Podcast: Diane Joins Betsy Jewell to Discuss The High School Hamster Wheel

Diane Tavenner Cooking

This interview with Diane Tavenner was recorded on March 3, 2020. The full show audio recording can be heard here.

Audio Transcript:

Betsy Jewell: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of The High School Hamster Wheel podcast. This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Diane Tavenner. Diane is the co-founder and CEO of Summit Public Schools, a nationally-recognized nonprofit that operates 15 middle and high schools located in California and Washington state. Diane is also the author of Prepared: What Kids Need for a Fulfilled Life.

Betsy Jewell: As a parent of teens myself, I had a lot of questions ready for Diane, and let me tell you, she had a lot of really great answers. During our conversation, we talked about the importance of helping our kids find a good fit both in school and in life, including choosing the right college, rather than focusing on getting into the best college. Diane offers lots of great advice and strategies for parents, including her ING questions and her three-step process, expose, explore, and pursue. Both of these will help our kids figure out what really makes them happy. Let’s get started. (music)

Betsy Jewell: Welcome to the High School Hamster Wheel podcast. Are you tired of watching the teenagers in your life trying desperately to keep up on the high school hamster wheel? Is your teen confused about which direction to take after high school graduation? Our world is changing, and our kids need to know all of the options available after high school so they can feel empowered to make the choice that is best for them.

Betsy Jewell: Through interviews with industry experts and leaders in education, we will explore the latest trends that are shaping the opportunities of today and tomorrow. I’m your host, Betsy Jewell, and I can’t wait to take this journey with you.

Betsy Jewell: Hi, Diane. Thank you for being here on the High School Hamster Wheel Podcast.

Diane Tavenner: Thank you. I’m excited to be with you today.

Betsy Jewell: We have a lot to talk about and, um, I really wanna talk about your book and all the good content in there, but first, let’s talk about you. Um, I’d love to hear your story and, you know, let my listeners hear your story, kind of as far back as you wanna go, but, you know, how you got started on the- the path that you’ve been on and- and all the inspiration along the way for the school that you started and for the book that you wrote, so.

Diane Tavenner: Great. Um, well, thanks for the invitation. Uh, you know, I think what I write about is really grounded in who I am and the experiences that I’ve had. As a student, um, as a teacher, as a mom, and a school leader. And so, um, I think it’s important to know about me that I grew up in a home that was pretty unsafe, physically and emotionally.

Diane Tavenner: And, um, so that means that school became the place that I looked for safety and, honestly, the place that I looked to kind of, um, help me get out and create a life that- that was more consistent with who I wanted to be and- and how I wanted to live.

Diane Tavenner: Um, and so, I’m certainly grateful to a lot of people along the way who saw things in me that I didn’t see in myself at the time. Um, and those ex- experiences and those relationships really helped me begin to understand from a personal place the importance of connection and community and relationship in learning. Um, and it turns out that that’s important for everyone regardless of your circumstance. That we learn best, um, in a social setting where we feel safe and supported and we have connections and relationship.

Diane Tavenner: And so, I brought a lot of that to my teaching, um, along with a really strong belief that I wanted to help kids who were like me. And, um, in the beginning, like many idealistic teachers, I was probably a little, um, misguided and I think that I spent more time at the start trying to save kids and what I learned later is that’s not actually what they really want. They want an opportunity, not saving.

Diane Tavenner: Um, and so, I- I … thanks to some amazing people learned that over time. And, um, and then, you know, uh, still felt a lot of challenges and problems as a classroom teacher and thought I could maybe help with those as a school leader. Moved into administration and then got this, what I thought was a once in a lifetime chance to start a school from scratch, and really design from the place that would set kids and teachers up for success.

Diane Tavenner: And so, um, in early … in the early 2000s, I took that opportunity and at the same time I was pregnant with my son and so had my two kids two weeks apart or six weeks apart. That’s Summit prep, my first school and my son. And, um, I’ve been working on Summit schools ever since and raising him to be the high school senior he is today.

Betsy Jewell: What a great story. I love that you sort of birthed the two babies (laughing) so close to each other. That’s awesome. Um, and yeah, I mean I read your book and, um, I’ve heard about, you know, you’ve told me too about your background. So to take that and turn that into something positive and- and change the world really change education for kids, whether they came from a tough upbringing or not, I think is huge.

Betsy Jewell: Um, so let’s talk about the Summit Schools because, you know, if you don’t live in California or Washington, you might not have heard of them. Um, so can you kind of give my- my listeners an idea of what they’re all about and how they work and where they might be able to tap into Summit Schools, um, education wherever they live?

Diane Tavenner: Yeah, uh, of course. So, um, the Summit Schools are first of all, middle and high schools. And so we are really seeking to serve kids who are in kind of grade six through 12. And we are, um, in our schools, we have 15 of them across the two States. We’re, we’re really focused on completely rethinking, um, how learning occurs in order to prepare our students for the future. And, um, by that it’s the future that, you know, we can see and the future we can’t see and more importantly what we want for ourselves and for each other.

Diane Tavenner: And so, one of the things we know as parents, and you and I have talked about, this is what we really want for our kids is we want them to- to be happy. At the end of the day, that’s what we want.

Betsy Jewell: Yep.

Diane Tavenner: One day they’ll, grow up and be able to do work that’s meaningful to them, that also actually supports them financially. We want them to have a community and relationships and to be healthy. And you know, we’re not alone. That’s what most parents want, and that’s what most people want.

Diane Tavenner: And so we really have conceived of a school that is a partner with the student and the family to get kids ready for that kind of life. And- and for sure that includes making sure that college is an option. Uh, the reality is that college is still the- the most kind of economically sound pathway in our country, uh, for- for people. So, so that’s a big part of it.

Diane Tavenner: But I think more importantly, we really wanna make sure that all kids are equipped with the- the habits of successful people that enable them to engage in life, a- a good life. And then also universal skills that, um, enable them to be learners throughout their life. We can’t see into the future. No one can see into the future right now. No one knows what is coming. And so what we can do is equip ourselves and to be able to constantly learn and evolve and grow as people. And these universal skills help us do that.

Diane Tavenner: Um, and so that’s what we focus on in our Summit Schools. Um, the, the good news for people who live other places is there’s a number of schools across the country who are adopting this type of approach and model if they’re interested, and there’s a- a Summit learning program know that helps them do that. And you can find, um, schools in- in 40 States now that are- are engaged in this type of work. And of course others beyond Summit as well. But 40, uh, uh, about 400 schools that we’re working with nationally.

Betsy Jewell: Wow. 400.

Diane Tavenner: Yeah.

Betsy Jewell: I didn’t realize it was that number was that big. That’s, that’s awesome. So some of the work that you do in the schools, I’m guessing has spilled, for lack of a better word, into the book that you wrote. And the book for my listeners is called Prepared: What Kids Need for a Fulfilled Life. And I talk about this on the podcast all the time. It’s, how do we help our kids figure out what that path looks like, what fulfillment, happiness, success in their definition looks like, right?

Betsy Jewell: So we, you and I had a conversation about this and I love the -ings. I don’t know if you wanna start there, but maybe if you can walk us through what the -ings are, and how that can help parents help their kids figure out maybe the path they wanna take.

Diane Tavenner: I think it’s a great place to start, because every one of us can remember or recognize either being asked this question or asking it of someone, which is what do you wanna be when you grow up? And you know, I remember it like as a teeny, teeny child, I remember I had this book about Nurse Nancy and I remember being asked as a little, little baby kid, what do you wanna be when you grow up? And, um, you know, what I think we’ve come to learn about people is that’s actually not the best question we can be asking our kids.

Diane Tavenner: Um, there’s a much better question that we can be asking them if we really wanna help them figure out who they are, what they care about, and what they wanna pursue in the future. And that question is what we call the -ing question. So the ING question, and it’s pretty simple, it really asks this question of what do you like doing, ING at the end of the word? You know, what is it … what are the … all the things that in your daily existence that you can identify as things that bring you joy or happiness or interest.

Diane Tavenner: And so if we just start thinking about our own -ings, you know, I- I would start and I would say, well, I like reading, I like cooking, I like hiking. You know, I like collaborating. I like brainstorming. And so each of us can start to, you know, brainstorm a list.

Diane Tavenner: Well, one thing we can do as parents is rather than kind of ask our kids to pick out of the air, like a fully baked, you know, profession or major is instead start with them and- and even on a daily basis, ask them, you know, what did you do today? What -ing did you have in your day to day that made you feel happy? And just like, have a conversation about that. Well why did that make you happy? And you know, some of our kids might say like playing in the park if they’re little, well, what about playing in the park made you happy? Well, my friend was there, or I was digging or I was building, you know, something or I was whatever.

Diane Tavenner: And the more … the deeper we can dig and the longer that list and then the more we start to find commonalities and patterns on that list, we can start to build a profile or a portfolio of a whole bunch of -ings that all add up to our child’s individual interests or passions. And then once we know that about our child, we can start looking to find where there’s good matches for that.

Betsy Jewell: Yeah, that makes perfect sense because I always ask the question, you know, what do you want your life to look like? But I think that’s honestly almost as big as a, you know, what do you wanna be when you grow up? Because I don’t know what I want my life to look like, but I try and get more specific. Do you wanna be in a cubicle all day? I don’t know anyone that does, but-

Diane Tavenner: Right.

Betsy Jewell: … even if you are in a cubicle, but I like the making it more an active question. The -ing the what you’re doing.

Diane Tavenner: Exactly.

Betsy Jewell: Um, that’s a really good way to approach it. I’m gonna try that with my kids.

Diane Tavenner: And you might want to like keep a wall or something or like a poster paper, you know, just to like a visual tracking of it that you can come back to and remind you and like circle and bold and you know, whatever if thing, if -ings keep coming up.

Betsy Jewell: Yeah. I would imagine over time if you start asking that question when they’re young, um, and then continue to ask questions as they get older, especially into their teen years, you will start to see those patterns.

Diane Tavenner: You will.

Betsy Jewell: Um, I’ll be interested to see the progression of that.

Diane Tavenner: Definitely.

Betsy Jewell: So what else … what other strategies, um, or suggestions you have for parents to help their teens or younger kind of work through, um, figuring out where they’re headed and how they can have a fulfilled life?

Diane Tavenner: Yeah, I think one of the important things for- for me is, um, fulfillment really comes from having a good fit or a good match. You know, we’re all different. We’re all individual. Any parent who has more than one child can tell you this, you know, the kids are different. You can raise them the same. You can put them in the same house, they can come from the same place, but they are unique, different.

Diane Tavenner: And so, um, one of the things we wanna think about is how do we find a good fit for each individual in terms of both the work they’re gonna do and the place they’re gonna be and the life they’re gonna have. And so that’s, that’s a little bit different than trying to mold our child into the vision for something. And this is where the process of college has become kind of corrupting, quite frankly to us as parents and to- to our kids. Because there’s these like idealized brand name colleges and as parents we’re sort of given these messages that in order for those places to accept your child, your child needs to look like this or act like this or get these scores or get these grades and sort of fit into this mold, which is a little ironic ’cause they have to fit into the mold but only be better than everyone else who is of the same mold, right?

Betsy Jewell: Right.

Diane Tavenner: And so, um, I like to flip that on its head. And I liked for us to think about, rather than trying to mold ourselves into something that we think the brand name wants, why don’t we actually first look at ourselves? The -ings are a great place to start to figure out what it is we care about. But then we also need to look at what is, what is our child bringing to the world? What are their skills? What are their … you know, what have they developed over time, uh, what are they really good at? And then, um, and then try to find something that’s a good fit for that and then ask the world, you know, this is what I care about. These are the, these are the gifts that our brain, what’s a good fit for me?

Diane Tavenner: And you know, it might be one of those brand name colleges, but chances are for most kids, it’s not gonna be that. It’s gonna be something else entirely that will be a really good fit if they really understand themselves. And so I w-, I would just start with that like a little bit of that mind shift adjustment of rather than trying to make sure my child is, you know, playing soccer on the all star soccer team because I think that’s what Harvard wants. What, uh, what are the gifts my child actually has and how do we build those, amplify them, help them, you know, develop them, and then find where in the world someone values that.

Betsy Jewell: Yeah, that’s great advice. I think as parents it’s really hard not to inflict, for back … lack of a better word, um, our beliefs or our desires or our expectations for our kids, right? In some cases it’s, well, I want you to do better than me or I went here, so I want you to go here. You know, wherever here is. Um, so I think that’s a challenge, but I think we have to be mindful of not, you know, pushing our kids or coaching our kids into a particular direction.

Diane Tavenner: I think you’re completely right and I really resonate with that right now. Like I mentioned, my son is a senior in high school. And um, what I’m experiencing right now is I think what a lot of parents are- are afraid of, quite frankly, which is my son has picked a college to go to next year that is a new college. It’s like no one knows about it, no one’s heard of it. It’s an amazing fit for him. He could not be more excited. I couldn’t be more proud of how we’ve actually figured out who he is, what he wants and found a place for him that’s perfect.

Diane Tavenner: And as a parent, every conversation I have with a family member, or a friend or a colleague, they asked me, where’s your son going next year? And I- I literally know what’s coming next. Is it’s gonna be, how am I gonna explain this place that they’ve never heard of and how am I gonna withstand them kind of looking at me and me feeling like I’m being judged as a parent because my child’s not going to a brand name that they just recognize right off the bat.

Betsy Jewell: Yeah.

Diane Tavenner: And that’s hard as a parent.

Betsy Jewell: Yeah.

Diane Tavenner: Because so much of our worth is like tied up in how our kids do, right?

Betsy Jewell: Yeah. We feel responsible, right?

Diane Tavenner: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Betsy Jewell: So we’ve failed them if they don’t end up in the best.

Diane Tavenner: Oh, right. And the reality is we failed them if they don’t end up having a good happy life.

Betsy Jewell: [crosstalk 00:17:56].

Diane Tavenner: But like Bryant brand named college becomes a proxy for that even though we know that that’s not actually true. Um, so I don’t know. I know what I’m asking parents to do is really hard because I’m experiencing it myself and, you know, we do hard things for our kids every day and I just hope that more of us will be willing to kind of take that burden of feeling like we might be judged or misunderstood in order for our kids to have a right fit.

Betsy Jewell: Yeah. Yeah. I actually have stopped asking friends, acquaintances with high schoolers where their kids are going to college. My- my question to everyone now is, what are your child’s plans after high school?

Diane Tavenner: Hmm.

Betsy Jewell: Because then there’s not that heavy expectation or exactly what you’re saying of them having to say, my kid’s not going to college-

Diane Tavenner: Yeah.

Betsy Jewell: … or, you know, or we chose a school that nobody’s ever heard of, or my kids going into the military into a trade school, going right to work, taking a gap year, whatever it might be. It’s what are your kids’ plans? And oh, by the way, whatever those plans are, let’s celebrate them-

Diane Tavenner: Right.

Betsy Jewell: … because they’re probably excited about them.

Diane Tavenner: Right.

Betsy Jewell: Yeah. Okay. All right. Good, good, good. So you talk about in the book so many good things. Um, one of the things you talk about are attributes that employers seek on resumes. Um, I’d love to hear more about that and have you talked more about that, ’cause I think, again, whether you’re coming out of college or high school or frankly at any age, what are the attributes that you think are- are important to focus on?

Diane Tavenner: I … It’s such a fascinating question. And I got really curious several years ago and so we went and really dug up what employers were looking for in like the 1950s from their employees because we always kind of romanticize this golden age of education, you know, and what they were looking for were, you know, these kind of, um, rope skills, like you show up on time, you sit down, you answer questions quietly, you do as you’re told, you can work for extended period of times on a, you know, basically a- a rote task without breaking, you know, it’s just like hand-eye coordination, things like that.

Diane Tavenner: Um, and if you think about the design of our schools, our schools were perfectly designed to build those skills in employee … in future employees. And so, you know, so many people are so critical of our education system. I am actually not, as you know, from the book, I- I really celebrate what it has done historically. Certainly flawed in many ways.

Diane Tavenner: My critique is not the past, it’s the future. And right now it’s just not designed to meet the needs of today. And so as we look at what employers need today, and there’s all these great lists of, you know, what are the top skills employers are looking for? They’re looking for people who can actually solve problems. You know, most of the jobs today, you don’t just go and are told what to do and just follow directions all day. You actually have to think on your feet and solve problems. They’re looking for people who can work with others. Jobs are so collaborative.

Diane Tavenner: I hear from parents all the time, you know, oh my gosh, school was all about my individual child getting a grade, you know, competing against their classmates. And then they get in the work world and they’re expected to work on these teams and with all these people and they just … they don’t have any practice in that. They haven’t been doing that, you know, in school.

Diane Tavenner: And so that’s what employers are looking for. They’re looking for employees who are constantly learning and growing and who are curious because things are changing so fast. So you’ve gotta be able to keep, you know, building your skills and your knowledge as you’re going.

Diane Tavenner: Um, and so they’re looking for all of those obviously to communicate effectively. If you can’t communicate effectively, there’s very few jobs that you’re gonna be able to do today. So those are the types of things people are- are looking for in the workforce. And- and so we believe that schools need to be designed that way. And if you think about the schools that you and I went to and most people have gone to, they’re not designed to build those skills.

Betsy Jewell: Yeah. Yeah. And I think his parents, I hope many parents recognize that. I mean, I know I do, and I work hard to make sure that my teenagers can both exactly what you’re saying; look somebody in the eye, firm handshake, communicate clearly, you know, no one word answers, you know, engage in the conversation, um, and be able to collaborate.

Betsy Jewell: And- and I think that’s why, and I had a recent guest who talked about this, being on a sports team is so important because you learn how to interact with others and be a team member and all, and all the things that, to your point in most, most public schools situations, it’s really about individual performance.

Diane Tavenner: Yeah, you’re so right. And you bring up such an important point ’cause as parents we intuitively know these things and so we’re looking for all these extracurricular opportunities and that’s why we value them so much. But it’s so … if you stop and think about it, but wait, like there is a big chunk of every day that’s devoted to our kids supposedly building the skills that they’ll need for this. And oh, by the way, it’s one thing to do it on a sports team, but it’s very different when you’re doing it around solving a more like academic type problem or things like that. And so if you’re not practicing in that environment as well, you’re probably not gonna be really ready for work later.

Betsy Jewell: Right. Right. You talk in the book about real world authentic learning. And I love that. I talk about that all the time. I … one of my kids is a very, my younger son, he’s all about experiential- experiential hands on. He’s in the garage this week, you know, changing brake pads. He, he’s all about having his hands in something and exactly what you’re saying, problem solving things that he’s gonna use in the real world and he doesn’t enjoy the classroom. He doesn’t enjoy sitting at a desk filling out papers.

Betsy Jewell: Um, and I think, you know, any suggestions about how parents can get their kids more involved in those types of learning opportunities outside of school?

Diane Tavenner: Yeah, I think that, um, for me, I just look for kind of every, um, minute and opportunity that’s not in school and how we can really make it into a real world experience. And what I should say is I don’t wanna dismiss just the opportunity to play and explore. Because I think one of our problems is we so over program our kids now, they don’t even have the time and the space for that.

Betsy Jewell: Yeah, yeah.

Diane Tavenner: And so there’s this balance, right? But then, you know, a lot of us as parents feel like, “Oh my gosh, we have to get tutors for our kids and they have to be doing hours and hours of homework.” And- and, um, you know, I- I kind of go in the other direction. I’ve always been the one looking for the- the camps and the summer camps and the, you know, weekend activities that are our creative, free play, more interactive type of experiences. Um, and- and trying every opportunity on that front to- to enable those types of learning experiences.

Betsy Jewell: Yeah. You and I talked about, um, passion, the word passion, and you have some pretty, some pretty strong thoughts on that. Do you wanna share that?

Diane Tavenner: Yeah. Um, you know, it’s, it’s really aspirational and it’s really intimidating. You know, um, I think that people sort of grabbed onto this idea of, oh, people should pursue their passions and what we didn’t realize we were doing, we were sort of saddling people with this like overwhelming, uh, responsibility of like discovering a passion and then feeling like there’s something wrong with us if we don’t have a passion.

Diane Tavenner: And so it’s one of the reasons I like the INGs and that type of approach is it’s a much more reasonable way to think about how you start to figure out what you’re passionate about. And um, you know, one of the ways to do that, we- we have a simple sort of three step process is expose, explore and pursue. And so as parents, if we can think about those three things, like our job as parents is to expose our kids to as many things as we can.

Diane Tavenner: And then some of those things they’re just gonna be exposed to and be like, yeah, whatever. That was nice. I wanna move on. There’s not really any interest there. But some of them will click a little enough for exploration. And an exploration could be a couple of days, it could be a week long camp, it could be a summer, it might end up being a, you know, a couple of years or something. And then some of those things will turn into pursue opportunities where it becomes evident that the child really wants to go deeper. And that’s when we start to follow something and stay with it for multiple years.

Diane Tavenner: Um, there’s huge benefit to pursuit. Um, but one of the things that I’ve noticed is that, um, in this kind of nuclear arms race, college, you know, uh, environment we’re dealing with parents feel like their kids have to find their passion so early so they can be expert at it, so they can be the best in the mold. Like we talked about earlier, that they’re kind of driving kids into a particular activity. And that means they’re limiting their exposure to other things, which that- that imbalance is really problematic.

Diane Tavenner: Um, and the notion that, you know, a seven-year-old or an eight-year-old truly is gonna know what their passion is, and then therefore pursue it forever is I think a little bit unrealistic.

Betsy Jewell: Yeah. I- I totally agree. ‘Cause I think it’s unrealistic for a 16-year-old-

Diane Tavenner: Yeah.

Betsy Jewell: … too in- in some cases, you know, some kids know, some kids can tell you from the age of 10 I wanna be a doctor. And all through high school they continue to, you know, focus on that and learn more about it and they know, they know where they’re headed and that’s awesome. But the majority of kids I know and that I’ve met most don’t have a clue or you know, we’re thinking about a couple of different things. Um, and I use the word exposure all the time on this podcast and in life.

Betsy Jewell: I … one of my biggest beefs with high school, the way it is today is our kids are not exposed. When I went to high school back in the day, you know, we had co-ops, kids left at noon to go to a job.

Diane Tavenner: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Betsy Jewell: Um, and I just think giving, you know, college, career fairs, all that stuff is great, but it doesn’t give you real exposure to the day to day, what does this really mean and what would it be like? So, um, I love that approach. I like the expose, explore and pursue. I think that’s a really wise way to go about it.

Betsy Jewell: Um, you also talked in the book, there was, um, kind of a flow chart diagram toward the end about next steps after graduation. It’s a nonlinear process. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Diane Tavenner: Sure. Um, and we’ve been talking about some of the strategies we use to help kids figure out, we call it their concrete next step. And we actually think that one thing that, um, high school should hold themselves accountable for is helping kids truly find a concrete next step. And we say that specifically, like you said, we don’t say college because there are other possibilities and options.

Diane Tavenner: And so what is your concrete next step that’s, that is reflective of who you are, what you care about, what skills and gifts you have. And you know, what you know about yourself and puts you on a pathway in that direction and it’s concrete. And so that’s how we think about, um, making sure that all of our kids leave us. So on their next step of the journey as they enter adulthood. It is not a linear path.

Diane Tavenner: Um, you know, getting, it’s so interesting, like if you talk to the vast majority of people who are later in their career or life, especially successful people, and you ask them, how many of you took this as straight line path to where you are? You- you followed A, B, C, D, it’s very few of, very few. Most people have taken these interesting twists and turns.

Diane Tavenner: Um, you know, and a fellow author and friend Todd Rose, who’s the author of The End of Average and Dark Horse has really traced amazing people in their journeys. Um, and how they never follow kind of this- this straight line path. Instead, they really are doing the types of things we’ve talked about. They’re figuring out what they like doing, and then they’re, um, looking for an opportunity where that fits. And then they’re trying that on and then they’re learning more about themselves, and then they’re … you’re finding the next pathway.

Diane Tavenner: Um, and the- the most fulfilled and happy people follow those- those pathways. And so what we try to do in high school for our kids is help them develop multiple plans. And so in their senior year, we want them to think through kind of the- the plan that probably everyone’s thinking they’re gonna follow. But we actually asked them to build out other plans, um, and really test those plans and see if they would be viable to really expand their thinking and expand opportunities and not sort of be locked in. Um, and we find, you know, this is the type of thinking that people are looking for from great problem solvers and- and you know, it’s an excellent way to really think about how you can land in a future that is a good fit.

Betsy Jewell: Oh, that sounds great. Yeah. I … again, I talked to my boys about it all the time and I say, whatever path you wanna choose is fine. Just to have a plan. You know, if you say to me, I wanna take a gap year, okay, take a gap year, but what’s your plan for that gap year? Right. It’s not sitting on my couch playing video games. Um, and- and to your point, what are you good at? What interests you? What kind of gap year would light you up?

Diane Tavenner: Yeah. Yeah. And that, that’s the key is that, um, you know, don’t take a gap year ’cause you, you know, read somewhere that, you know, the, the Obama girls took a gap year and so everybody’s doing it. Take a gap year because you say, I know this about myself. This is what I wanna go, like learn or explore or do. This is what I’m interested in. And this gap year actually fits those things and so makes sense for me. Um, you know-

Betsy Jewell: Yeah.

Diane Tavenner: … if you can answer those three questions, great.

Betsy Jewell: Yeah. Yeah. So let’s talk about Prepared Parents ’cause that’s a pretty great a resource for parents and others, really. Can you talk about that?

Diane Tavenner: Yeah. Um, so I’m so fortunate to have worked with really incredible people all throughout our journey together. And one of them is Mira Browne, um, who is a mom and a colleague. And um, when I was writing Prepared, she was incredible support for that. Her kids are- are younger than mine. And you know, the book is, um, it has some really concrete, practical advice for sure, but it also just has a lot of stories and it’s designed to help parents kind of think about things in ways maybe they have not thought about them before and stuff like that.

Diane Tavenner: And one of the things that Mira noted was like, you know, parents really need really practical advice, Diane. They need stuff. Parents only have five or 10 minutes a day. They need someone to be able to say to them, here, try this or here do this. And they need someone to like look at all the science and research and boil it down and make it practical.

Diane Tavenner: And so I’m so grateful to her for starting Prepared Parents, which is designed to do just that. It is a website and an emerging community of parents who really believe that they want their kids to have fulfilled lives. They wanna get them ready for it. They kind of are aware that there’s all this craziness around them and they want help and support of what can they do on a day to day basis in the few minutes that they have, you know, between dinner and bedtime and showers and baths and activities to- to help their kids in this way. And so it’s just this treasure trove of like practical advice and routines and tips and you know, stories and insights that I think is really helpful for parents on a day to day basis.

Betsy Jewell: Yeah, I would agree as somebody who has joined the community, (laughs) um, and has received the newsletter, it’s just chockfull of bite-size pieces of information, which to your point, you know, we all have a couple of minutes on our phone or you know, in between appointments or whatever we’re doing with our kids. And it’s a great, great resource for parents. Um, along with the book, which I- I can’t say enough about, you know, Prepared: What Kids Need for a Fulfilled Life. It’s a great read. I highly recommend it to parents, whether your kids are teens or their preschoolers, you know, they’re gonna be teens eventually (laughs).

Betsy Jewell: And I wish I would’ve learned a lot of what I know now back then. Um, but you know, we, we, when we know better, we do better. Um, before we go, I want to ask you one more question if that’s okay.

Diane Tavenner: Of course.

Betsy Jewell: If you could go back and give teenage Diane one piece of advice, what would you tell her?

Diane Tavenner: Oh wow, that’s a good one. I think I would, you know, I think I would tell myself to pay more attention to the relationships. S- s- specifically, you know, there were people who saw things in me and believed in me and offered to sort of coach or guide or support, and I didn’t know how to … I guess I didn’t know how to say yes to that or be open to that. And, um, you know, those are, those are the most powerful experiences and opportunities. And I would say take more advantage of that.

Betsy Jewell: Yeah, that’s really true. I mean, as an, as an adult, I’m all about the relationships, right? I mean, the longer we work and interact with people and meet new people, it’s all about those connections and collaborations and relationships. So that’s a really, that’s a good one. Nobody’s answered that way before. That’s a good answer.

Betsy Jewell: (laughing).

Diane Tavenner: Thank you.

Betsy Jewell: So I’m gonna include links in the show notes both to the book and to prepared parents, but where else, um, can people find you? What social channels or LinkedIn, where would you like people to find you?

Diane Tavenner: Yeah, you can find us on, um, uh, I think Instagram and Facebook at Prepared for Success. Um, and then, um, yes, uh, Prepared Parents, uh, prepareparents.org, or Prepareforsuccess.org. So, uh, yeah, you know, the usual places.

Betsy Jewell: Okay, great. Thank you again for being here. This has been such a pleasure. I have learned so much from you. I’m gonna continue to follow Prepared Parents and um, and just see all the great stuff that you’re gonna continue to do in education.

Diane Tavenner: Thank you. What a joy to be with you and I appreciate, uh, all that you’re doing.

Betsy Jewell: Well, that wraps up another episode of the High School Hamster Wheel podcast. I’d like to thank my guests, Diane Tavenner again, for spending time with me. Our conversation was so helpful. I am taking away so many actionable steps and useful tips. I hope you learned a lot too.

Betsy Jewell: If you’re enjoying this podcast, I’d love it if you would share it with a friend or two. The more people that listen, download, and share, the better others will be able to find it. If you haven’t started yet, please follow me on social media and be sure to join the High School Hamster Wheel community Facebook group where we continue the conversation and share tips and ideas about guiding our teens. All links and references mentioned in this episode can be found in the show notes.

Betsy Jewell: Thanks so much for tuning in. Don’t forget to subscribe in your favorite podcast player, so all episodes will be delivered to you as soon as they’re available. Thanks again for tuning in, and I’ll be back next week with another episode of the High School Hamster Wheel podcast. (music)