October 20, 2016

A Different Kind of Diversity: Too Many Introverts?

By Bellwether

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Guest blogger Mike Goldstein, sharing only his personal views, writes: 

Let me try out an idea.  Good chance I’m off target here.

1. Per this very provocative series, I wonder about a different type of diversity among ed reform leaders:

a. Are they mostly data-and-technology-loving introverts?

b. If yes, does that matter?

2. I am a data-and-tech-loving introvert.  My charter application in 1998 (rejected) and 1999 (approved) sounded a lot like this $10 million XQ winner, described in an excellent NY Mag piece this week.

Students choose interest areas and within them, they think up projects, which they execute themselves. So, for example, in “Signs of Life,” one kid might choose to learn about embryonic development and stage an abortion debate. Another might study the philosophy of science and write a one-act play about a Frankenstein monster. Another might learn “evolutionary design,” a cutting-edge approach to coding.

When Match opened in 2000, pretty much all my nerdy tech ideas failed.  (Hopefully this new Powderhouse school will do better!).

What succeeded, however, was the late Charlie Sposato, our founding principal.  He built positive relationships with kids and parents, through sheer effort and dedication.  Before and after school, weekends and nights on the phone.  Those authentic connections often GAVE the extroverted Charlie emotional energy, rather than depleting it.  That culture became the school’s true foundation.

3. Today’s Globe has a profile of Janelle Smith, on topic of charter school ballot question.  [Dissenting view here from Boston’s mayor].

I remember Janelle as a newly admitted 8th grader in 1999.  She’s now mom to Alorah, on some charter waiting lists.

Janelle enrolled at Northeastern University and excelled early. While 37% of students graduate ready for college, according to national assessments, Smith earned mostly As and Bs in her first two years — success she attributed to the “drive” she found at MATCH, and the constant pushing from teachers she’s still in touch with 12 years later.  But halfway through college, Smith got pregnant. When Alorah was born, Smith left school, vowing to return.

Janelle went back and graduated in May.

Her time at MATCH, she said, was “what propelled me to go back.”  She’d like Alorah to find that same strength.

4. I wonder if nerdy ed reform leaders don’t talk so much about the emotional terrain that Janelle is referring to.  Data-driven instruction, for example, is a more comfortable topic.  Or a longer school day – it’s easily countable.  And perhaps that stuff sits better with nerdy reporters and philanthropists as well.

Has a confluence of introverted leaders affected the message of what reform is all about?

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