I just read an article about a high school principal in the Bronx (NY) who failed to solve student disengagement problems with top-down solutions. Hats off to him for turning to user-centered design, i.e. actually asking the people involved to help come up with viable solutions. It seems so obvious to me that if you want to know what’s really going on you need to talk to the folks involved. That requires building trust, actually listening, and a willingness to make mistakes and corrections.
In addition, when setting innovative policy, you must also involve those charged with its implementation from the beginning. In this case it was teachers, especially those open to trying something new. School-based programs demand teacher support. They’re the boots on the ground. They have relationships with students. Supporting players in school are vital as well. And don’t forget the custodial staff, the true detectives on campus.
Key to this working is treating students as individuals. An example from the article is the penalty for tardiness. There are different consequences if you’re late because you stayed up too late playing video games vs. the hours of operation at your homeless shelter. You have to take time with students unaccustomed to caring, quality time at school.
So what does this have to do with preventing underage substance abuse? User-centered design addresses the challenge we have in actually knowing what’s going on in CV. We hear things that no doubt are true, but does that truth involve kids 18 and younger? Does that truth involve lots of kids or a small group of early adopters? Are their cultural differences and factors we don’t understand? Are parents part of the problem, the solution or both? Finally, how can we hear from students who know but who don’t share their voices with us?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on social media and comment. For those who like face-time, get involved in CV Alliance and CV Youth Alliance at CVHS. Help us access those parents and teens unaccustomed to being heard.
Thank you for caring and sharing, CV.
Suzy Jacobs, Executive Director,
3516 N. Verdugo Road
Glendale, CA 91208 (818) 646-7867