"Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but
with no idea why they’re doing it."
William Deresiewick couldn't have said it better. This segment of his article titled Don't Send your Kid to the Ivy League sums up pretty much the idea of the IA: giving students a PURPOSE in the workplace. In my junior year, I was able to see how that applied to me in a way no one would have imagined; I went from talking about the weekends in school to talking on the weekends about school. Although it was hard to be the first, the minority, and the i s o l a t e d (considering that 9/10 of the grade took IB and OPP programs), I gained the satisfaction of seeing this decision shape my view of what real success looks like for me and no one else, opening my ambitions and helping me find my passion for visual media.
We kicked off Monday with a group project between grade levels. I-week, as we've called it, is a new tradition we've incorporated where IA sophomores through seniors will work collaboratively, separated in three teams to undertake an entrepreneurship challenge. And this time, in the sake that we've all been new at some point and that we're freshly into the year, our focus is:
how to make people feel welcome &
make their transition smoother.
The first day was harsh: people were afraid to share their ideas, the dynamics were sloooow, the organization was all over the place and we were all doing the same tasks which led to an unproductive and switched off first 2-hours given that the work each person was supplying didn't seem to make a difference for the entire group. To complement this, I want to bring back an excerpt from Deresiewic's article:
"There are exceptions, kids who insist, against all odds, on trying to get a real education. But their experience tends to make them feel like freaks."
I recall the many times Mr. Topf got frustrated because we were lost, switched off or felt uncomfortable handling the "exclusion" of being in the IA (oh, those grade assembly's...). We were the "freaks". For the first time I could completely empathize with my mentor because being strict, knowing how to deal with this small frustrations and switching people on is HARD, but ESSENTIAL--and that was going to be the real challenge of i-week.
To my relief, I was not the only who had this frustration because Gise and Drew shared also this feeling and together we felt the urge to take a grip on the situation. After setting the conflict on the table we realized that what was keeping us from having a beautiful process (not only product) was that no one had a defined role. Part of it was because we didn't know people's strengths yet we had to discover them quickly. We decided to take the role as project managers and give the whole team THE TALK.
🕧 🕜 🕝 🕞 🕟 🕠 🕡 🕢 🕣 🕤
3, 2, 1, go! ⌚
My main take away from i-week is that leadership is HARD. Being a good leader is NOT about maintaining perfection but about having the courage to speak up when things are going wrong. Once we did, and divided into our teams (film, presentation and product) everyone knew what they were doing but more so they felt comfortable disagreeing and evaluating if the process we were following was as efficient as it could get. The motivation of the group was in crescendo as we saw the pieces come together and even if some went into areas were they found they did not feel passionate about, at least they got it off their list. I specially loved how although no one was strictly monitoring or assessing us, we where SWITCHED ON. Why? Because we have the WHY-- It's that simple.
Tomorrow's the day! Bill's team #forthewin!