Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Fischbowl

I just came across an incredible blog by Karl Fisch, a teacher at Arapahoe High School in Littleton, Colorado entitled "The Fischbowl." He covers a wide variety of subjects, but two video clips he posted are extremely thought provoking. They address the rate of change and where he believes we are headed. He looks at the shifts that are happening in the world. As he states, "Shifts happen."

If even a small percentage of his projections come true, children who entered Kindergarten a couple of months ago will graduate from very different schools than they entered this fall.

Once you click on the posts listed below, you can read the post to get to the video, or simply scroll down to the video and play it. "Did You Know? 2.0" is a little more than eight minutes long and "2020 Vision" is fifteen minutes plus. They will both make you think. They will give you something to talk about with relatives over the Thanksgiving vacation.

Check out these videos:

"Did You Know? 2.0


"2020 Vision"

Monday, November 19, 2007


I spent Friday in Minnetonka Middle School East with their sixth graders. Minnetonka is a western Minneapolis suburb. At the end of the day, I stopped in to see my sister, Kathy, who teaches seventh grade English there, and she introduced me to FreeRice.com. What a GREAT website!

According to FreeRice's website:

"FreeRice has two goals:

1. Provide English vocabulary to everyone for free.
2. Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.

This is made possible by the sponsors who advertise on this site. Whether you are CEO of a large corporation or a street child in a poor country, improving your vocabulary can improve your life. It is a great investment in yourself.

Perhaps even greater is the investment your donated rice makes in hungry human beings, enabling them to function and be productive. Somewhere in the world, a person is eating rice that you helped provide. Thank you."

Once you go to the website, it will show you how to play on the right side of the page. Simply follow the directions, click, learn and help fight world hunger.

I'm addicted! I spent a couple of hours over the weekend clicking, learning and doing a small part to help give away free rice to people who need it. You should try it!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"That sucks!"

I was at Henry Sibley High School in Suburban St. Paul, Minnesota today to give a presentation to their senior class and had fun for about eighty minutes with approximately 400 students, many of whom have already started counting the days till graduation.

I know I made an impact on these seniors for a couple of reasons. One, they gave me a standing ovation. That’s always a good sign! Secondly, at the end of the day, one of the counselors approached me and wanted to tell me what she had experienced.

She told me in the hour or two following my program, in which I addressed a number of issues including college, three students came to her and told her they had not been planning on going to college; but after hearing me speak, they wanted to get information on applying to colleges for next fall! She was amazed and very thankful.

Pat Johnson has hired me a few times over the last several years to speak at Sibley and at another school where she worked before she moved to Sibley. She wanted me to spend some time with their seniors; then I was free to go because I thought I had double-booked another school for the afternoon. I told her that school had been rescheduled so I could spend the rest of the day at Sibley. So, she went into hyper speed and started trying to schedule classrooms to visit. We went looking for teachers who might want me to visit their classroom. Once I’m in a building, I want to be with students. I always have a hard time leaving a school!

We finally went into a teacher lounge during lunch and met Lee Huenecke who teaches tenth grade health classes. He smiled and said, "Sure, come into my room. I was planning to give a test today, I'm sure the students wouldn't mind putting it off another day."

We went into his classroom and he told his students they were having a guest speaker today, instead of the test; and no one had a problem with that!

Pat then introduced me and she went back to her duties as one of the assistant principals in this school of about 1,600 students.

Since these students hadn't heard me in the morning, I started to tell my story and early on, I said something like, "I broke my neck playing football when I was in high school."

I no sooner got out those words, and a student in the back of the classroom matter-of-factly said, "That sucks!"

It just hit me and I lost it! I started laughing and had a hard time regaining my composure so I could continue! In more that 5,000 speeches, no one has ever said that, at least not that I could hear. It was just hysterical and set the tone for the rest of the hour. I had more fun with these kids than I've had in a long time and I think the reason was I was very relaxed and they immediately felt comfortable with me. They knew I could laugh at my situation, and they were very open to what I wanted to tell them. I made a great connection with the whole class and we bonded right off the bat. I had 'em! It was an amazing, fun-filled hour.

I also made a special connection with a young man whose name is Rolando. Rolando showed me some leadership skills as he helped me navigate my website with a small, Mac laptop. The room wasn't equipped with a large monitor, so Rolando would take the laptop and walk up and down the aisles showing everyone the pictures we were discussing. It was fun to watch as he took ownership of the tasks I had him carry out and I could see his character come out as the hour moved on.

It was one of those "teachable moments" that lasted an entire class period! I would like to be a fly on the wall tomorrow during class to see what the conversation will be like when Mr. Huenecke asks them what they thought of my presentation.

Students are including me in their emails

I told you on October 6th about the Virginia Youth Leadership Forum I speak at each summer at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia. Well, I have an update.

I started a Facebook listing a few weeks back and almost immediately two students who were at the last two forums, signed on to my listing as Friends. We've exchanged a couple of emails and our relationships are continuing to develop.

Then, on Monday, I received this note from another student who has been corresponding with me on a fairly regular basis since July:

"Wednesday I went to my own 504 meeting. I helped to figure out what accommodations I need. It was a great experience. I feel like I will be ready for college in a year."

The significance of this note is she wanted both Teri Barker-Morgan, the director of the program, and me to know she's advocating for herself in the planning of her Individual Education Plan (IEP). The student, Elizabeth, has credited her attendance at YLF and me as key components of her newly-found confidence in her ability and willingness to be a big part of her self-advocacy in her education planning.

She's a very determined young woman with a wonderful future to look forward to. I'm excited to see her taking an active role in her education, and humbled she thinks enough of our friendship to include me in her email notices like this.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Community College Diversity

I spent Wednesday afternoon with a Human Relations class at Minneapolis Community and Technical College in downtown Minneapolis. The twenty-five students are working towards an Associates of Arts degree in Business Office Administration. Their instructor, Margret Lydell, asked me to address issues like leadership and diversity.

I spent two and one-half hours addressing those and a good number of other issues like creative problem-solving, critical thinking, attitude and motivation. We had a great session and, at the end of class, they asked several very good, thoughtful questions.

There were several things that stood out for me, but one of the big things was the diversity and the number of immigrant students. At one point, I asked how many students were born in a country other than the United States. By far the lion's share of the students are first generation immigrants.

They told me there are eighty different languages spoken at MCTC! I don't know exactly how representative of their population this particular class is, but it just struck me how such a diverse group of young people are studying at one small, post-secondary institution in the middle of downtown Minneapolis. I think it's great!

They obviously understood me because of the questions they asked, the conversations I had with a few of them after class and the comments a couple of students made to their instructor, Margret Lydell.

After the students had all gone, Margret told me a couple of great stories about what students had told her.

Another good day, doing what I absolutely love. Another reminder I'm not done yet!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

My new buddy, Jacob

I was back in Denison, Iowa yesterday at the Denison Job Corps. It was my fourth visit to their campus, and once again, I had a great day! I did my assembly for the whole group; then, I did three small group programs.

In the second group was a young man whose name is Jacob. I was having a good time doing some experiential learning exercises and he seemed to be very engaged in what we were doing. That group left and when the last group came in, Jacob was in that group as well.

I had my website hooked up and we were using it to look at the pictures of my accident, photos in the hospital and I showed them pictures of my van and how I drive. I also wanted to show them some of the educational materials I have to build on some points from my program.

The staff person who had helped me the hour before had to leave, so I asked for a volunteer to assist me with navigating my website. Jacob volunteered right away. Like most young people today, Jacob is very adept at using a computer and he was a tremendous help.

To say Jacob strikes me as a character is a huge understatement! He was wearing a nice leather jacket, heavy, work jeans and steel-toed boots. He told me he was studying to be a welder. I'm betting he'll be a very good one.

We started joking with each other about his thick, full beard, and about our slowly expanding foreheads. I told him I can empathize with the whole idea of male pattern baldness!

The reason I wanted to write about him is I feel like I made a great connection with him and it didn't take a whole lot of effort on my part. I don't know how he feels, but I know I won't forget my new buddy, Jacob!

It was just another example of how we, as adults, can make a difference in a young person's life in a very short period of time. It happens to me ALL of the time.