Here's the latest from our District's efforts to re-invent school for the future:
I'm bursting with pride! Mercer Island School District's Superintendent, Dr. Gary Plano, and Education Association President, Mike Radow, wrote this terrific article about our District's 2020 Vision, our strategic blueprint to prepare our students for the 21st Century. In the current test-centric environment, Mercer Island could have easily coasted along, satisfied with its routinely high scores. Instead, we've come together as a community to create schools for the future - today!
Check out the article here: Download MI2020Vision
I am so excited about this discovery that it has jolted me out of my blogging hiatus. Turns out I've discovered a number of must-share resources recently so look forward to at least a few more posts before I get swept away with my life again!
It's a particularly great resource for high school and college students, meandering young adults in their twenties, and their worried parents!
We've heard this question hundreds of times from parents, teachers,
principals, friends, relatives, career counselors, even the mailman.
Not only do they ask that pestering question, but they provide their
"You should be a lawyer, a doctor, an accountant, a teacher. Go to grad school, go to med school. Get your MBA. Go into finance. Investments! Investments are where it's at!" All these might be good ideas, but they weren't ours.
We call all those misguided opinions "the noise." It's the noise of
society trying to push, pull, and tug us "tug you" in every direction.
The noise never listens to what you like and what you don't. The noise
doesn't care about what you value. The noise just distracts you from
building a life that's in tune with what you're passionate about as an
The noise says, "You can't make money playing with model spaceships." Dennis Muren didn't listen to it. Now he has eight Academy Awards for visual effects, including one for Star Wars.
The noise says, "There's no future dressing up your friends." Arianne Phillips didn't listen to it. She became the head stylist for Madonna and costume designer on films such as Walk the Line.
You can create roads that you'll be passionate about while also making a living. You don't have to be a prisoner to a job you can't stand. You have the potential to embark on a life that you can one day look back on and say, "I was true to myself every step of the way.""
Roadtrip Nation is about finding your own road by learning from others who have found their own inspired path in life. There are video interviews with hundreds of people who are doing what they love including the following: astrobiologist, founder of The Blue Man Group, Editor in Chief with Seventeen Magazine, chocolatier, track and field coach, and a plastic surgeon. Warning - these videos are addictive!!
You can find many other resouces via the website, including a guide to conducting your own interviews with passionate people, DVDs and books. I ordered both Roadtrip Nation books: Finding The Open Road: A Guide to Self-Production Rather Than Mass Production and Roadtrip Nation: A Guide to Discovering Your Path in Life.
Your kids can also apply to Hit the Road on the 2011 Roadtrip Nation trip.
Finally, Roadtrip Nation will be visiting colleges this fall in the iconic green RV. See if your student's college is on the route!
Wondering why it's important for kids to figure out what they love, besides being a feel-good idea?
The world has changed. Globalization makes the world more competitive. You have a much better chance at being great at what you do (and, therefore, more competitive) if you actually love what you're doing. In a recent interview, author Dan Pink was asked the following question:
if you were going to give somebody just one piece of advice about how to be successful in this new age, what would it be?
Dan Pink: " The best career move is to find what you love to do, what you’re great at, and pursue that. I think you will be more valuable in the workforce. If you love accounting and you’re great at it, you’re going to be okay.
I worry about the folks who pursue careers because their parents, teachers, or spouses give them outdated advice and they’re dutifully marching into careers they don’t really care about because they think it’s the way to make money. Not only is that bad for their individual self-actualization but I think it’s a bad career move, too."
"The counsel to do what you love is actually very hardheaded advice right now. It’s not just an idealistic notion. I think it’s the best way to get ahead today."
I'm guiding my teenage son through a great on-line course this summer. It's called Consumer Jungle and its purpose is to teach kids some of the skills they will need to successfully navigate the real world. So far, we've looked at various housing options (apartment, room in a house, rental house, with roommates and without) on Craig's List and SeattleRental.com and he's listed the advantages and disadvantages of each. He's read a rental lease and deciphered it by recasting in his own language. Yesterday, we viewed a powerpoint on Budgets and then he took an on-line quiz. Next up is a powerpoint on Credit. The website is www.consumerjungle.net. It's perfect for high school (or even college) age kids. I've learned a thing or too myself!
by Dulcie Leimbach
From last Sunday's (4/20/08) New York Times' Education Life, a must-read article for all parents of teens - click here: My Son the Number Some hard-won wisdom from a mom reflecting back on the college process.
By Daniel H. Pink (author of my favorite book of 2007, A Whole New Mind)
Watch the trailer for this book (yes, just like a movie) and then go buy The Adventures of Johnny Bunko for every high schooler, college student, or 20-something you care about - and yourself if you're curious about how to thrive in the new economy (that's the economy and world Dan describes in A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future. More on that later.)
By the way, this book will take you between 30 minutes and 1 hour to read because it is the first US business book ever to be told in manga - you know, the Japanese comic art form. In other words, it's a comic book, full of not only spot-on wisdom and advice but wonderful characters and illustrations drawn by the talented Rob Ten Pas.
This is the PERFECT high school or college graduation gift. Besides giving your sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, and family friends a great toolkit to use to craft their future, you will be regarded as momentarily cool and with-it, just for knowing about such a hip book. And those of us who are parenting teens know - that's priceless!
NOTE to Bookworm by Email subscribers. I reformatted this post so that all of Ms. Jone's notes are available here, without downloading a Word document. Hope that makes reading a bit easier! If you want to become a Bookworm by Email subscriber, see the box on the upper left. You will get an email every time there is a new Bookworm post. janet
Now to the topic!
Thanks to friend and colleague Judy Chase who went to hear Marilee Jones, MIT Admissions Director, speak at Overlake School on November 14th. Ms. Jones is also the author of Less Stress, More Success: A new approach to guiding your teen through college admissions and beyond.
The following are Judy's personal notes:
"I was a few minutes late, so the notes start from when I arrived. It is amazing to me how many themes she spoke of that echo Alexandra Robbins perspectives.
She began talking about characteristics from different generations and what that means in terms of the lens that we look at when considering situations.
Matures: Born prior to 1945. Honor, integrity, hard work ethic, many first generations who made a way for themselves, loyal and patriotic.
Baby Boomers: Born after WWII until 1964. Idealistic and Individualistic. We live vicariously through our children. We want to protect our kids and take care of them. We think our kids think and are like us when they are not. We are self centered and oriented around “us”.
Generation X: This is a very small subset of the population. Born between 1965-1978. They grew up when times were recessionary; AIDs became rampant, high divorce rates and left home alone a lot. They are pragmatic, comfortable on the internet, diversity and entrepreneurial. They don’t like fuss; want to get their work done so they can play. Quality of life is most important. Gen Xer’s are great out of the box thinkers, value diversity and very resilient.
post 1979. Influenced by Columbine,
9/11, WTC. She describes them as neotraditional, ritual, optimistic,
technological, adept, heavy volunteerism, very busy lifestyles, and
multicultural, busy 24/7. These kids are
group centered (having more likely been in daycare) they lead or follow, highly
structured, over scrutinized, can’t breath, very hardworking. They like to make adults (baby boomers) happy
and do a lot of their activities to “please” the adults. She says that the group is very anxious,
sleep deprived, judged and tested (and tested and tested), poorly nourished
(eat on the run). They sustain academic pressure, social pressure, carrying the
family honor. She calls them “Human
Doings vs. Human Beings”.
Today’s kids are Millennials.
Here are some of the general characteristics of Millennials. Our kids are social at night, via IM, text messaging. They can’t sleep before 11:30pm and often go to sleep even later. We hold them up to community inspection by “honoring high achievers in the paper, and at school”. Because of high parental involvement, they are over criticized and often feel that their accomplishments are “not good enough”. They are angry at their parents for over pushing towards perfection. There is an epidemic impact on girls’ sense of self esteem and body image.
The kids’ hyper sports involvement has resulted in an increase in asthma and sports injuries. Stomach aches and headaches are more likely as well. These are all stress related illnesses.
Marilee stresses that the kids/parents should focus on THE MATCH with a particular college. This is how well they will fit with the college culture, activities, and academics. The best fit for the student is important. Parents and students should not try to change the student to fit a school but find the school that fits the student. Admissions officers want to know if you know WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU ARE GOOD AT.
Typical Problems Marilee Jones encounters:
Problem #1: We are raising a generation of kids who are trained to please adults, teachers, parents, coaches, admissions officers. These kids look to the outside for affirmation and do not look internally. This should be internal; they should be reading their inner voice. Who am I? What do I think?
Problem #2: Kids are great at working together on
projects but don’t seem to be as individually creative. They do not have downtime to get into their
imaginations. Where are the
Problem #3: The collective pressure makes kids break."
Investigative journalist and best-selling author Alexandra Robbins visited Mercer Island High School on Monday, November 6th. She spoke to over 300 parents, staff and students, who braved the inclement weather and even chose the event over watching the Seahawks on Monday Night Football!!
MIHS Principal John Harrison opened the evening by reminding us that Mercer Island High School students, who take advantage of the myriad opportunities that are offered to them, have increasingly high expectations of themselves and put a lot of pressure on themselves. He acknowledged that "Mercer Island students face an incredible time management challenge as they prepare for life beyond high school. Our students take challenging college preparation course loads that include numerous Advanced Placement, college level, and honors course. Our students are involved in multiple student activities, athletics and performing arts. In the Mercer Island School District, high expectations apply to all areas of school life. When family time, non-school related activities, friends, religions activities, and part-time jobs are factored in, our students are incredibly time-challenged. This time management challenge can result in increased stress levels, sleep deprivation, compromise, and potentially lower levels of performance."
Both Principal Harrison and middle school Principal Sharon Gillaspie believe that, as a community, we can do a better job of managing these "competing interests." In doing so, Mr. Harrison says we can "support our students in continuing to achieve and accomplish in a way that is more conducive to continued success and healthy balance." Alexandra's visit here was intended to kick-off a community dialogue about this very important topic.
Ms. Robbins, only 12 years out of high school herself, described her return to her alma mater, Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland, during the year of her 10th reunion. She was stunned by the change in atmosphere since she attended the school. The stark contrast inspired her to follow nine Whitman students for three semesters and then travel the country, interviewing students, admission directors, high school administrators, etc., to develop a picture of today's high school experience and college preparation process. She shares what she experienced and learned in her latest book The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids, which is essentially an examination of today's culture to succeed and "how it has changed the high school experience so drastically in even ten years that it has startlingly altered what it means to be a student today."
To read the complete summary, Download AlexandraRobbinsMI.doc.rtf.
I also recommend reading the book! It is full of engaging stories and in-depth commentaries, and reads quickly. Not your typical non-fiction book!
America’s Top Learning Expert Shows How Today’s Society Makes it Hard for Kids to Grow into Productive Adults - and What We Can Do About It.
The following is a book summary I prepared last year for a Mel Levine Book Cafe. Hope you find it useful!
Author: Mel Levine, M.D.
Mel Levine is a developmental pediatrician who has accompanied countless kids on journeys through their school years. He has witnessed their varied outcomes and now finds himself preoccupied with how and why different kids turn out so differently. He is especially concerned with kids who don’t turn out so well and wanted to know what we could have done differently for them as children and adolescents.
According to Levine, in recent years we have faced an epidemic of career - and life - unreadiness as too many young people begin what he calls the “start-up years” unprepared for the challenge of initiating a productive life. He believes that parents, schools and adolescents themselves can all work together to improve work-life readiness.
Part I: Who is this potentially an issue for?
According to Levine, the young adults he’s known who find themselves gridlocked during the transition from high school or college to adult work have come from various directions. A lot of them, surprisingly, were impressive students - the golden boys and girls - academically successful, athletic, politically astute and attractive. Others suffered from neurodevelopmental breakdowns that made school a perpetual come-from behind battle. Many were the well-behaved and compliant kids who can meet expectations as long as they are explicitly framed.
In particular, Dr. Levine sees four predicaments that often set the stage for work-life unreadiness. The four predicaments are 1) Trapped in their teens, 2) Ones who were once revered, 3) Some who have gone astray and 4) Victims of brain neglect.
To read more:
OK . . . so it's been over a YEAR since my last post. My world has been rocked by many things - books, articles, movies, conversations, speakers, websites - since July, 2005, but I've been immersed in a couple of big projects and blogging fell by the wayside.
Mel Levine was my 2005/06 big event. Author of three best-selling books, A Mind at a Time, The Myth of Laziness, and Ready or Not, Here Life Comes, Dr. Levine is one of the nation's preeminent expert on student learning. Beginning in spring 2005, I co-chaired a committee made up of parents and staff from each of the five schools in our District. We ultimately distributed about 150 of Levine's books to staff throughout the District, hosted Dr. Levine for a presentation to over 800 parents on the evening of March 14th, 2006, followed by an all-day workshop with our entire District staff on March 15th, raised over $80,000 in six weeks from the community to fund staff who wanted to attend Schools Attuned, a program for educators based on Dr. Levine's work, and ultimately hosted three Schools Attuned sessions in our community during Summer 2006. Sixty five staff, representing every school in the District, attended Schools Attuned and Mel Levine, once a relative unknown around here, has become a household word. Check out the All Kinds of Minds website for more info! Also, read the great interview with Dr. Levine on "Celebrate Strengths, Nuture Affinities" linked on the front page of the All Kinds of Minds website (All Kinds of Minds.) It's the top item under The News and is an interview from the September, 2006 edition of Educational Leadership Magazine.
Dr. Levine's pearl of wisdom "You build your life around your strengths and affinities" is one of my most-treasured parenting mantras.