A friend works at a public school here in NYC and asked me if I’d be willing to be a judge for their Science Fair, to which I happily said. “Yes!”
As a judge, I graded the students on a series of skills regrading their presentation. I, like most of the judges, was an outsider coming into the school and interacting with the students. Dental schools have a similar practice where the students see real patients from the real world almost immediately. I love this practice in education for three main reasons:
1) Leadership Growth Isn’t Done in a Vacuum
I love when schools hold leadership retreats in the woods surrounded by nature. It’s peaceful, beautiful, and slow paced. Three qualities that aren’t always true in the real world. Students may learn the lessons in the woods, but then struggle when it comes to actually applying the same lessons in a real world situation. The guest judging at the Science Fair is a great way to blend a safe learning environment with real world experience. The students’ sense of safety exists because they are still in their school with their teacher meanwhile the students also get to test their new found skills with the real world by interacting with guest judges from the surrounding community.
2) Practice Makes Perfect
My first professional public speech was a complete disaster, but over time, I got better and better. The students at the Science Fair had to repeat their same presentation, from beginning to end, over and over for several judges. Each time they got better. But it wasn’t just in presenting that the students got better, it was also in shaking hands, introducing themselves, standing tall, and making eye contact. Skills that will pay them dividends 10x throughout their life. Practice makes perfect.
3) Builds a Bridge with the Community
I’ve never visited this school, or any NY public school before, during school hours, but now that I have, a piece of my heart is with those students and their success. Even if I don’t directly interact with those specific students ever again, next time there is a ballot initiative related to schools, I’m going to care more. That’s the kind of bridge that all schools should be building more of as budget continue to get cut and scrutiny goes up.
While riding back to my office, I started thinking about what ways Student Affairs departments could be the catalyst for their school to build the bridge with the surrounding community. What activities are you doing now to build this bridge?