September 24, 2008

TED: Ideas Worth Spreading

I don't often feel so strongly that I feel compelled to put someone else's ideas on my blog. This was just too good.
If you care at all about education, about ideas and about creating wonder, check this talk out from Sir Ken Robinson.
This has reaffirmed my idea to develop the High School Hikes program so that kids can clear their minds of clutter, focus on art and creativity and healthy ways to express themselves. Sorry if this somehow offends anyone. That was not my intent. I just believe that his talk has many interesting points which we often recognize but seldom act on. And it's good, at times, to hear someone else say things that we, perhaps, thought no one else in the room was thinking.
All my best and I'll work harder to blog more often. I would love to get more feedback from anyone on topics or interests that you may be interested in reading . . .

September 8, 2008

First Month Phone Calls From College

This has been an interesting few weeks of fielding phone calls for me. Without getting too specific or personal, regarding the individual students, I want to just express, here, what I would tell (and have told) any student who calls me in the first semester, to explain to me a negative trait of his/her college life:

We are humans. For humans, change is not easy. Drastic change, such as a move, being responsible for your own well-being and/or trying to create your own sense of happiness, all while existing in the midst of a community of new people, this is NOT easy! On top of this, it's almost always predictable as to which aspects of the college life are going to be the most difficult for each individual, in my experience. One particular student will struggle with a roommate; one will struggle with eating healthy; partying moderately; managing study time. There are so many aspects that make this move to college difficult. But just because it's difficult does not mean that it's not also exciting. Most of the students are totally satisfied with the physical location and environment of their college choice (hey, this IS my job!). It's letting go of their high school life, their nurturing environment and their amenities of home that makes the adjustment difficult. College is not a cult (well, there are some, but those aren't the schools my students attend). To enjoy the college experience does not require 'drinking the Kool-Aid'. All it requires is an open-mind and embrace. You see, it's an almost-guarantee that difficult times bring negative thoughts. We all doubt ourselves on occasion. This is normal. But there are formidable ways of coping with this doubt. The one that I highly recommend: call ME. If that's not your choice or you need something extra, try to confront your anxiety. In other words, make an effort to recognize what is so difficult about this change that you're undertaking and plan methods to make that change more manageable. If you're not making friends as easily as you would like, look at what your personal investment in making friends is. Maybe you have to go and say "hello" to everyone wearing a blue shirt on campus. Maybe you have to go join a club. Maybe you should reach out to a professor. If it's more a situation of being homesick. You're calling home several times a day, talking to your friends who stayed at the local college, plan trips back home for weekends, perhaps you need to self-impose limits. You start by calling home once a day (this will dwindle to, maybe 4 times a week, more or less). You get yourself off of Facebook. Instead of investing time and resources into planning trips home, go around campus and find information about the various weekend activities offered through the student body, clubs, town/city you're living in, or find a friend and plan a road trip!
Look, I might not be the most sympathetic in this situation. I understand that. Students work so hard to achieve during their high school years, that it seems to me a bit irresponsible to get to college and, within a semester, decide that it's not the appropriate fit. However, I do realize that there are some extreme situations. My word during these rare incidences (and I take it from my background in water polo): Leave it all in the pool. Leave it all in the classroom. Leave it all on campus. Don't leave any stone unturned, any connection unmade, any ally unaligned, any opportunity untaken! You may think that you would be better off at University X, but until you live there, you will never know. And, if you do end up transferring (which, after all options have been examined, is a fine idea) you should make certain that your effort at the first school was the best that you could have given. Because if you don't exert that positive attitude and work hard for a great collegiate experience, you are doing an injustice to yourself. Not only that, but being that change is not easy and college is (likely) the biggest change that you've undertaken thus far, college is not easy. Remember, cliches are cliches because they're true. The grass is always greener. The biggest change creates the greatest growth. You get out what you put in.
With that in mind, get back to the books.
Today you WILL make a new friend.
Today you WILL find out something new about your school or your school's town.
Today you WILL embrace all that hard work you put in to earn for yourself this amazing opportunity!