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Youth Leadership Facilitated Dialogue


Youth Leadership

A Presentation and Dialogue Facilitated by Kelly Patrick Gerling, Ph.D.
for 50 Student Leaders from four High Schools in the East Kansas League

At Bishop Miege High School, Roeland Park, Kansas, 1992
 
John Dillon asked me to talk about is leadership, whatever that means for you, and of course, we want to have something to deal with leadership that is fun and interesting and would be of value to you.  That’s because I've been told that the people here are the leaders, the student leaders of four different high schools, meaning that you all are in charge.  
 
NOT!  But you're still leaders to a certain extent.  How many are leaders of cheerleading?
 
I thought you would jump up.
 
(laughter)
 
So we have leaders of cheerleading.  We have leaders of what else? 
 
(Yearbook)
 
How many others?  Be proud.  Yearbook.  Yes.  What else?  Yearbook?  Cheerleading.
 
(newspaper)
 
Freedom of the press in school.  You can print anything you want.
 
(laughter)
 
Little joke.  Okay.  What else?  Newspapers.  I just want to know.  I want to know about what you do.  
 
(drill team)
 
Drill team.  Okay.  So drill team.  What am I missing?  Student Council.  NHS...what does that mean?
 
(cross-talk)
 
No, okay.  Duh.  You can tell I wasn't a member.
 
(laughter)
 
All right.  So we're student leaders, and we also do what, everyday for about 8 hours?
 
(learn)
 
Okay, so we sit in class in whatever state - we know what state Luke is in.  Okay.  And so we do this thing most of the time, which is to be a student in class.  And the whole idea of what would leadership mean if you're a high school student, what would leadership mean if you're a high school administrator?  Should we leave them out of the presentation or include them?
 
(cross talk)
 
Let's bring them in.  Can we have a round of applause if we can allow them to be part of the presentation?
 
(applause)
 
Because leadership, we need leadership to be cooperative, so we even include administrators as part of what we need to do to make things better, whatever that means.  I'm a proud graduate of St. Agnes grade school over there back in the old days, and I went to Rockhurst High School for one year.  There were no girls there, so I took off.   I left.  I got smart and I came over to where there were young women, namely Bishop Miege, and I started here, finished here, and I didn't drop out.  And then after that I went on to college and went to school for 10 more years.  TEN MORE YEARS!!!  Yes, 10 more years.  How many are going to go to college?
 
Nearly everyone.  I went for 10 years after high school.  I actually got interested in learning.  I turns out it can be really fun, at least in my case, and so I studied psychology and stuff, I got a master's in counseling, psychology and PhD in clinical psychology, and now I do work in leadership and I work with corporations and I work with educational revolution.  That is, we are creating an entirely new model of education.  It is called the ELF Model.  It is named after the non-profit organization I co-founded called the Enthusiasm for Learning Foundation.  So we're going to talk about what's happening in the corporate world, the real world, in which you will sometime join in order to make money.  There are a lot of changes going on there, and there's a lot of talk about changes going on in educational institutions.  They're fundamental, radical shifts in business and they're really, really interesting.  So we're going to get into some of that kind of stuff, but we have to get into things that are relevant for you or else this is a worthless endeavor.  So we want to figure out what's relevant to you and that's interesting.
 
I came...does anybody know Bill Reardon here at Miege?
 
(affirmative)
 
Yes, Bill Reardon is an old friend, because he was a teacher when I was a student here, and there are lots of really great people that I remember.  Bill Rost.  Chuck Rost.  Whatever his name is.  That's the old joke.  Bill Rost was here when I was a student, and he still is.  Is he still funny?
 
(yes)
 
Good.  I'm glad.  He still has a great sense of humor.  But we have some great teachers at Miege who've been here for a long time.  I came back.  Remember when Kansas City blew up?  On TV?  Back in '84.  Eight years ago?  The Day After.  Yeah.  Kansas City blew up on TV, ABC, and they asked me to come and talk with Bill's classes.  I talked with 500 kids in Social Studies classes in groups of 90, so, and the whole idea was that, well, if there's going to be a nuclear war, if these grownups can't figure out how to get along, maybe young people could help them figure it out perhaps.  So we talked about how many believed there could be a nuclear war and that was back when there was a Cold War and people were really worried and concerned about it.  So we talked about it and you could write letters to your Senator and your Congressman, and everything like that, and we talked and we talked and I sort of brought out questions, and at the end, I said, "How many of you are really going to do anything?"
 
No hands.  Like, "We're not going to get involved.  We can't do anything.  We're out of power in that area.  I have no power."  And so, they didn't want to do anything, so I felt like, "Oh, God, I've failed as a presenter to motivate them."  They didn't exactly get up and march to go to their Congressman's office and say, "Put a stop to this nonsense!"  There was a young person who did take the lead...Samantha Smith.  She wrote a letter to Gorby, or whoever.  I think it wasn't Gorby at that time.  Who was the leader back then?  Kruschev.  Not that far back.  Andropov?  Uri Andropov?  She wrote a letter and it might have been Gorbachev in his earlier...when he was still in power, and she wrote a letter to him, and he says, "Well come on over," you know, because she was suggesting that, well you should have the granddaughter exchange program...you know, your grandchildren and President whoever...Reagan's grandchildren should like exchange, because you're not going want to blow up the other country if your own kids are over there, and he says, "You've got good ideas, come on over."  So she came over and created this big thing and then she became an actress and unfortunately, her aircraft crashed, and so she died about 4 years ago.
 
She took great leadership, I think, in writing a letter, actually doing something.  She wrote a letter and created an incredible visibility for young people in getting involved in that deal.  I went to one of my teachers after I talked at Miege and got this flat response, "No, we don't want to do anything about it.  We've got our own problems."  And her name is Virginia Satir.  She died in 1988, and this one, she co-founded family therapy in the United States, and she was my family therapy teacher, and she lived to be about 76 and did amazing things with creating change in families, making families happier and as I said, she'd been in 25 countries for 20 years teaching about 300 days a year all over the earth, and made lots of money, wrote lots of books, was on Phil Donahue and all kinds of things, and I said, "Virginia, I gave this presentation at my old high school about being responsible for the larger world, for the arms race, for real problems in the real world.  I told them if there was something that you, the kids, would blow up, too, if there was a war, it's something very real that could affect your life.  Their response was, 'Well, you know, that's great and it should change but there's nothing we can do about it.'  Sort of a response that 'I can't do anything.'  Why is that?  Do I need to do something different?"
 
She said something that I've always remembered.  She said, "How could you expect them to want to actually assume responsibility for a problem in the world when they don't assume responsibility and are not given responsibility in their own community?"  Meaning their school.
 
I said, "Good point."  Because the way schools are structured...no fault of teachers, it's not the fault of administrators.  It's a system that's been going for 150 years that was started in Massachussetts by Horace Mann and it's still the same system.  You know, desks in a row, subjects, don't talk to your neighbor.  Let's not always see the same hands.  All those things that are part of school were created 150 years ago, and they were modeled off of the Prussian Army training that they did way before that.  See, before the regular school system that I grew up in, I spent 18,000 hours, as have you, in K-12 you've spent about 16,500, and have about another 1000 to go and that 18,000 hours of being in school, called K-12, is something that we all participated in.  
 
When she said, "Well, students don't have any real responsibility for actually running their community or being responsible for how things go and that's why they don't feel like they can do anything beyond the school, to actually get anything done or to show any leadership." 
 
So I said, "Well, that's interesting."  So I started asking people who were still in school, "What do you get to do?  What do you have power to do?  Can you set any part of the schedule, like how long lunch is?  When classes start?  What you take?  Where you eat?   What are the answers to all these?"
 
No.
 
Can you choose who the teachers are that are hired by the school?  How the money is spent?  What you eat that's served in the cafeteria?
 
Sometimes.
 
Can you still drive outside of school?  Just seniors?
 
(no)
 
You can't go out for lunch?
 
(no)
 
So here's the thing that's interesting, is, how do the decisions get made in school?  Who makes them and how are they made?  What subjects are taught, how schedules are determined, how money is spent, how teachers are hired.  Who decides those things?
 
(teachers)
 
That's one group.  Who else?
 
(administrators)
 
Yeah, the administration at the school, maybe the faculty, although I don't think the faculty has that much power either, a lot of times.  It's just, you know, part of the system.  Maybe the Bishop?  Can the Bishop over Catholic schools do anything about what happens?  I'm not sure.  I think so.  It's definitely a top/down thing, and whether it's parochial schools, Catholic schools, or whether it's public schools, the basic system of subject-based learning and so forth, adults in charge, making all the decisions, you, Mary, making sure that you do what you're told, along with the rest of you, to a certain extent.  I mean, so I asked a lot of students, "Well, if you all decided you wanted to make more decisions in the schools so you could do things in your own way, whatever that way would be, that is, it would be democratic, and you would have more responsibility, then how would that happen?"  
 
And the regular response, as spoken in "teenage-ese" was, "I don't know.  They're in charge.  I can't do anything.  I just play the game.  Gotta go to college, you know, so I can make money."
 
And I've asked a lot, "Well, how do you like school?"  And you get a lot of, "Well, you know, you go and you put up with it and you have to do it because that's how you do the next thing, which is college, and the next thing which is a job," and it's just sort of a lock-step process that I went through, too, and that you're going through.
 
So it's like what if something could happen so that things were done with people who are your age, in their early 20's...no, people who were in school, in such a way that you could be totally enthusiastic and excited about what you did all 18,000 hours from K-12.  What if it could be done in such a way that you were really excited about that, and what would that look like?  How many times during lunch does someone take something from their class that they've taken...and no tickling back there...just kidding.  Tickle all you want.  I think it's fine.  Fondle, tickle, whatever.
 
(laughter)
 
How many times during lunch do you talk about the actual subject matter that you're here in school to learn?  How often do people go, "Wow!  You know, in Biology class those mitochondria things in the cell?  They do this energy transformation with the adenosene triphosphate turning into a adenosene diphosphate  and energy goes off and through the cell, and it's cool!"
 
Or whatever.
 
Or, "Wow!  We learned this new way to write this new paragraph structure and I'm going to go try out a bunch of them tonight in the article I'm writing, and I'm really getting better at those sentences.  Pretty soon, I'm going to be a kick-ass sentence diagrammer.  Not only that, I'm going to know all kinds of social studies to write about."
 
Really.  I'm playing a little bit, but how often do people actually talk about the subject matter?  Not grades, because that's a different thing than the actual thing you're learning.  How often do people talk with interest?  What percentage of the time during your long lunch of...how long?
 
(unintelligible cross talk)
 
How long do you get?  An hour and 10?  We have some variation here. 
 
(cross talk)
 
Who gets 25?  Who likes that?  Okay.  Who gets an hour and 10?  And hour and 20.  What school is this?
 
(Miege)
 
I'm a Miegean.  I'm a Stag.  Okay.  How did that get decided that at Miege you'd have an hour and 10 minutes...20 minutes?  Oh, it's a senior privilege.  Okay.  Who decided...yeah.  So it's something you can earn, kind of?  That's nice, at least you have the option of avoiding indigestion.  Not only is there not enough time, but the food is...I don't know.  I haven't eaten high school food lately.  How often, what percentage of the time, are people talking about what they're learning with a degree of interest and enthusiasm about the subject matter?
 
Five?  How many say it's a lot more than that?  How many say it's a lot less than that?  Okay.  So somewhere less than 5% of the time we're actually talking about what we're here to do, which is learn subjects, by design.  What does that mean?  It means there's a problem.
 
Now, how many times do people, during lunch, and after school, talk about sports they're involved with?  A lot?  Okay.  Now, do people choose which sport they want to do?  That's totally voluntary?  Interesting.  
 
Choice creates enthusiasm. 
 
Is this a hypothesis we could entertain?  The other day, I came up here and I was going to be playing basketball and the sophomore girls were practicing, so all my friends and I couldn't really play, but they let us play anyway.  I watched them for a while, and they and their coach, they were playing together and they were practicing, and what they were doing is intensely figuring out how to spike the ball over the net.  They were into it.  They were charged up about it.  They were practicing the fundamentals.  And the same thing occurred to me, is that, "Well, maybe they are choosing to learn volleyball, because they want to learn volleyball."  And there was a lot of enthusiasm, dedication, discipline, interest.  I'm sure they talk about it all the time, you know, how to get better, how can their team excel.  
 
When I was here I played basketball and I played football in my senior year, and my friends on our teams, we lost one game in football by one point, that was it.  We won all the rest of them, and we were pretty keyed up about having a good football team.
 
Basketball, we lost 7 games, but we won 16, which isn't too bad.  And we were very interested in that, too.  I sometimes told jokes, not all of which were totally clean, on the bus to the games with some of my friends.  And we were really interested in it.  I wanted to play basketball.  I played all the time.  I wanted to play football.  I liked catching touchdown passes - not as often as I would have liked to, but I caught a few and that was rather fun, and I chose that.  
 
When it came to other subjects, I wasn't that interested either.  It's like the difference between want to and have to, something like that.  So what percentage, do you think, of the subjects that you're learning, and the way you're learning them, is a have-to versus a want-to?  Eighty?  How many say 80% is outrageous and far too high, that it should be...no?  Mike, you don't have a lot of opposition here.  How many say it's higher than 80%?  Yeah, it's more like 90% of have-to and 10% want-to.  Could be that Mike is speaking for the group.  Is Mike's idea that 80% of what we're learning in the subjects we're not all that excited about?  It's sort of a, "Well you have to do it, and I'm really excited about it..."  How many say it's more like 50/50?
 
Yeah.  How many say it's more like 90/10, like 90% of your subjects you really want to do it and it isn't a have-to.  Okay, so we get some.  All right.  And people have different interests.  That's part of the deal.  So if we're able to create an environment as leaders where we're really excited about everything that we do, because we choose, and we like to do it, and everything like that, then how much more would you learn of whatever you're learning?  I mean, they're a lot more subjects in the universe than 7 or 8...I've heard.  I mean, I went to a library once, and I've got 2,500 books and I've read them all, and I keep reading and I keep learning because I'm learning what I want to learn.  I want to learn about how the human brain works and how leadership works, and how to be better, and how to create change in the world and it's cool.  It's fun.
 
But I'm doing what I want to do now.  And the thing is, as far as leadership goes, we want to have an enthusiasm and bring out the full potential of a person whether that person is 5 years old or 8 years old or 10 or 17 or 18, like you.  And how do we bring out the full potential?  Well, did anybody here ever study primatology?  Primatology is the study of (monkey sounds)..the study of apes.  The study of apes is like, what do they do?  What are they capable of?  What do they learn?  A long time ago, like 25 years ago, in all the history up to 25 years ago, everybody thought that apes could do this and they were kind of rude and threw poop at you through their cages, you know, and didn't do much, because all the apes they studied were in zoos and laboratories.  And so they didn't have that many capabilities, they thought.  
 
Well, then there was a guy named Schaller and then there were two people after Schaller - Dianne Fossey and Jane Goodall, who decided to study apes, not in zoos, not in laboratories, but where they lived, where they actually functioned.  I've got a video.  Jane Goodall actually studied them and watched how they behaved in their own community.  For 20 years she studied a group of 50 chimpanzees, studied how they actually do things, and they did amazing things, as far as the way they related, the way they communicate, the way they organize themselves, the way they use tools.  Their full capabilities came out in the natural environment when they weren't captive and that came...How many have seen: "Gorillas in The Mist?"
 
So you see the gorillas and the incredible way that they do things and the way they're organized and communicate...and they're big, too...and, course they were big in the zoo, but she found out new things by relating to them where they lived, rather than in the zoo, and they're capable to probably 10 to 100 times more complex things than they normally did in the zoo.
 
Well, let's take another group.  That's theory number one, the apes and the new research that's coming out when we eliminate captivity, eliminate choice.  Another situation is, is very interesting, in a country like, let's take East Germany.  Up until when was East Germany totally Communist?  This is a history quiz?
 
What wall?  You were speaking, you were guessing.  '88 or '89?  Right in there, the Berlin Wall came down.  Now, and what did the West Germans find out about the East German workers?  It could be summed up scientifically by saying (rasberry noise).  Actually, in the Soviet Union and East Germany, they didn't talk about going to work.  They talked about attending work.  Sound familiar?
 
(laughter)
 
They attended work.  They didn't go work.  They didn't get to pick their jobs...not like we do in the West, not like they did in West Germany.  They had to do certain things.  They didn't make much money.  They weren't at all in charge of what was happening.  It was Communism.  And then, what happens is they end Communism and all of the sudden the East German workers are starting their own businesses and they're getting more productive and they're joining West Germany and they're creating all kinds of neat things.  So that productivity came out when we eliminated the external control, or the authoritarian control of somebody higher up.
 
Well, this is interesting, because all of the educational research that's been done and all the efforts at school reform are being done on people who are like you, in schools where it's a non-democratic regime running it.  As you say, you can't choose diddly-squat about what you do, more or less.  And I'm here to tell you that your productivity and what you can learn and the excitement that's possible when learning and doing things is low, compared to what it could be if you would be given responsibility or if you would take responsibility in such a way as to have more freedom to choose.
 
Let's take the typical school.  I don't know if it's true in this school, about the way relationships are and the way authority is.  Okay.  Where do the students eat and where does the faculty eat?  Do they eat in the same place?
 
No.  Different restaurants, so to speak. 
 
 So the faculty and the students eat at a separate location.  
 
What about bathrooms?  Go to the same bathrooms?  Faculty and students?
 
No?  Sometimes?  So there are faculty bathrooms where no students can tread, or do something worse?  Okay.  All right.  
 
What else is different?  What separates faculty from students besides lunch rooms and bathrooms.  What else?
 
Age?  They have separate parking?  Agh!  Okay.  
 
And anything else different?  Uniforms?  You have to were uniforms?  Even the boys?  Yeah?  Okay.  So do they have their own dress code?  Can they wear anything they want?  It's just a different dress code?  Do you have to wear a tie?  Should I take it off?  So there's a difference.
 
What does this mean that the faculty and the students have this separatism, have this apartheid?  Who controls the decisions?
 
(They do.)
 
Okay.  The faculty do?  I think a lot of the decisions made in the high school actually happen outside the high school by superintendents and boards and things like that, although some are made in the high school.  And this isn't a situation we want to blame anybody.  We just want to look at the system and why people aren't enthusiastic about what they're supposed to do here, which is learn, except in the rare cases when you get to choose what you're learning.
 
So in 1960, my older brother worked at J.C. Penney's in Mission and there's a restaurant right outside J.C. Penney's and he went there and he went with this friend of his who is an African American guy and they went into this restaurant and the owner of this restaurant said to my brother, "You can come,"  because he was white...that's my brother.  But the other guy, who was not white, was told, "Well, you can't eat here," for the obvious reason that he was black and this was a white-only restaurant.  So my brother said, "Well, this isn't cool.  This guy's my friend." So they went to another restaurant and they went back to J.C. Penney's and the told the heads of the company about what happened, and so all of Penney's decided not to go to this restaurant any more.  The restaurant soon changed their policy.  This showed some leadership on the part of my brother and this fellow to confront this problem of separation and inequality.
 
Now, remember soon after that, it was in the '60s, a group of people decided, because, you know, in the bus system, the blacks had to ride where?  Back of the bus and what was the lady who decided to sit in the front of the bus, anyway?  Okay, so Rosa Parks decided to sit in the front anyway.  Does she act alone?  No.  She had a whole group of people that she was working with and this was part of a strategic plan to confrol the system, so there were others that were her friends, male and female, who were...but she was the one that had the courage to do it first, and she got arrested.  She confronted the system in a non-violent manner and got a lot of attention to the idea that maybe we can have equal rights for black people.
 
What about women?  When did women learn to vote...or get to vote?
 
(laughter)
 
It's not that much of a slip of the tongue.  They learned that they could be responsible and they took charge so they could learn to vote.  When did that happen?  I think it's August, 1920, but they started the process of initiating it in the Congress and so forth, in 1917, right around in there.  Susan B. Anthony and people like that were very much involved in the creation of women being able to vote in the 1870’s.  Now if we're to have enthusiasm, and you as student leaders, and those of us here who are faculty and administrators, we have the same goal...the goal of enthusiasm for learning as administrators...what do you think about that?
 
(terrific idea)
 
See, I think there's a commonality between what the students want, which is whatever it takes to feel happy and good about what you're doing and getting your needs met and being enthusiastic, and what faculty administrators want, because I just haven't found any differences.  We have the same goals.  And so what would a school be like if there was a kind of relationship between adults and the students in such a way that choices could be had, that there could be democracy?  What would be the indicators that that was a shift?  
 
So if I go...what's your name? (to an individual student)
 
(Annie)
 
I say, "My name is Dr. Gerling."
 
(Hi)
 
And I'll try another one.  What's your name?
 
(Rita)
 
My name's Kelly.  What's the difference?
 
(The first name is more personal and not talking down to the student.)
 
Kelly's more personal, and then I used my formal title, Dr. Gerling, and how's the difference in how you'd feel in either case about being with me in some sort of process of learning or something like that?  Is there a difference?  Does it matter?
 
(Yes, a lot.)
 
Josh says it's intimidating if it's Dr. Gerling or Mr. Gerling, or whatever, Ms. Gerling.  So if I use the title, then it's intimidating.  What else do you feel like if someone else is using a title?
 
(You are controlling  me.)
 
Okay, I have control over you.  I'm exaggerating.  So Geeta, Kelly, first name basis...more comfortable, better?  What is the situation in your schools, because I truly do not know.  Are students on a first-name basis with faculty and administrators?
 
(no)
 
Never?  Brent says outside of class, maybe.  So there would be exceptions, but not very many.  Mike, you're saying it's very rare to be on a first-name basis.  Okay.  Do you think...would you be more comfortable saying what you really wanted and participating if you were on a first name basis with the people who were faculty or administrators?  How many say, "yes?"  I presented a...I was talking with someone who is a sophomore here at Miege, who shall go unnamed, and we were talking about this, and I said, "Well, what if you went to a teacher and said, 'Mrs. Henderson, could I just call you "Suzie?"  You call me Julie.  You know, it will be cool, we'll be on a first-name basis, publicly and in class.'"  I asked what would happen if she did this.  Mrs. Henderson would say, "Maybe I'd like to, if she was cool.  I'd like to do that, but I really can't because it's against the rules."
 
So then I said, "So what if, then, in response to this slap in the face, you were to say, 'Well, all right, Mrs. Henderson.  If that's how it is, that's how it is.'"  So the next time Julie is sitting in her seat, she raises her hand, Mrs. Henderson says, "Julie?"  
 
And Julie says, "My friends call me 'Julie.'  You have to call me 'Miss Smith,' Mrs. Henderson.  I wanted to be on a first-name basis with you, but you refused.  I'll still give you a chance.  It's your last warning.  Otherwise, it's 'Miss Smith.'"
 
I said, "What would happen if you did that?"  
 
(You’d have to go the principal’s office.)
 
The principal's office, because you broke the rule, because you decided to do this.  So all the students are called by the first name, if I understand you right, and all the teachers are called by their title.
 
(Yes.)
 
See, some people who would watch this or listen to this tape might say, "Well, you're sort of leading them to certain conclusions, so I want to ask you, do the titles and the first name, does it really mean this?
 
(Yes.)
 
Okay.  So Matt's pointing out that there can be exceptions to this, depending on how the teacher, if the teacher is what...what word do we use to describe teachers who we can really relate to, even though we call them by their official title anyway?  Are they "cool?"  Are they "nice?"
 
(cool)
 
So they can relate to the student.  There's more of a rapport there.  They see your point of view, that kind of stuff?  Okay, see, when I went to Miege, there was a guy named Ken Perry who's still here, and a guy named Bill Rost and Bill Reardon and there were others, as well, who...we still had the same system, but I totally respected them, and still do.  When I was at KU, I came home on evenings because I couldn't write an essay, and he edited my essays for English Composition class and helped me on his own time.  He really cared.  He really gave.  And now I'm a writer, and you know, it's like I sent him some stuff I wrote recently, which is actually how I ended up being here.  I wrote a thing on leadership, I sent it to Bill Rost and he gave it to John Dillon and so they said come up and speak about this weird stuff we’re talking about.  So it's like people can be great people and care, and we can still have these titles.  I'm just interested in anything that can enhance enthusiasm, can make it more fun, and so you can learn more.  
 
What would happen if a teacher decided that during lunch, or if a whole group of teachers decided, "We're going to be on a first name basis.  We're going to give you our faculty lounge and you can vote on how to use it, and we're going to eat lunch with you and like hang out.  
 
(laughter)
 
So what do we do about this?  What would you do if the teachers sort of shifted and the administrators and would hang out with you, be on a first-name basis, like put you on the board, and let you help make financial decisions, let you elect things, let you...if you didn't want to take courses, you could do projects to learn the stuff instead, or whatever.  Would this be like chaos?  Lord of the Flies?  Or would this be okay?
 
What's going to happen if a teacher sits down in the lunch room and hangs out, says, "Hi, I'm Kelly.  What's happening?"
 
(everybody would leave)
 
Yes.  There may have to be some trust building to create relationships there.  Yeah, teacher comes down, all the students leave.  It's like,"Ugh!  A teacher's here!  I think she smells bad.
 
We want to have...see, there's an old model, the Horace Mann, the Massachusetts model of the school, which you now attend, and all the public schools, it's not just Miege or Blue Valley or anything like that.  It's all of them.  The model is, if the school is a factory, what are the students?  Products?  There was another word said.  Workers.  How about this.  Let me make a proposal that if the school's a factory, the workers are the faculty, and the students are the product.  Does that fit?  And if you're the assistant principal or the principal, basically, you run the thing so that it works so that the board will be happy, and the parents will be happy and everybody expects the same thing. 
 
All right.  Now, what if there was an alternative model?  The school as a service organization and the students are customers.  Is that ridiculous?  Should I go home?  Thank you, Mary.  Is that just a foreign idea?  That the schools are there to serve you in whatever you think your needs...is the customer always...
 
(right)
 
Okay.  So then if you're the customer, that would mean you would be always...
 
(right)
 
And that would mean that they would have to do things for you that you wanted done.
 
Like longer lunch periods or whatever.  
 
How late do we have before we get the hook?  Was there a schedule?  Am I past it already?
 
(no)
 
What did you expect, John?
 
(8:30)
 
Does anybody have to like go to the bathroom or anything?  Take a break...
 
(more about break and feedback on topic)
 
(I think they're good ideas, but I can't see anybody at our school handling financial matters...hiring the teachers, or anything)
 
Brett is saying this is totally hopeless.
 
(It couldn't completely work without anybody in authority.)
 
Lord of the Flies.  Kids going wild.
 
(more cross talk)
 
(Kirstin:  The students are told, maybe the faculty is told that the superintendent ... need to be...we'd like to change things...we can only push things so far)
 
How many agree with Kirstin that you'd like to change things, but you can only push so far.
 
(there's a limit.  They want to help us learn, but...)
 
All learning consists in a superior performance on the SAT test.
 
(comment)
 
Okay.  Thanks.
 
(We’re excited about what we’re participating in...not going to be able to change much about the administration of the school, so if we get excited about what's happening right now...)
 
Like you make do with the situation and do your best in here...
 
I mean, when John Dillon and I talked, I said, "I'm creating alternative prototype schools that are democratic, and I'm starting with little kids.  Me and some other people.  We're going to raise millions of dollars and create models of how to do this.  We've got one that's been going in Canada for 9 years.  I've got a video to show you a little bit about it, and I've seen it work and it can work, and it's very interesting.  It's not kids in charge, but it's kids and educators and parents together working things out for the benefit of the kids.  Kids are customers.  We want to help them do what they want to do, and kids have their own wisdom.  That's our assumption.  The thing is, I don't have the slightest idea whether what we're doing is at all of interest to traditional schools in what they're doing.  I'm not so sure.  What I'm getting from you is that this would be great, but it's too idealistic and nothing like this is going to happen.  So you hear the helplessness?  I hope you hear the helplessness.  We can't change things.  They can't change things.  There's nothing we can do.  It's a hopeless endeavor.  It's just the system.  Matt?
 
(well, it's obvious that kids have some say in school, because without people hearing, they're involved in their school, and they basically plan the fun activities in our school, and it's just an additional burden to our schoolwork, if we would have to do all the financial stuff, because we have to worry about that when we're older, you know, with bills and everything, we have no choice.  It would take away from the educational place that we're supposed to be in, people in here, cheerleading and stuff like that makes the school fun, and without the administration, that happens.)
 
It's kind of like the extracurricular activities are the things where you can have some fun...right...and then the subject matter, you just have to go through it.
 
(comment...senior you can take anything you want that you're interested in...)
 
Okay, so you get more freedom as you go?
 
(Vince:  you were saying how kids would help make the decisions and stuff.  I can just see it, if I was making the decision...15, 20 minute classes...that's just the way...it is...people would get to choose it...)
 
But it might actually be a negotiation where one group would say one thing, some would disagree.  Some kids would want to, you know, it hasn't been done that often as far as having real democracy.  Heather?
 
(possible...if they could handle the responsibility and the consequences...longer lunch periods...great...earning the privileges...responsibility to do the things...want the privileges...are going to accept the responsibility...deserve to have them.)
 
Part of what Heather is talking about...I'll take a little piece of that.  There's a freedom that she's talking about but there's also the responsibility to use that freedom well, and to do that in such a way that you benefit, and maybe if you don't use it, then some of it gets taken away.  So there's freedom with responsibility, not just freedom with chaos that Heather's talking about.  Mary?
 
(even when someone's given responsibilities, I don't think...when you gave that trust...that important of a part in what might happen to other people.  I don't think many people just sit there and just think what's going to be fun.  I think that putting somebody in that kind of position, that sometimes makes people more aware of some of the practical needs, and I think you're more likely to understand why the administration does some things.  So I think being put into that kind of responsibility and given that kind of trust, you...I would say that most of the time people are going to take that responsibility.  I don't think people...)
 
(I think that they...)
 
And prior to that we'll have an hour and a half for recess.
 
(laughter)
 
An old idea.  Back in grade school.  So the idea is, and let's hear Mary's words, because there's some very important things that Heather and Mary are saying, key words.  I'll just take apart...if we're trusted, we'll act more responsibly.  That act of trusting, I mean, let's just take the name thing, about titles versus first names.  What if you actually had some meetings like we're having here tonight.  You're here, faculty and administrators are here.  What if some discussions happen and the faculty said and you all said, had some meetings with student leaders...you can call a meeting.  If any group of students calls a meeting, says, "We'd like to meet with faculty to discuss certain things, and to formulate proposals."  Is the faculty going to say, "No.  We won't meet with you, you scum, slime."  Are they?
 
(no)
 
No, they won't.  They're going to listen.  It's like, they want...my sense is, a lot of them, most of them, would want to be partners with you in things.  Let's just change the way we address ourselves.  Let's just start with something real simple.  Doesn't cost any money.  First name basis, or use titles for everyone.  Whatever you come up with, and...what's your last name?
 
(Wood)
 
Wood.  So, Mr. Wood, if you wear a uniform, maybe you like that.  I don't know.  But you'd discuss it.  Would that actually matter, something so simple as naming?  Would it be different?  I see a lot of first names on those name tags over there, so somebody could come in and say, "Cheryl!" and then..."Yo!"
 
What I'd like to do, because the neatest things about leadership and great leaders is they're into action.  I mean they do things.  They listen.  They understand people, but they set up things to happen.  They create change.  And if you could do anything to start a process of institutional change, you could make your senior year more exciting and you could help a whole lot of young people behind you come into something that would be more fun and more respectful of them, treating them as customers instead of products.  You like being products?  No, I didn't think so.  
 
Let me show...let's take a little break and walk around.  Come back in 5 minutes.  What I'd like to do is show a couple of very short documentaries about our program in Canada which has democracy for kids with responsibility, and then what I'd like to do is set you in some discussion groups where you can begin to think of what you actually might propose that would make your life better so that faculty and administrators could begin at least a serious dialogue about creating, having enough leadership to create some change.  How would that be?  Are you like, thrilled?  Maybe I could let you off early instead...
 
Take a break, come back, and then we'll decide what to do next.
 
(noise and cross talk)
 
May I have your attention please?  P.J. is going to elucidate his ideas and the ideas of his group for the whole group.  I'm just kidding you.  Too much fun, too much happiness, too much excitement.  Now you've got some ideas.  Let's have each group say one of the ideas that you really like that came out of your discussion.  We're going to keep all of them and use all of them, but just come up with one of them you like and tell the rest of the group about it.  Pick a group spokesperson, one at a time.  Who's first?  Okay, we have a volunteer.
 
Heather:  What we decided on is that we should be able to talk to the teachers more and decide on certain emphasis on...certain..some students...work problems better, whereas other students like equations.  Different students learn different ways, some learn more on computers, others might want to go out and build their own bridge or something.  Maybe students can help with the teachers or the administration to...the curriculum...maybe that would give more interest to the students....
 
(applause)
 
One additional thing.  How about if we really like the idea, which I think...we like that idea?
 
(yes)
 
(makes whooping noise)  Anybody...
 
(whooping noises)
 
Let's lead a cheer for Heather.  Clapping...whatever.  Let's have another group.
 
(...if we could just get in groups like this...real world.. much differently.. think that.. ideas ... make a lot of progress...problems are real and affect us...)
 
Problems like...
 
(the environment)
 
(whooping)
 
So it would be like taking on real problems in the community that are happening, even outside the school.  Yes.  Okay.  Another idea?  Another group?
 
Mike:  Our group thought of something similar to that, only it was more based on student associations, or student council...having an hour during the day in which we can get stuff done.  Cause right now, meeting before school and all that stuff, we can't get anything done.  We don't have enough planning time.  If we could have that hour and then maybe even incorporate, you know, if we had the teachers in there, and the faculty who were interested in that, we could have that interaction at the smaller level, like the way we could discuss it, and we could have more time to come up with an idea to like disperse that information to everyone else.
 
(whooping)
 
Okay.  Here we have a group.
 
Female: ...don't like them...not going to learn anything anyway...and if we don't...not going to...stuff...
 
Okay.  A radical idea.
 
Female: ..at our school...we think that we...like everybody...certain day...we could interact...
 
So to turn that into a proposal is the idea that you would propose to whoever makes decisions about that?  To shift...
 
(right, to rearrange...same people...)
 
Okay.  There are some groups we have not heard from yet.
 
Male: ..need to do is break the ice between the administration and the student body.  There's a lot of red tape involved in getting anything done at all.  For example, this summer, myself and my treasurer tried to establish uniform shorts policy at school as uniforms...shorts, and after running through different channels for about a month and a half we finally got to the end, and they told us that proposal had already been brought up by the administration, and shot down a few months ago.  So the only thing we're going to propose is a little bit of open-mindedness on the part of the administration in working with, maybe get a better democratic system started.
 
All right.  Do we have another group?
 
Female:  ...faculty members...first of all...what's going on...opinions and desires, they can express theirs and maybe have some...work together...administration, but we just feel like the communication needs to be better.  ...faculty, we could get a lot more done...realize that we have some common goals.
 
(applause)
 
Any comments?  Is that all the groups?  One more?
 
Female:  Well, since most of the learning is done in the classroom, we were thinking that a lot more would get done if the classroom was more relaxed.  ...teacher is always in front of the room, and all the desks always face the teacher, and...we thought it would probably be better to have...practice sessions...ideas in front of the class so they....
 
(applause)
 
So, does what we're doing tonight fit into that category?  Okay.  Any comments by faculty, administrators who are here just about what your thoughts are about this process, their ideas.  I'd like to hear from each of you if we could.
 
Male:  I'd like to just thank you very much...hold this group...more open than the last few groups of seniors that I've had an opportunity to work with and I value that.  I value your opinions and I hope that we are able, certainly here at Miege, and hopefully at the other three schools, that maybe we can take some of these ideas and put them into effect, because you really do have some good ideas.  I think you're a neat student.  I know you've heard that before and you're tired of hearing it, but nonetheless, you are.
 
All right, thank you.
 
(whooping)
 
All right.  Okay, someone else.  Greg?
 
Greg:  We teachers a couple of weeks ago gave a talk to a lot of the students as well as the leaders, the moderators of different student organizations, and it seemed that..that if you give up on the things that you think are important then you've lost an important part of yourself.  Opportunities like this where you're able to exchange ideas and you feel free to suggest something that you really feel strongly about...talk about this, I would hope that the two groups...come back with...everybody else...come back with ideas that other people gave you and...work to make that happen rather than just say, "Okay..." but to come back and do everything you can and get people to work with you to try to make them reality, because that's what the bottom line's going to be, not...tonight...
 
(applause)
 
Cheryl:  ..some of the very things that I said to a freshman student about how you are customers.   ..the most important people, so I'm very happy to hear you say that....taken a long time and the seniors...because we're at a point where we are going to change, but it's going to take people like you to do that, so I want to propose something right now that will depend on how you want to do this, but North has some activities...November...I would like for Kelly to come back to work with you at North and to have the same group of people...at North...North people ...for you to face these ideas...and I would like to select them...back to you...back to your schools and see what kinds of things you can do...just an idea.
 
Female:  I would just like to say something to the whole group.  The simple fact that all of us here are leaders and like we all want to make a difference, but going back to your schools and getting things changed is going to take our leadership to get everyone else involved, because you can go back, the six of you can go and change everything.  You've got to get everyone, all of your friends, you all represent different groups, and you've got to go back to those groups and get those people involved in your school to get things changed.  That's why we're here, because we are leaders and...you've got to get the people who aren't here to get things changed, also.  I just wanted to say that.
 
Male:  I work with student council for 4-5 years and I'm always impressed...label on it.  What happens...with the student leaders.  I think that's great.  The only thing I would add, and I think I would encourage...the big thing...a lot of groups is the idea of change and looking at things...I would encourage you to look at all the resources you have.  It's entirely possible if not necessarily...do it...teachers...up against them...I think you'd be surprised...you have...remember we were 16, 17, 18 once, too, believe it or not.  When I was 17 I thought I'd be 17 forever.  The point is, take advantage of all the resources and really look at working together.  I think you'll be surprised.  I know I had to go to work with student council officers and finally help bring about some things.  I would encourage you in your enthusiasm to be sure that you include everybody and parents, which we sort of brought up tonight and didn't, the idea of customers.  We're all in this.  Parents, teachers and students, and that's really the school community.  I think that's important that you take advantage of all 3 groups and not just one or two.
 
Time is winding around.  Cheryl Kempley (Administrator at Blue Valley North) made a proposal.  She talked with me about it because this was originally designed as a one-time deal.  I would just come in.  I work with groups all the time.  That's what I do.  This was an experiment for me and I'm seeing people who are wanting to do something, even though there's some helplessness.  It's like you've got ideas and you want to do something.  You want to reach out to and inspire the other people who are not leaders, per se, at least they're not at this meeting.  But you want to do something with them, and the whole idea underneath what Tracy's talking about is leaders lead other people, not to follow you, but rather you lead other people to lead themselves.  So you stimulate leadership in all the people that look to you as leader, so that's what I think is underneath what you're saying, and I think it's a really neat thing, and so what I'd like to do is basically have a show of hands.  I'm sort of in a position where I could take a couple of hours in November and meet with you again and see if I can be your assistant, your consultant, in facilitating ideas, change, making things happen, making transformation occur, if you're interested.  And Cheryl said you can come out and do the next group.  Well, only if they want me.  Because otherwise, I've got a lot of other things to do.  But if you're interested, and I know some of you are going...if you're interested in having me come to the next meeting and continue what we started, to actually create ideas, formulate them in such a way that you can do them, and actually make change occur, then I'd be willing to do it.  Believe me, it's like this is an experiment.  If you don't want me to come back, I won't be offended.  It's fine, but I will if you want me.  So, basically, I'm asking, should I come back?  Do you want me to help with the next meeting?  If so, raise your hand.
 
(whooping)
 
Thank you very much.  I'm honored and flattered.  Gosh.  So I'll come back to the next meeting, and let's hand in our documents here.  Just the ones you wrote on.
 
(cross talk turning in documents)
 
What I'd like to do, is the way we're planning follow-up on this deal, is that there's another meeting in November...I've got to look at my calendar.  Middle of November.  You're going to get those typed up a little bit?  Organized a little bit?  After Cheryl types up and organizes these with the help of her people, then a copy will be made and sent to each of you.  And then you can bring that to the next meeting, be prepared to like tell what you actually did, or what you're interested in doing, and we'll make plans and have a good time, and this group, are you the planning group?
 
(yes we are)
 
Okay, so...let's not leave you out.  So one of you call me and tell me what plan you want and I'll work with your group in order to create a wild and crazy evening in November for learning and creating change and having exercise of leadership.  Deal?  So one of you call me and do that.
 
We're out of here.  Thank you.
 
(more cross talk as people leave and come thank Kelly and make comments)
 
(Kelly asks for feedback)
 
Male:  I think you generated ideas.  I think you picked up on the generation.  I think they developed some ideas and it...they're excited now.  If that excitement carries over into action, I think they'll find ways to communicate change and try to develop that change.
 
Female:  I'd like next time to have a little more structure so they have...like you say, to help formulate a plan, because now there's lots of good ideas, but how can they work with the system effectively...how can they go about it in a real positive way to work with the system to help it change?
 
Kelly:  We can explore the difference between an idea and an actual proposal, which is part of a plan which is implementable, and then the non-verbal language, non-verbal communication, verbal communication which is persuasive in order to actually create change.  I mean, we can get into a whole bunch of things.  It's what I do for a living, you know, is how to do that.  And I think it can be really interesting.  I've never done anything like this before.  We're creating our own system, and as you can see, it's wild.  Very different, and it's clearly outlined here.  To work with regular schools, I'm planning on doing it for the next few decades.  We're going to do our peer model.  The whole purpose of it is to show an example of how a radical new way of doing things can actually work, which is basically, freedom with responsibility.  The whole idea is, if we can stimulate schools to actually restructure and change the nature of how they do what they do...
 
Female...which is what you're saying is coming...and schools are being forced to look at education differently and to develop it...not English and Math and Math and that, I mean it's beginning.
 
Kelly:  The students can choose the outcome and then they get really excited.
 
Female:  The student will have like school-based leadership, councils.  This is the beginning of that where students have a part and parents have a part..they're real important part of...
 
Male:  That's the third key to a successful school.  You have to have the three keys...students that are supportive, you've got to have an excellent teaching staff and you've got to have the parents.
 
Female:  Parents.
 
Kelly:  I think it would be neat to have an equal mix of students, faculty and parents.  Too many...they won't talk.  There's enough trust with the individual faculty members in the room that they were willing to be pretty open.  And of course, my job is to create that, so I've got to be a little crazy and silly.
 
Male:  You've got to be open with them, otherwise they'll see you're a phony and you know...
 
Female:  But it would be interesting though, and we could do it next time, is I could ask my group, "Who would you want to sit in on it?  Which teachers would you like to give a personal invitation to?"  And maybe have 4 or 5 that they really like, that they have a lot of trust in, and think could help them, support them with some changes.
 
Kelly:  They could also make the proposals to the other two schools, too.  Have an invitation list.
 
Female:  I'm saying for each to have the option to do that.  To bring teachers that they feel very comfortable with.  Maybe it's 4 or 5 or 1.
 
Kelly:  See the people here, that I just happen to know, that I totally respect, and I named all 3 of them.  There are others as well.
 
Female:  But for the kids to go up and ask them and ....
 
Kelly:  We're having a meeting.  We'd like to invite you.  We're taking about change and leadership.  That would be cool.
 
Female:  And we feel like you'd be supportive.  They trust them a lot.
 
Kelly:  And inherent in that, they're exercising choice.  We have an organization here.  They're deciding who gets to be a member.
 
Male:  That's right.
 
Kelly:  So that's part of empowering.
 
Female:  (mumbling)..those staff I can use with other staff.
 
Kelly:  Is this something that if it caught on, the faculties could have a real interest in it?  Because I'm talking about pursuing democracy and involvement and a new paradigm of learners as customers.
 
Female:  It's like they have to feel they're comfortable with it, and it has to be the kid, you know, because us, you know, to change some of the ways people have been doing things for so long, you see that just working probably with corporations.  
 
Kelly:  Change is very much, well.  And yet at the same time, there are lots of examples where it's very, very slow.  There's so much reading, and so many cases and examples of incredible change and it's so competitive that in the corporate world, it's a given that we have to totally change everything.  Relationships, structures.  It's just a given.  It's not a given in the educational world yet.  What we're doing with the Enthusiasm for Learning Foundation is totally radical and in educational reform there's nothing like it that I've ever seen of that kind of democracy.  The kids are just amazing in what they're doing.  You could see how excited they were.
 
Female:  It's interesting.  We have a partnership with a business, and it's Yellow Freight.  They allowed us to have their trainers and they trained the staff in a one-day quality awareness training, so that was just the beginning, talking about fear and interaction.
 
Kelly:  Was that Roger Paine's group?
 
Female:  It's Roger Paine's group.  Roger scheduled it, and so we were able to have about 15 staff members in a group.  I'd like to do it with kids this year, because a lot of us got excited about it last year about what the possibilities are and we need to follow through with some training, but the kids, you know, to take the group and gear them, because this man, the man that trained them, was, he was like a teacher.  He said anytime we wanted him to do something, if he could work it out that he could have a schedule, he would be happy to do a quality training because..quality...I mean customer...so many of the things.
 
 
Kelly:  Yes, the crossover between education and business is so direct and those are my two worlds.  I mean, I've got a business with 9 people and we go around the country and we work with corporations and we teach these seminars and John got a hold of what I had written and so that's why I ended up being here.  I explained to John kind of what I was about, you know, talking about traditional skills of leadership in the context of an educational institution is a bit like shuffling chairs on the Titanic, right?  That's a ridiculous proposition, so I said, "John, I've got to tell you the whole, the whole, where I'm coming from and you can say, 'That's too radical.'"  Turns out it wasn't at all, not for the kids, not for the people at this table, and I think there could be real change.  What would actually happen in your school if you said, "Well, let's shift to a first-name basis."  What do you think about that?  You know, kind of warm up to the kids, treat them more as equals, see if we can earn respect in other ways than just insisting on a title.
 
Male:  Some teachers would accept that readily, others would...
 
Kelly:  The same things happens in corporations when you go to self-managing teams or clusters from a hierarchical supervisory or management position, and you feel like, "God, the only control I have is my position and my power and I can send someone to the principals office..."
 
Female:  Educators are very much into control.  I mean, they control kids.
 
Kelly:  Right.  That's different than stimulating enthusiasm.
 
Female:  But some are having a real deal with cooperative learning, where they're working together, allowing the kids to work together versus sit in their rows in their desk by themselves, to allow them to get into groups, which is what is more of the push now and where we're going towards this phase.  ...they don't have that control.
 
Kelly:  You have any, and I'm with you there, because it's like people are going to resist that because it's so different, but the teachers who have rapport skills and who put themselves in students' places, like the fellow, what's his name who said, "I used to be 17 too?"  Mike Moshier.  Mark Moshier.  Mark is like, he puts himself in the student's position and the teachers who do that are going to get more sympathy.  They know I'm on their side, the students do, the way I communicate with them and it's like they know that about Rost and they know it about Perry and they know it about Reardon and these people have always been like that.  You know, those folks.  The thing is, you know, is like, well, how do you stimulate the changes and develop it?  Have you ever had any student evaluations, serious student evaluations about teachers and classes and process?
 
Female:  I did that this past year with the people I evaluated, but it was not a requirement.  I recommend it for everyone that I worked with coming out of this quality, because they talk about getting feedback from their customers.  It was extremely helpful...she was having an extremely hard time...understanding what the problem was...she had to hear from the kids.  I required her to do evaluations.  But she had to do it.  But on a, well, everybody's required to give feedback, no, we don't do that.  Teachers do it, you'll find teachers that want to know, they'll do it.
 
Male:  I think it's very important just to, just from a point of number one, was I on track, did you learn?  Were you challenged?  Did I simply waste your time?
 
Female:  And it shouldn't be just at the end of the quarter.
 
Kelly:  No.  Every day.
 
Female:  All along.
 
Kelly:  I tried to do that.  You know, how am I doing?  Getting some sense of it.  Yes.  See, students have so much power.  If students would decide, "We're going to start our own little class evaluation project."  That might be one idea.  "We're going to evaluate teachers and then publish it.  If the teachers want to read it, they can, but we're publishing it for one another."
 
Female:  ...up in arms.  Some would be fine, others would go, "How can we do that?  We can't let them get away with that."
 
Kelly:  Well, you know, a little freedom of expression.
 
Female:  But it would be interesting...that one thing, though, for kids to say, "We would like you as our teachers, but this will allow us to give some feedback," and come up with and we'll come up with some evaluation form, but it will help you as well as help us.  So that's one way.
 
Kelly:  That's pretty radical, especially if the students were to publish it themselves.  See, that gets to their freedom.  Do they have a right to do that?
 
Female:  But the part where I was saying it needs to start out with, so it's beneficial feedback.  I mean some guy went to publishing it, the benefits that needs to be in the class, you know that's where it's the most important.  And if they could it within the class, and the teacher could feel comfortable with that, that's a way of getting feedback so the class gets better.
 
Male:  It can be a learning process for the teacher.  I mean they can find out some things...