Our goal is just to help: how Adopt A School evolved as we went in deeper

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I have talked before about how our intention going into PS119 was to go in, listen and help, whatever that meant. And that’s why a few weeks back, I said our program does not have an exact perfect plan, it’s a dynamic partnership where things change as we adapt to what we learn. With that in mind here is a  timeline of events that have unfolded so far, and how things changed as we went in deeper:

  • Jan 2015: Surveyed NxJumpers
    (1) Childrens Education + (2) Childrens Health emerged as the top 2 areas our employees cared most about. As a result we targeted adopting a school as part of our giving initiatives.
  • What’s the Plan? What’s the Budget? People asked us those 2 questions constantly. Our answers were:
    (A) The Plan is To Help + (B) The Budget is a Better Me + Better You budget, to grow ourselves and help others in the process
  • July 2015: After spending a few months talking to schools, principals and superintendents we ended up with 9 schools in a selection process. We fell in love with PS119 in the South Bronx, felt most aligned with our culture
  • We went in with an initial goal of sharing our best practices, coaching and mentoring teachers and the administration team.
  • Aug 2015: We learned there is a bigger need: the After School Program closed 2 years ago and that’s preventing many parents from holding jobs as they have to pick up kids every day at 2:45 pm. After a quick internal deliberation Next Jump makes the decision to reopen the After School Program (funding: $300K,  212 kids accepted)
  • Sept 2015: We don’t want to just write a check, we want to be involved and be a part of the school. On Thursdays we develop and run the curriculum for the After School Program. Alternating groups of Next Jump employees travel every week to the school to teach. Every employee teaches once a month on average. Here are our tracks:
    (1) Robotics (the picture in this article is of our robotics track, kids learning to build and control robots)
    (2) Coding
    (3) Health &Wellness
    (4) Business Skills
  • Nov 2015: We learn a Professional Development Day is coming up for staff & teachers, we invite the principal to host at Next Jump. We prepare and run the full day with talks, presentations, health advice, all by Next Jump employees.
  • Jan 2016: TOP 5 recognition, a Next Jump program, is adopted by PS119 for their staff and teachers to increase “helping each other succeed”. Recognizing servant leadership.
  • Jan 2016: monthly Principal & AP coaching sessions begin
  • Jan 2016: We decide our UK office will adopt a school in London, budget: another $300k. Their selection process kicks off.
  • Feb 2016: monthly tech help, we start arriving at the school 1 hour sooner every Thursday so that we can spend it with the principal and her team and help with technical and computer system problems, little things to help increase efficiency.
  • March 2016: Student Field Trip scheduled, we plan on having kids visit the Next Jump offices for a career day, to inspire and show them many things they can become if their set their own sights on it.
  • May 2016: PS119 Avengers Award, this will be a ceremony to recognize the top servant leader at the school. Nice surprises will go along that I will not reveal just yet.
  • Summer 2016: Peter Hallock Next Jump internship. Peter has been awesome, the biggest supporter of our program, working tirelessly with us. We are excited that he will be working closely with us over the summer.
  • Volunteer Tracking APP [BM + BY], we are going to build an app to help track employee volunteering time.
  • Fall 2016 (plans): We have some exciting things in the works which I will not disclose yet :)!

 

That is the Next Jump way. We learn as we go, and we adapt to help.

Albert

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Adopt A School Learnings After the First 3 Months: Part 1

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I can’t believe it’s been 3 months since we started regularly teaching at the PS119 After School program. Every time I visit the school I come back recharged and so grateful we are in a position to be able to do this. I was reflecting over the weekend on some of the roadblocks we hit, as well as the things we have learned so far, and I thought worthwhile sharing them so they can help others.

1)  Picking a school – this can be a daunting task, we had no idea  where to go when we first started thinking about adopting a school. We started at the easiest place: most people know somebody who is a teacher or has a roommate who is a teacher, or a family member, etc. And so, we relied on contacts from our own employees both internal and external, and asked them to refer schools to us. Next, we spoke to non-profits we had relationships with and were in the education space, like Summer Search whose NY chapter we had incubated in our offices through our Adopt A Non-Profit program. Last, we reached out to superintendents of the districts we were interested in. The Bronx super-intended was very responsive, and she referred a list of schools she felt could be good matches. The school we ultimately partnered with, PS119, was in the short list the superintended had sent.

2) On giving money and general interactions with the school system. Expect more red tape that you are prepared for. For example, for us to fund the After School program at PS119, meaning to give the money to the school, it actually required a significant effort involving multiple calls and letters to the DOE Grants Office. Eventually we figured it out, you can send the Grants Office a check along with a letter of stipulations explaining how you’d like the money to be spent. Then the Grants Office signs off, and the principal also has to sign off. If the principal is not experienced he or she may review the proposal with the superintended which can further delay the process. Once all this is cleared, the funds get released. Even after we had all the signatures it took several weeks for the money to reach the school- so build time into your timelines!

TIP: You can specify in your letter that you’d like 100% of the money to pass through to the school. If you do not, by default, the DOE will withhold a portion of it.

3) Meet the principals of potential schools you are considering, their teams and key influencer teachers. This is very important. Investing in a relationship with the principal is key, without their support the program will not go anywhere. It is also important to get the principal’s team and key teachers bought in, so they will help you implement the program, and also when you hit roadblocks.

When you visit the schools and meet the principals and teachers, it’s key that you set context. The default attitude of any savvy principal will be extremely skeptical, they are used to people coming in with checks and just wanting to take pictures and get PR out of it, a 1-day-and-done event, and then they never come back. You will have to invest in explaining your long term vision to counter this, explain you are at the school to setup a lasting partnership.

4) Start by getting involved with an After School program to start. The rules and regulations for you to be at the school are much easier to fulfill during After School vs. regular school hours which are much more strictly regulated by the DOE.

5) This is probably the most important point: Setup your relationship with the school to be “sustainable giving”, and not all just money. What we did, for example, is we split our whole New York office employees into 4 teams, and each week a different team travels to the school for half a day to teach one of four tracks we developed for the after school program:

1) video game coding
2) robotics
3) business skills and
4) health & wellness.

In this way every employee in the office spends one afternoon a month experiencing the joy of giving and learning, and the positive impact in our office is awesome. Teams come back with lots of buzz and fun stories of interacting with the kids. It’s the consistency + team volunteering that has a profound impact.

TIP: When you design the curriculum for whatever you end up teaching, don’t try to do it by committee. We tried this at first, large teams deciding jointly, and we stuck spinning and going nowhere. Then we decided to change the approach and put the people with the strongest drive and engagement in charge of designing the tracks. That work much better.

These are my initial thoughts, on the next post I will talk about the choice of Elementary vs. a High School, helping the adults (parents, but also teachers), setting up feedback loops for your visits, and more.

Albert

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UK – Buxton School Academy

Our Adopt-A-School programme aims to provide a school with much needed support for its whole community; not just the students who study there, but their teachers, parents and families as well.

As part of our Adopt-A-School Pilot Programme in the UK, members of our Next Jump London Office visited Buxton School in order to lead an Academy with the school’s Senior Leadership Team.

The session aimed to discuss the challenges that Next Jump has faced in the past and how we have developed our culture from the learnings we took from these difficult times. We hoped to provide practical advice and guidance to the school on how they can use our methodologies and programmes to combat their own challenges.

At Buxton School we focused on Leadership Development and Recognition, two areas where the school has had difficulty with workplace engagement.

Love the focus on the people and not just the product. I like how open the presentation was, this allowed for a lot of discussion between members of the team.”

What worked particularly well in this Academy session was our What’s Working/What’s Not Working session, where we brought the team together to discuss what parts of their organisation are working well and that they could “double-down” on to make even more effective, and which difficulties they really need to face and make fast improvements to.

I learned how important it is to start small and incorporate some of the programmes into the school environment consistently.”

At Next Jump, our aim is to change the world by changing workplace culture.

Over 21 years, we have grown from one student selling coupons from his university dorm room to a $2.5 billion tech company. We have made many mistakes and learned many difficult but invaluable lessons along the way.

In our offices in London, New York, Boston and San Francisco we often hold Culture Tours and Academy sessions to share our culture in this way, to find out more visit this link: http://www.nextjump.co.uk/academy

Our Culture Tour Team will be happy to organise a time for you if you’d like to learn more about our culture. Contact us: CultureTourUK@nextjump.com

Blog post by Rebecca G.

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Experimenting Teaching Younger Kids

On January 7th, the biz track visited PS 119 for our second class. This afternoon we ran an experiment in regards to involving more kids in our AAS program (with same amount of Next Jumpers).

  • We took the 3rd graders, and introduced them to the Fitness Track (no fitness instructors present) which had Physical and Emotional Elements to it. Our “Make Someone’s Day” plate exercise, and Freeze Dance Muscle Game (see below) was a hit and helped us see that we can touch the younger kids at PS 119.
  • Meanwhile, the 4th and 5th graders continued their track, getting to the next step in building their own business – with logo games and a mission statements interactive presentation that taught them to think about the Who, What, and Why of their business. Student groups gave their presentations afterwards, and were very proud of their work!

Next Jumpers – we left energized, laughing, and proud. Kids giving us big hugs, parents greeting us on the way out. Everyone had their own personal story to tell about a child they connected with, and changed their life… even if just for an afternoon. Made me anxious on how we can get other companies to do this.

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Next up:

  • Test “kids teaching kids” concept, 5th grade buddy system with the kindergartners to see if that’s a way we can get more kids involved.
  • Scale our Platform to Give: first with fitness instructors, sign up on website, and then with partners.

Here are some of the steps we took to involve the younger kids:

  • Have them sit in a circle. Introduce yourselves and what you do at work and home.
  • Demo freeze: play music on the speakers, dance with emphasis on moving like crazy, then shut off music and freeze. Have the kids do it 3-5 rounds.
  • Teach them 3 muscle groups at a time. Ask them “do you know where your ____ is?”
    1. Quadriceps, bicep, trapezius
    2. Triceps, hamstring, calf
  • Now play freeze, but when the music stops, tell them to point to one of the muscle groups they learned. Do three rounds – 3 at a time twice, then all six at once.
  • Next ask them how do you work these six muscle groups. Then you show them:
    1. Quadriceps are worked through squats
    2. Biceps are worked through biceps curls (simulate them but tell them to make a muscle)
    3. Trapezius are worked through superman (lay on your stomachs and pretend you are flying by putting your arms in front of you and leg your legs off the ground)
    4. Triceps are worked through push-ups – show them push-ups on your knees and not (we said triceps for push-ups and not pecs/chest because we didn’t want girls touching their chest).
    5. Hamstrings are worked through a hip raise (lay on your back, knees bent, raise your butts up in the air).
    6. Calves are worked through a calf raise (stand on your toes and hold it).
  • Then play freeze; when music stops, tell them to work their quads, etc. If you need more time, ask for volunteers to show the class how to work each muscle group.
  • Next, play Caught in the middle: Put them in lines of 4-5 kids where one line faces the other on opposite ends of the gym. Play music and have them run to their opposite line, tag their friend, and keep going until the music stops. The people in the middle when music stops have to do the exercise you yell out.

This is very intuitive so use your guts and do what you think is right.

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Jackie

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Using Unstructured Time Wisely

As a track lead for our Adopt a School program, most of my preparation for a school visit involves scheduling a lesson plan and preparing the other employees with the material. However, it is important to keep in mind that this program is not just about teaching kids. It is about engaging the kids as well as ourselves in a fun after-school environment.

Key takeaways:

  • Our primary goal as a track is not to teach the kids, but to engage them
  • It is easy to fall into the trap of focusing only on putting together a lesson plan, and the worst time to do this is during unstructured time with the kids
  • Track leaders should encourage their track to fully engage with a student or a small group of students before the lesson begins: ask questions about their day, mood, and homework
  • Learning more about the students will add value to the program as well as to the classes themselves, because teachers who understand their students will have a better idea of how to teach them

If all of our energy as a track is focused on preparing and teaching a curriculum, then the program itself will be dry. When we arrive at the school, we normally have at least 45 minutes before our lesson starts, and we’ve made the mistake in the past of using this time to prepare for the lesson. This unstructured time is at least as important as the class itself. It is an opportunity for the employees to interact one-on-one with students. This time should be used to ask about how their day was at school, what homework they may need help with, etc. My hope is that by the end of the program, we can ask the students about things at home and they’ll feel comfortable talking with us.

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As Next Jumpers, we go to the school once a month. It is impossible as an individual to build a bond with all of the kids at such an infrequent pace. However, I think it’s important to encourage the employees to interact with kids during the unstructured time. As a track lead, I want to make sure that the employees in my track are on first name basis with several kids apiece after 2 or 3 classes. I want to see bonds forming that can be meaningful to both the kids and the employees.

Using unstructured time to learn about the kids will also add value to the class itself. Coming to teach a class of 30 kids you know nothing about is difficult. It’s easy to fall into the trap of only interacting with the most engaged kids with the loudest voices. However, it’s important to manage this and make the class meaningful for all of the students. If each Next Jumper spends time before class speaking with the kids and learning about them, it will be much easier for us to engage the right kids in the right way. We will be able to identify which kids want to participate but are slow with the material, which kids don’t speak English well, which kids have had a bad day, etc.

It is up to me as a track lead to encourage the Next Jumpers to engage with the kids in this manner. I make sure to pair Next Jumpers with the same kids each time so they can get to know each other. I also make sure to lead by example and chat with the kids at any opportunity I get. Now that we’ve been to the school twice as a track, I will encourage everyone to converse for several minutes with 2 kids apiece. We only get to go to the school once a month, and in order to add value to the program in such a short time, we must make sure to engage with the kids.

Luke Geneslaw

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Next Jump’s Tech Track A’s Second Visit to PS 119

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Last week, December 17, the Next Jump Tech Track A went to PS 119 for the second time, to continue on the foundation we’ve built on our first strip.

My goal this time was to find teachers within the track to lead the classes, this way they would be more engaged and feel more connected to the program. The teachers were going to be Vikram/Gowri (4th grade), Stefan/Johnnie (5th grade), and Rajbir/Eddie (3rd grade cup stacking). During the week, more and more people let me know they weren’t going (due to the busy season) and I realized too late that we were shorthanded. If I’d caught this quicker, I may have been able to recruit some hands from other tracks. We decided when we were at the school to not run the 3rd grade lesson as we would be stretched too thin.

We spent some time setting up for our lesson, then got about a half hour to help the kids with their homework. I think that this time is valuable because it helps me understand what the kids know, don’t know, and what they are learning so that I can plan the curriculum accordingly.

IMG_5258I was in the 4th grade room with Gowri teaching, and we had Vikram and Rajbir helping out. Gowri was definitely nervous during his introduction, but he gave it a lot of effort and improved throughout the lesson at explaining what was going on in terms the kids could understand. Still, given his quiet nature I felt that I was needed in that room at least to be a loud voice and command the kids’ attention. By the end, Gowri did seem very proud of himself for working through it and he overall did a very good job.

One of the struggles of having all engineers in a track is finding people who will be comfortable commanding a room of kids. I checked on the other room once, but Johnnie, Donna, and Stefan had it very much under control. In the future I’ll spread their abilities across the rooms. Overall, I think finding teachers within the track so that I’m free to move between rooms and help out where needed was a good approach.

Another struggle was the fact that the 4th graders were not good at working with the small laptop trackpads, which we didn’t foresee. They covered significantly less material than the 5th graders on desktops, so we’ll have to go into next lesson with a plan for how to catch them up. Also, the scratch environment is very open and it was hard to keep the kids focused. Some of them stopped listening and coding altogether, opting instead to draw shapes on the screen and add cool characters to the game.

I’m so happy to see them excited about the environment, but I want to ensure that they learn something while they play. Maybe the key for next time is to build in more controlled creativity, allowing them to explore a bit while still coming out with the lessons we intend on teaching.

Luke

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First Month In: Oxytocin High – BUT What Are We Missing (a lot!)

It’s been now a full month since the Next Jump New York office staff started helping with the After School Program at PS 119. The school has been very smart and creative, and stretched our funding to host 212 kids in the program – far beyond the 100 kids initially planned. We were touched to learn how applications were prioritized: first, 17 families who live in shelters received top priority. Second, single parents were admitted next. Lastly, the school ran a lottery for all other applicants, and in the end, after accepting 212 kids, the demand was so high that a big stack of applications had to be turned down. Knowing this fires us up even more as a business to continue to succeed at higher levels so we can achieve full funding for all kids who want to attend.

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By now, every single employee at our NY office has been engaged touching kids in a positive way, helping them learn and grow through 1 of 4 teaching tracks we developed: videogame programming, robotics, business & health and wellness. And the feeling and response has been awesome. The kids are wonderful, a delight to be around, pumped and excited to meet us, and likewise employees have been loving it. The formula of 1 afternoon of giving per 30 day cycle seems to be a good one for us. Oxytocin has been flowing abundantly through the NY office, creating a strong positive feeling for which we are grateful.

Oxytocin is usually called the love hormone. It helps relaxation, trust, and psychological stability. Several recent studies identified high levels of oxytocin in people who are generous toward others, it is something new and being studied as “the helpers high.” It sounds similar to the high we get exercising but comes from changes in the brain that happen when giving. When you’re touching people in a positive way, lending a helping hand, your oxytocin level goes up – and that relieves your own stress.

Being the data nuts we are, we ran a survey at the office and compared the level of engagement of employees today vs. 90 days ago, before the infusion of oxytocin from helping at the after school program. Preliminary results show that engagement definitely went up, and beat engagement levels from our other offices in Boston, SF and London. People actually feel more positive now than they did 90 days ago because of this program. And that is a very good thing.

But let’s set aside the initial good results, and pause for a moment to take a serious look at what we might be missing…And you may ask, why do that when it sounds like the program is working? Because our aim, our goals are not small. We want to create a movement that will result in all 100,000 public schools in America being adopted, and change the face of education. That is a big ambition. It will not happen by us being content with where we are today. We need to put on our critical hat and probe deeper into what is not yet working, into what we are missing, into what will make this program great. In mapping out what is not working, we found 4 areas that need significant work, illustrated in the picture below:

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The 4 areas are:

1) We need to reach more kids. We have focused in teaching 4th and 5th graders, about 60 of the 212 kids, because we thought would be easier to get started. But that’s creating an imbalance as the other grades know we are there but don’t get to spend time with us, and all the energy we bring. We need to expand and touch more kids. We have an idea on how to do this: graduated teaching, having older kids helping us with teaching younger kids. The best schools learned long ago this is a great model, and we want to borrow from that. We are going to start experimenting with this right away. Besides this, we also need to continue to grow and succeed as a business so we can fund every single kid who wants to attend the program, all 1,000 of them!

2) Engaging adults. We learned a while back that the key to helping kids is helping the adults. Yet, we have not engaged the parents yet. In fact, we learned last week that some students weren’t wearing the t-shirts we had made for them. One student told us that their parents said to throw it in the trash. Parents are skeptical, and they have all the right to be. Yet we are not in there out of short term interest, or as a PR stunt. We are there for the long run. But we have to show them, earn their trust, prove it. And we will work on it. The same goes for teachers, we hosted a Professional Development Day at our offices in November, but have work to do to follow up, and bring programs to help them.

3) The playbook. We are NOT doing enough to share what we are learning with others, and share it with empathy so that they may pick it up and make use of it to adopt more schools – time tables, schedules, curriculum, … we have a lot to share and we have done very little. We are also working on this, creating the outline of a playbook that we will fill in as we go. We also want to create a more fully featured website, and start doing some videos to help spread the word.

4) The platform. We have now created a platform to give! Others can tag along, as they did on our health track last week – we had a group of elite NYC personal trainers who volunteered and came along, and had a blast – experienced oxytocin with us. It is our responsibility now to leverage this platform to invite others, it is a win-win, everybody gains from it.

As you can see, turns out we are missing a lot… we still have a lot to do, and we are fired up by the early signals. This is just the beginning. We look forward to our monthly sessions and will continue to post updates as we go along and learn.

Albert

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