A Part of a Whole

part-of-the-whole-01As a recent graduate, I often think about the mixed feelings I had about my university. While I had stellar academic experiences, made great friends and traveled the world via study abroad, I was often disappointed by my classmates’ limited world view and lack of intellectual curiosity. However, despite the ambivalence I felt about my school, I was very involved in student government.

Because of my role, I often hosted prospective students during admissions events. When they asked me about college, I, like many disillusioned youths, voiced praise and complaint in equal measure. I thought I was doing my listener a service by telling them the “truth.”

But my outlook soon changed.

Near the end of my senior year,  the dean challenged the graduating seniors in student government to really think about the messages we conveyed to others about our school. She told us that the value of our degree depends, in part, on the public mindset about our school. And, as the newest generation of alumni ambassadors, we play an important role in shaping the messaging around our experiences.

The dean’s comments helped me to begin viewing myself as part of a larger community. And I saw that my words had the power to impact the dialogue around our school.

Outside of my family, church and immediate friends, I don’t often think of myself as being in a community. But I am part of a community, and so are you. While we live in a world where social media connects us, it also creates a false mindset of strident individualism. With one tweet or Facebook post, our opinions are seen by tens, hundreds or even thousands of people. The line between opinion and fact blurs, and congeniality often goes out the window. Behind our laptop, tablet and smartphone screens, we wield an outsize influence that many of us have never had before.

But with great power comes great responsibility.

As a K12 Insight Project Manager, I’ve seen how a few lines of text, promoted by a small contingent of people, can impact decision-making in an entire school district. Our Let’s Talk! solution empowers district leaders to monitor the pulse of their community by giving their stakeholders a voice in the conversation, which allows leadership to truly listen to the concerns of their communities.

While this provides some much-needed relief for district leaders, as my dean reminded me, we all have the power to impact the discussion, as your voice plays a critical role in shaping your community’s narrative.

Will you engage in a way that helps — as an advocate who promotes what’s working and a healthy skeptic who questions faulty practices — or will you destabilize the conversation?

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