Expectations for student behavior and output
First, take a second to familiarize yourself with how Sidekick works. A good place to start is our impact model found on our website.
Chances are, at the end of any one project, most of the solutions presented to you will underwhelm you. This is the expected outcome on our way to that one diamond in the rough. It's kind of like giving that new entry-level hire a project on their first day; of course it'll be bad. Sometimes irredemptively bad. But you still give them those projects because they need to learn. Every once in a while, they even come back with a bad solution based around on a gem of an insight.
Sometimes the students will surprise you. Sometimes a team will click with the right chemistry, right skills, and right motivation that they come back with something better than you would have got elsewhere. This is well within the capabilities of a team of teenagers and we should probably all stop being surprised when teens do cool stuff.
More often than not, however, they are still novices. So, thinking probabilities, we don't expect them to turn around leading solutions most of the time.
Recognizing what your solutions may look like, then, your role is to encourage the students regardless of the outcome and proactively search for the diamonds in the rough.
We'll share some targeted advice for working with students on Sidekick projects, but let's start with the mindset.
Young adults are not just old adults with less mileage. Their brains are dramatically different at a neurological level. Their body chemistry barely resembles ours. The systems they interact with--the institutions, social networks, technologies, cultural expectations, and more--are all incredibly foreign to many of us adults. The experiences they've had and that their brains still remember aren't just a subset of ours; they're a different set from ours. They have experience we'll never have and they remember experiences we've entirely forgotten.
These attributes naturally breed a whole different animal.
You should expect to be surprised by them. How they think. How they act. How they are.
That's part of the fun.
But it means we're relying on you, the project partner, to recognize they they're different from you and to go into your conversations with them with that understanding. If you can maintain that mindset, you'll end up having much more productive interactions, you'll leave a much bigger impact, and you'll have a blast.
As your organization mentors teams through a full stream of projects, however, each project will polish off a few more rough edges. Almost too discreetly to see in any one project, you should start to notice that a sparkle emerges a bit more clearly. By the end of a stream of projects, you may happily take away a solution that's high quality and plug-and-play.
It's not just about the project. Chances are, you didn't sign on with us because you thought a bunch of high school kids were going to out-execute experts in your field. You're here to make a huge, measurable impact on kids.
With no advertising budget, you got your organization's name out there early to an impressionable but hard-to-reach audience (and their parents). With only a few minutes of your time, you introduced dozens, hundreds, if not thousands of students to a cause or industry you care about. You may have ignited a passion for one of these students, and in 5 to 10 years, you might call them peers or see their name as a wavemaker in your field.
You also created a real, measurable social impact. We at Sidekick are still continuously confounded by just how insanely powerful your contribution is through these real-world projects. The authentic and challenging work, relationship-building, student agency, and personalized learning you enable pull all the right levers to max out student engagement and student learning. In 15 minutes a week you're keeping at-risk kids from dropping out, leading to well-known social and economic effects. You're preparing the next generation for tomorrow better than the rest of us ever were--you're unlocking these kids full potential. We have no idea awesome the effects of that will be, but we're excited to find out and glad you're part of it.
And, still, we do expect you to get results on your actual project in the long run! In the meantime, you're training young superheroes how to save the world. We hope that's worth the patience.