Saturday, December 11, 2004

Stranger's Birthday Party #3

Last night, Lexi and I went to a party that her coworker Dave invited us to. We thought it was a housewarming party, but it was this guy named Brian's birthday party. It made me think back to the times I've randomly ended up at the birthday party of someone I didn't know. It also made me wonder why I couldn't remember any friends of friends ever showing up at one of my birthday party. I guess it's the nature of the caltech friends network. Most of my friends are techers. Most of their friends are techers, and so on.

Had a full week. I had student recruitment on Tuesday. I'm never as good as Taja or Mike at selling the program. But I still managed to get about 35 students signed up for the next information session. I doubt we'll see much change to our student cohort in next years class. I have come to accept the part that our program has to play in the school. The academy is there to push those students who are just below the passing point for the CAHSEE and SAT9s over the acceptible performance line so we don't get spanked by No Child Left Behind. It's not a bad thing. It is definitely a good role to play and it should work as long as we can pull only the just below the average students. If we pull those that are too far behind, they will hurt the progress of the group that we can help to pass the tests. It's like triage. Prioritize the potentially fatal but easily healed cases and accept that there is nothing to do for the mortally wounded. I'm not being a pessimist, just a realist. Even if someone in congress botched the budget and switched our accounts with the defense department's, we wouldn't be able to save everyone. Your priority as a public school teacher should be to save as many students as possible without working so hard you burn yourself out. Too many teachers come into the job thinking they'll save everyone. After 2 years of working 12 hour days and grading and prepping lessons on the weekends, half of new teachers quit. Too many of these teachers were good teachers who got frustrated because they were not great. They are blinded by their failure to save all of their students and don't see how their help saved so many other students. If they only conserved their energy, they would do so much more for society by being a good teacher for a decade or more.

I had the steering committee Christmas Party to host on Wednesday. It was a little nerve wracking because the industry members all came very late. The teachers were a little frustrated by this, but they seemed to settle in and have a good time after everyone showed. I had a great time too. My only worry is that the steering committee is in need for new industry members and I've had a terrible time trying to recruit them. Again, my salesmanship fails me.

Lexi and I had a talk earlier this week about the difference between leaders and managers. She had attended a leadership training seminar where they explained that companies start out needing leaders and then as they grow, they develop the need for managers. Leaders excel at providing the big picture level of planning. They see the ultimate goal for the group. Managers excel at making sure the details are taken care of. They take the big picture plan, plan the process for achieving it, and making sure each of the members of the group does their part. I have to admit, my skills seem mostly focused around management. Jack, Mike and Taja all excel in explaining the big picture of our program to others. Whereas I can take care of the paperwork much more efficiently.

Thursday was our adopt-a-family event so I spent most of that day running around trying to keep mentors and students interacting.

Then that Thursday afternoon, there was a Sequoia Leadership Team meeting. It feels good to have our opposition under control now. The current facilitators are keeping discussion moving and achieving our goals. It's frustrating how many pedagogical quagmires our discussions get stuck in. I try to laugh, when I make a practical suggestion, including a timeline and specific outcomes for each group, and I watch discussion roll right past it only to return to that same conclusion a half an hours worth of pedagogical nonsense later. I guess some people's process requires a lot more reitiration of guiding principles than mine does. I only need to be given the big picture once before I start filling in the details.

All together a busy week. Got a lot done, and things went pretty much as planned. I'm thankful of the vacation coming up though. I need to unplug a little.

Anyway, it was a fun party this Friday and I really needed it after this week. I had a wonderful conversation about Russian and Existentialist Literature and let the load of the week slip off my shoulders.

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