of Trust

Trust should be the concrete foundation of a relationship, and yet it can also be the reason that the relationship ends or is in constant question. When I talk to employees about why they are unhappy, trust for leaders is often recounted as one of the main reasons that they feel unsupported. There are so many ways that trust can be broken besides the typical flat out untruth, and sometimes I think it can happen without us really even realizing it until it’s too late. I do know that trust is imperative for a supportive culture and positive, collaborative climate.

I don’t trust you to keep me informed

I’ve often found that a lack of transparency can lead to feelings of distrust. When people feel that there is more information needed to make a decision, or to know the “why” behind a decision, they tend to feel like it’s possible that the information was intentionally hidden. This can be made worse if a decision was made that fails and subsequent data or information is released that doesn’t support the original decision. When details are missing, people wonder why, and trust in the people making decisions can be shaky. Withholding important information will often be seen as the same level as a blatant lie because both are done with intentionality.

I don’t trust you to try your hardest

In having a conversation with my friend Rodney Turner one day, he told me “You can’t place your own expectations on people and then get disappointed when they don’t live up to them. Your expectations are yours alone.” I found that when I had high expectations for someone and they didn’t rise to meet them, that I would begin to feel like I couldn’t trust that they were doing everything they could to create a successful situation. I would begin to not trust that they would ever do it, and therefore not trust the person. Knowing this has made me more cognizant of the expectations I have for people and if they are reasonable. Also, reflecting on if they would be general expectations or if I have made them higher because of who they are or their relationship to me, and also if I would place the same expectations on myself if I were in that situation. I try to be aware, however, that just because I deem them as reasonable and appropriate, still doesn’t necessarily make my expectations right.

I don’t trust you to be consistent 

Along with expectations, I have written this post about creating trust by being as close to your real self as possible all the time. When we meet people, work with them, begin to trust and know them, we begin to pick out certain aspects of their personality that are constant. When those traits unexpectedly change or a decision is made that doesn’t jive with previous decisions, we start to mistrust not only the person but question their reliability. I, personally, really struggle with people who have unreliable personalities as far as I never know what I’m going to get when I talk to them from day to day. The more constant and reliable someone is, the more likely we are to trust them because we know what to expect all the time. The problem is when they waiver from that reassuring consistency. The more consistent their personality, the more an off decision or act will give the feeling of whiplash. On the flip side, someone who’s only consistency is being inconsistent may never have the trust that is needed because people don’t ever know what to expect from them.

I don’t trust you to do what you say you will

Follow through might be one of the most important aspects of trust, especially if trust has been broken at some point. When people know that you’ll stand behind your word, they are more likely to trust that whatever needs to get done will get done. Also, the quality of follow through matters. If a task is accomplished only half-way or with little effort, trust will begin to waiver as people will wonder why it couldn’t have been done right in the first place.

I don’t trust you to tell me to do something you really believe in

People often place a high amount of value on what they choose to spend their time on. Therefore, when they’re asked to spend their time on an idea or implementation, they generally want to know the reasons behind that, and rightfully so. The problem comes in when they are asked to do something that is not being modeled for them, which brings on the question, “why is it important for me to spend my time on it, but not that person?” making people leery of the person assigning the task. When this is done repeatedly, it can lead to mistrust. (This is, of course, assuming that the task is not just part of that person’s role.)

When distrust has been part of a culture, it takes a great deal of time to get back. I know for me, when I have broken someone’s trust, it has taken effort, time & consistency to get it back. Because trust is one of the foundational tenets of any relationship, not having it can be detrimental to both the relationship and the positive climate & supportive culture we dream of building. We often discuss teachers not trusting administrators, but I’ve seen it the other way around as well. Generally, I’ve found that when administration doesn’t trust teachers, they insert compliance measures (sometimes label it as accountability), which starts the vicious cycle of the teachers then feeling not trusted, and subsequently not trusting administration to be supportive. But trust needs to go both ways, and not only do we need to work to cultivate it, but we need to also be trustworthy and reliable to sustain it.

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Mandy Froehlich · reflections · relationships

We Need More Student Voice

One of my favorite people in the world, Jen Williams, shared an article today called From a Rising Senior to Her Teachers: Things to Never Say or Ask About College written by a high school student named Audrey Mullen. I’m not going to lie, as the mom of a child who was once a high school senior, and several children who will one day be high school seniors, I was a little taken back at first. Mostly because in glancing through the article, I had asked those questions not only my own children, but several friends’ kids as well, and I thought, “I was just trying my best to talk to teenagers!” (which Ms. Mullen addressed in the post when she said, “What seems like innocent small-talk to you unleashes a tidal wave of insecurities and stress for us.”). Ok, ya got me.

In reading closer, there were two parts of the post that Ms. Mullen struck me with that as an educator made me both cringe and smile. Two areas where I said, whoa, this kid gets it. The first:

Dreaded Question #2: “What do you want to study?”

Most of us shrug and say, “I’m not sure yet” with a forced laugh. Even the students who seem to have their lives together really don’t. We spent the past four years forced to take classes for credits, not on learning but rather getting an A. How are we supposed to know what we truly like? Does an A in Chem mean we should go pre-med?

They spent the last four years making sure they had their credit requirements, and figuring out what they needed to do for each teacher in order to get the grades needed to get into college. We spend so much time on making sure that kids are college and career ready, that we forget to help them figure out their passions. If our students cannot answer the question, “What are you passionate about?” when they graduate, we have absolutely failed them. Good grades in a specific content area don’t equal interest. It may simply state that area comes easier than others for the student, but certainly does not necessarily equate to passion.

I’m not going to lie, this kind of thing breaks my heart for my kids, mostly because I want kids to spend their adult lives doing what they love because I know what it’s like to work in a profession that I am passionate about. Success is not measured by how much money we make or how quickly we get a job. It is measured by how happy we are doing what we love. So many people spend way too much of our adult life trying to figure out what we want to be when we grow up. If we spent more time in school trying to help kids find their passions, we might not have so many adults disliking their jobs.

Ms. Mullen goes on to say:

Dreaded Question #3: “What did you get on the SAT/ACT?”

I have a friend with a 4.6 cumulative GPA who got a 1200 on the SAT. How does someone so exceptionally successful in class get such an average SAT score? The answer is simple: standardized testing is not an accurate representation of college readiness and shouldn’t be such a major factor in the college application process. Most teachers already know this. So when it comes to SAT scores, don’t go there. Just assume we’re all perfect.

For the last few years, I have been touring college campuses with my son. I would love to say that the college application process is standardized and considers the whole child. That’s not true. We learned that some schools have a fairly comprehensive, whole child approach, but we still found that there were some schools that still fell back on a very literal calculation of numbers in order to determine admittance. If the number came in within a range, they were admitted. And this wasn’t some back-woods school, but a Division 1, well respected university.

But, what really struck me about this paragraph was that we do things in education that we know don’t work and we continue to do them anyway. We know that standardized testing is unreliable, we say that out loud, but we use it anyway to make educational decisions for students. My own kids were put into certain english and math classes in middle school, which determined their trajectory in those areas for the rest of middle and high school, based a large part on how they did on standardized tests. If we want different results from what we are doing now, we need to match what we say with what we do.

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What we need the most, is more students like Ms. Mullen who are willing to put themselves out there and help us adults understand what they need. I loved how she not only provided the issue with what was happening, but gave suggestions on how adults could ask different questions that would help high schoolers feel more comfortable in these conversations. Moreover, we (adults) need to give these kids the respect they deserve by listening to their voice.