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Blog: Micah Jacobson

Category: Inspiration
Posted by: Micah Jacobson 4/8/2015
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As a newly elected Student Body President, I was full of hope, and bereft of knowledge. Like so many people at the beginning of a journey, new WEB and Link Leaders, new teachers and new parents, I was enthusiastic and clueless. At that time of my life, it certainly would never have occurred to me to reach out to the person who had just spent a year doing the job, the outgoing President, unless my brilliant Activities Director had not orchestrated a perfect transition experience.

At the end of May, old and new officers all gathered for an evening banquet. Tables had been set out by the out-going officers one last time, while the new officers set the theme and decorated the room, for the first time as a team. We had a potluck where old and new were mixed together so that positions sat next to each other.

At the conclusion we had the “Pass the Treasure” ceremony. Each of the outgoing officers went up to receive previously collected praise from their friends, teachers and significantly, from our Activities Director. Then each of them read a short wish for the person taking over their position and they formally handed over their file box for the position. (This being the late 80’s we had actual paper files…I suppose today you might just hand over the ‘ceremonial google docs password’!)

The last part of the evening was spent mostly in pairs or small groups as the old and new sat down and went through the files. This part changed everything. I was twice the president I would have been because of this. More importantly, the outgoing president and I became friends in a way that we never would have as a result of this talk.

In general, we do a great job acknowledging the BIG transitions. In fact, in Link Crew and WEB we are “new beginnings” specialists.

Category: Inspiration
Posted by: Micah Jacobson 2/18/2015
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Well Coordinators, it’s that time of year already. It’s time to start thinking about selecting your next group of Link and WEB Leaders. Selecting the right leaders is arguably the single most important thing you will do in your program, so maybe this is the year that you take your selection process to the next level!

Quick reminder: What we taught you about selecting your leaders at the Basic Training is rightfully seen as just a starting place for getting the right leaders on board. That said, it is still worth a double check to make sure you are at least doing the basics before we go on.

Numbers: You are looking to recruit 2 leaders for every group of 10 new students you will have. Recall that recruiting too many leaders is almost as bad as not recruiting enough. No matter how tempting it is to take more, force your program to target the right numbers.

Qualities: Our NUMBER 1 priority for your leaders is that they represent a cross-section of your school. Every single new student should be able to look at your group of leaders and see at least one student that they feel is “like them”. Our NUMBER 2 priority is that you seek out the kindest kids at your school. Get those two things right and you are on your way.

Strategies: Finally, we suggested you start with four strategies to recruit the right leaders.

Category: Inspiration
Posted by: Micah Jacobson 10/10/2014
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Miguel didn’t like school. He didn’t like his classes, didn’t like his teachers and made it known that he didn’t like his Link Leader. Ruben, his senior Link Leader, was nervous about getting his group again, and Miguel specifically, for Seeking Out Success, Etiwanda High School’s 3rd annual effort at reinforcing a culture of academic success. 

At progress report time, the Southern California high school with an enrollment of over 3400 students, releases all freshmen from 2nd and 3rd periods to meet with their Link Leaders. They meet in the gym, then divide into three large groups to rotate through 3 sections, listening to a speaker, taking ‘grad’ pictures with their graduation pledge and, crucially, receiving and reviewing progress reports with their Link Leaders.

“We wanted to create something that would both reunite freshmen with their Link Leaders and provide a check in point early in their high school career that would let them know that we care about their academic success”, said Aaron Caloca, a Link Coordinator at EHS. 

In fact, the first step of passing out progress reports was for the Link Leaders to remind the freshmen that they actually care about their success and would do whatever it took to support their group. Ruben’s group had progress reports first in the rotation and he was nervous to have Miguel back in this group. Mr. Caloca reminded him that as Leaders our job is to care about everyone, even if they don’t care back.

So Ruben began his session talking about his own academic struggles as a freshmen. He told his group that he really cared about them and would always help them if they needed it. As the freshmen looked at their grades so far, celebrated successes and identified areas to improve, Miguel remained quiet. Finally, Ruben went to him individually and asked if he could look at the grades with Miguel. Quietly, Miguel said yes and looked away. He wasn’t doing well. Ruben looked at each class and offered a resource. The Link Leaders had been trained in all the academic support options that EHS offered.

 

Category: Inspiration
Posted by: Micah Jacobson 8/20/2014
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At Beverly Hills High School, they replaced their entire admin team except the principal this year. The only Link trained person in the building just got promoted to AP and they were scrambling at school start. How did they manage to have an incredibly successful Link program and school start? They relied on the Link Leaders.

Category: Inspiration
Posted by: Micah Jacobson 3/26/2014
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We (Carolyn and Micah) are in the middle of our road warrior season. This is the season of Basic Trainings and Advanced Courses and we are hopeful we will get to see many of you!

Although we love what we do, I have to tell you, the road is a hard place to be sometimes. Long days of training and putting out lots of energy for educators are sometimes followed by lonely hotel room nights, long plane flights and deeply missing our loved ones back home. It can sometimes feel like we are alone, even when surrounded by people.

Does that every happen for you? You may not be on a plane, but springtime can often be lonely for teachers too. The endless winter, the kids who seem to stop working, the ever increasing demands from administration, parents, students, friends, family and ourselves can easily start to create a pocket of isolation where it can sometimes feel like we are alone.

Category: Inspiration
Posted by: Micah Jacobson 1/22/2014
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Seems like all around me people are trying to make some tough decisions. I was speaking with a Link Coordinator recently who is trying to decide where to go with her career. She is in a graduate program and it looks like, at her current pace, it will take several years to complete. She is trying to decide whether or not to take a year’s leave of absence to become a full time student. That would allow her to essentially complete her master’s in just over a year and a half. Or should she stay with the school she loves, in the programs she has created and just tough it out?

Another WEB Coordinator I spoke with recently is trying to decide whether to stay in teaching at all. With a department chair working to actively undermine her, a principal who, while supportive, continues to pile on additional responsibilities and a workload that is preventing genuine connection to family and self, she is wondering whether it is all worth it.

We have spoken with people who are in the middle of family crisis, overwhelmed by work, consumed by health challenges and any number of other major decisions. It seems as if every coordinator we talk to is trying to work through where their WEB or Link program should go.

Category: Inspiration
Posted by: Micah Jacobson 9/18/2013
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Orientation was amazing, right? You organized and trained and watched and communicated and, although there were hiccups along the way, you still had massive success.

Great job!

Now what?

If your program is only an orientation then you are not making the kind of impact that you want to! Now is the time to stoke the flames you created at Orientation and keep the momentum going. Your leaders are ready to be engaged. 

We have been thrilled to see how many programs are already doing some amazing things around the country.  Here is just a small sample, taken from over 30 responses to our FaceBook post asking schools what they have already done:

Category: Inspiration
Posted by: Micah Jacobson 5/10/2013
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Is it time to shift gears? The first year or two of Link Crew and WEB tend to be lived in high gear. Purpose equals energy, right? There is so much to do, so much to start and so much to learn that the time flies and everything feels just on the edge of overwhelming. It’s like driving in first gear, revving high and accelerating quickly.

Then you settle in.  For many programs, the third year is also third gear: comfortable; understood; cruising. Bill Cosby famously joked, “Third (gear) is great! Once I get into 3rd, I’m not shifting back for nobody!” Even if you have never driven a stick shift, I think you would agree with the sentiment. Doesn’t getting past ‘start up’ mode feel awesome? Just cruising. No work. Wind blowing through your hair, music playing and miles ahead of you.

The problem comes a few miles down the road. That feeling of cruising begins to get boring. The landscape maybe doesn’t change. We just keep driving and driving. Suddenly a change comes: new principal, budget cuts. We hit a hill too steep to climb in 3rd (or 4th or 5th) gear.

What then? Well, it’s obvious isn’t it? Shift.

Sometimes, even when things are going well, it is time to shift if only to grab a hold of the new.

How do we shift? Here are some thoughts:

Category: Inspiration
Posted by: Micah Jacobson 3/15/2013
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Get the Right Leaders On the Bus!

Leader recruitment is underway. Are you revamping your application process at all this year?  Here are a couple of quick ideas to inspire your process!

Demographic Maps: At Merrill High School in Wisconsin, they have added a map section of the application. Leaving a 3 inch space on one page of the application they ask leaders to draw where they sit in the commons area for break and for lunch.  Link Coordinator Amy Heimerl says, "Since I kind of know where each of the groups sit in the commons, I can build a map of my leaders and make sure that I am getting a diverse mix!"

Eyejot videos: Nagle Middle School in Cincinnati had a problem. With the popularity of WEB exploding, they had more than 300 applications to sort through. "Trying to sort through that many applications and remember each kid was really difficult," says Amy Wettengel, WEB Coordinator. They started requiring students to submit a 1 minute video through the eyejot.com website. They set up the account so that each of the WEB coordinators can watch the videos at any time. They ask the potential WEB Leaders to answer the question "Why do you want to be a WEB leader?" and to make themselves stand out.

Use other teachers: At Eagan High School in Minnesota, they bring in a panel of other teachers beyond their 4 person Link team to review the applications. "Having other teachers in the room not only gives us a lot more buy-in as to who our leaders are, but also gives us a much more diverse perspective on who the kids are."

Category: Inspiration
Posted by: Micah Jacobson 1/10/2013
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It’s difficult not to think about Goal Setting this time of year. Resolutions are in the air and many of you have probably made a few of your own. The making of resolutions, of course, is followed by the breaking of resolutions. Goals set are sometimes achieved and sometimes not.

Part of the problem could be that many kinds of goal setting don’t work. You’ve probably heard the basic outlines of goal setting: we are supposed to make them “SMART” - Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. However, we are also supposed to “reach for the stars” and set huge ambitious goals.

Does goal setting like this actually work? Well, yes and no.

Small, focused goals that are believed to be well within reach turn out to be far more motivating that “Big Huge Audacious” goals. These goals should be SMART and communicated clearly to everyone who can help achieve it.

Some Link Crew and WEB programs focus on specific goals like:

 

•  Getting 90% of 6th graders to orientation this year

•  Personally checking in with each of our students in the first two weeks

•  Reducing tardies among freshmen by 10% in the first semester

 

These kind of targeted, focused, time-bound goals can be helpful, but even these aren’t completely necessary to have a fantastic program.

For Brian Scully at Starpoint Middle School in New York, they focus on large themes that align with the strengths of their current WEB leaders.

“For this year's group, who are very generous and empathetic, we have focused on really reaching out one on one. Last year’s leaders were a more energetic, loud, dance party kind of group so we did bigger events. Our goals match the strengths of our leaders.”