New View EDU Episode 40: Full Transcript

Read the full transcript of Episode 40 of the NAIS New View EDU podcast, which features host Tim Fish talking with Mackenzie Link and Ella Cornett, high school students from One Stone School (ID). They share real-world perspectives on everything from classes and schedules to life lessons on failure, accountability, purpose, and more.

Tim Fish: It’s hard to believe we are already at the last episode of Season 4. In the New View EDU tradition, the last episode is always a small panel with two or three thought leaders. Well, today we’re mixing it up a bit, and we’re going to do something we should have done a long time ago. We’re talking with students. And both of our students today are from One Stone School, Lab51, in Boise, Idaho.

Now, One Stone is a nonprofit school serving about 120 students, and they believe in the power of students and they live it every day. At One Stone, students are leaders and collaborators in every aspect of the school. They play a huge role in hiring. They have a significant voice in admissions. They collaborate on the design of the schedule, and every other aspect of the school. The One Stone charter even mandates that two-thirds of the board must be comprised of students from the surrounding area, and the board chair is also a student.

Well, today we’re talking with two of their students. Mackenzie is the chairperson of the One Stone board, and is planning to graduate in a few short weeks. Ella is a second-year student at Lab51. She also sits on the board of directors and is an admissions team student lead. You are going to love this conversation with Mackenzie and Ella.

Ella and Mackenzie, welcome to New View EDU. I am so excited for this conversation today.

Mackenzie and Ella: Thank you so much, Tim. 

Thank you. 

Tim Fish: Let's kick it off with just having the two of you tell us a little bit about yourselves. Where are you on your school journey? What are you into? What are you working on now? What are you excited about? 

Ella: All right. My name is Ella. I'm in my second year at One Stone, so intending to graduate in 2025. And right now I'm super excited about admissions season, which is coming up. I'm one of our student leads for the admissions team and I'm super psyched to be able to be working on that. 

Tim Fish: What does a student lead on the admissions team actually do?

Ella: Yeah, so me along with a couple other students, kind of lead our team of other students who review applications, score interviews, all of the things, give tours, anything really just an admissions team does. We're just kind of the leads for that process.

Tim Fish: So who makes the decision in admissions?

Ella: It's kind of a cooperation between students and coaches. So we have a couple adult members on our team as well, and we just all come together one day and it's, we call it decision day. It's very scary. And we just all together have a conversation, look at the scores, and then make our decision based on that.

Tim Fish: Awesome. Wow. How about you, Mackenzie?

Mackenzie: This is my fourth year at One Stone. I can't believe it. My fourth and final, I'm planning on graduating this coming spring, and oh, I've been all over the place, but right now I am starting to pursue a career in health care. I'm getting my CNA, or certified nursing assistant. And I'm also looking into construction, which you're going to give me a face here on that.

I know, I know. They're wildly, wildly different, but those are two pathways that I've been exploring recently.

Tim Fish: I love that. You know, when we first had our first conversation, Mackenzie, you were talking about how you loved being on site with a construction manager and seeing how the construction process took place, and you were saying, I could do this job. Like this would be super fun.

Mackenzie: It, it was absolutely phenomenal. I was just with him for two days and even those two days, I now walk into places with a completely different view on buildings. Like I'm looking at mechanical and I'm looking at the structural steel, like how did this even happen? Like I just have a newfound appreciation for construction.

Tim Fish: That's so cool. I, I hope you, I hope you think about finding some intersection between healthcare and construction management, and I'm sure that, I'm sure that you will, maybe building hospitals will be in your future. You know, I'm so fascinated by One Stone school, and when you go to the One Stone webpage, the first thing you see, the thing that sits on the page is a simple statement.

Mackenzie and Ella: Mm-hmm.

Tim Fish: We believe in the power of students. And when you click in a little farther, you see it. You hear about this thing called 51-ing.

Which means, it says, going beyond the obvious, blazing new trails. Exceeding the expected, pushing past the first 50 ideas, because they've all been tried. Understanding, empathizing, innovating, ideating, iterating, building trust, believing young people are capable of amazing things. We 51 it through the learning and practice of 21st century skills. 

So that is an inspiring vision statement for a school. One Stone sounds different from a lot of other schools. Tell me, how is it different from what other students who might be listening today, or other teachers who might be listening today from more traditional schools?

How is One Stone and Lab51 different?

Mackenzie: Tim, I think a great example though of believing in the power of students is, like Ella was talking about, like admissions team, just for an example. Students are embedded within everything that we do, whether that's the board of directors, whether that's the admissions process, whether that's planning the schedule for the whole year.

All of those things are student driven. 

Tim Fish: So planning out the timetable, planning out what time first period's going to end, if there is a first period and second period, students are part of that team with the coaches. And, and Mackenzie, aren't you the board chair?

Mackenzie: I, I am the board chair for One Stone. Yes. 

Tim Fish: And when we say you're the board chair, we don't mean you're the board chair of like the kids' table, right? Which is where like the, you get to just every once in a while come to a meeting and sit there. We mean like literally you're the board chair of the organization.

Mackenzie: Yes. So One Stone is a nonprofit, and like all nonprofits, we have a board of directors. And so part of our bylaws states that the board of directors must be at least two thirds high school students. So we have students from all across the Boise area and the Treasure Valley on our board of directors, along with four really powerful and amazing adults who are incredible mentors and visionaries within the Boise community.

Tim Fish: That's unbelievable. All right, so keep, so keep talking a little bit more because now already we can see how the school is different. Students are embedded in everything, that the school lives that idea. How does it evidence itself in classwork and schoolwork and, and studios and labs and other things that you do?

Ella: Well, a lot of times we have students who are super stoked on a topic who will work with a coach to design an experience, to offer to other students, to teach peers about that topic. And I think that's a really great example of this, like, student leadership, power of students thing that we talk about.

So that's, I feel like one of the really big parts. And then another example that I'd love to highlight is our graphic design studio Two Birds, which is a studio that actually generates revenue for One Stone, that businesses come and hire this, this graphic design studio two birds, and it's made up of students.

So students design all of the logos, the ads, create the videos, write the scripts, all the things, all the ones communicating with the clients.

Tim Fish: So it's not this sort of thing where like, you know, like the students are just, there are no adults and the students are just doing everything.

Or there are no content experts, or there aren't, there's adults in the community, coaches in the community who you're working with, but everything is collaborative. Every aspect of the school is a collaborative relationship. Is that, is that a fair way to describe it?

Mackenzie: I think beyond fair, yeah. Our staff members. We hire them, like based off of expertise in their field. We don't, I mean, we have some people who are, their field is teaching and education, but that is not at all a requirement or even something that we look at when hiring staff. I've been a part of the hiring process for the last three years, and really what we look for in staff members are an expertise in something and a belief in the power of students.

Tim Fish: That's key, right? You could be a Ph.D. in biochemistry, but if you don't have that sort of, that proven sort of belief in the power of students, that desire and ability to deeply collaborate. Right? As I've mentioned before on the podcast, this guy Jeff Sandefer, who founded something called Acton Academies, talks about the power of that adults in the community need to step back and then when they give over more collaboration of students, and even if it starts to not go perfectly, they need to step back again.

And not step in and fix it or say this is how it's going to be, but in fact always stay in that collaborative mode. Would you agree with Jeff on that?

Mackenzie: Oh yeah. In failure is where usually the deepest learning comes from. Mm-hmm.

Tim Fish: Yeah, so, so tell me a little bit about how the schedule that you all have designed allows you to get in a little bit deeper on things you're interested in. Ella, I know you've been really deeply involved in a few things. Tell me a little bit about how the schedule and how time has allowed, and in particular, your use of the summer, has allowed you all to get in, go deep on some topics.

Ella: Well, before I say anything about the schedule, I just want to highlight that every single year it looks totally and completely different. So this year's schedule isn't the same as last year's schedule and last year's schedule was way different from the year before that and all of the things.

So as of right now, I've gotten to really cater my schedule to my needs. So I really wanted to focus heavily on environmental sciences last year. This year I was kind of into stepping away from that a little bit. So I got to pick to do things that weren't so focused on environmental sciences. And then in the summer, we have a term dedicated to just having a professional experience in a field of our interest.

And last year for me, that was admissions team. And I was one of our summer admissions interns who planned a week of welcome that we do every single year called Reboot Week for our new students, to help them adjust to the like One Stone experience and One Stone vibe. And that was super, super rewarding for me because I learned that I love admissions and I love the process and I love getting to like, plan something that's going to be implemented on a big scale that really, like, impacts people.

But I also learned that that's not what I want to do for the rest of my life. And I feel like a lot of students have experiences like this over the summer, where they pursue something and they're like, yes, I want to do this for the rest of my life. Or they're like, maybe not. Maybe I want to do something else. And that's so valuable for a high school student, because then you go into college feeling that much more prepared, or whatever you do after high school.

Like, it's just such amazing real world experience that really allows us to discover more about ourselves and who we are.

Mackenzie: Do you have any plans for this coming summer?

Ella: Oh boy. So yeah, we're in the planning process of our summer experience right now, and I'm really interested in criminal science and forensics. So I'm reaching out to the coroner's office to see if I can maybe get an internship there or a job shadow or something. And I'm looking into a couple programs across the country that you like, go and learn about those topics.

Mackenzie: That's really cool, Ella. This is my fourth and final year, so I've had three summer experiences and each year I've probably logged, I don't know. I'm between 150 and 200 hours of doing something. And it's, it's varied anywhere from being an intern at One Stone and doing monitoring and evaluation and the admissions team, to working marketing at a lavender farm. And I was on a youth council for the City of Boise. And so many things that I did get to go in exactly how Ella was saying and like, this is super exciting and cool, and then be like, but you know what? Maybe this isn't totally for me. But I had a lot of really incredible experiences and that's the beauty of summer experience, and the summer term, is that we can really just explore in a capacity where you can work a 12 hour shift and do something that's like, immersive and deep in the professional world.

Tim Fish: So it's a small, it's a relatively small school compared to a lot of schools, so around a hundred to 120 students who are all living in this sort of student— there's a lot of responsibility that comes with this also. Right? You can't just check out. You know, one of the things that this guy Matthew Barzun talks about is this idea of the constellation.

The constellation is when there's an interdependent team of people that are working together, and in that interdependent, what he calls constellation, you as an individual are seen for who you are. You are known deeply by the community, and you are needed. This idea of being needed, this idea that it, I might not feel great, but I have to go to school. They need me there. Right. They're, I have responsibilities. I'm sensing that's a big part of being part of the One Stone community as a student, that you are needed in the community. Would you agree with that?

Mackenzie: I'd say Ella and I experienced that daily. Yeah. And, there's a wonderful quote from a documentary that was made about One Stone a couple years ago, called Rise, and a student said that you get out of One Stone what you put in. So it's not just a, like a magic secret sauce and like all of a sudden you care and you're student driven.

It's like, Maybe it takes a year for a student to get there, but exactly like you were saying, Tim, once a student finds purpose and meaning and like they're needed, because they are needed, that's when the magic and the transformation really starts to happen.

Tim Fish: Yeah. So Ella, what happens when you take 120 students and you immerse them in this community?

Ella: Oh my gosh. It's, it's so hard to put into words because it's so amazing. Like our building, you walk in and there's just like this buzz because everyone is, is just like doing things and they're making things and they're building things, and they're writing things and they're drawing things and it's so inspiring to go in and see your peers working hard, and you want to work hard.

So we all, I feel like kind of feed off of each other and are like, this is so cool. We're all in it together. We're all having this great experience together. And one of our, one of our big values is being all in. And a lot of times I hear like, like emphasis on that all in concept and throwing your all into your learning.

And like Mackenzie said, you get out what you put in. And everyone at One Stone is extremely all in. We're always throwing our all into everything. I feel like when everyone together is doing that, you get this just super tight-knit close community. I think I know every single person in the building's name. And I think every single person in the building knows every other person in the building's name. Like we're all friends and we're all peers and we're all colleagues. And we have a lot of fun, but we also know when we need to crack down and be serious. So it's just, This great environment where you really feel pushed to try your hardest and do your best, which I feel like is super unique to One Stone.

Mackenzie: And I think the other really cool part is there are the days, and I've had them myself, where maybe I'm not being real productive or all in that day, and that's OK. And a student like Ella or my sister or whoever, will come up and like, hold each other accountable. Which I think is one of the coolest parts, is it's not only the staff and the coaches keeping us accountable. There's so much peer accountability there. And like, oh, you're not bringing your a hundred percent, come on, you got this. Like, let's dig into this. 

Ella: Yeah. And there are some days where you're just like, you know what? I'm really tired and I can't. And I've had days where I've been in teams and I've been like, guys, I am just tired and out of it, and they're like, that's OK. 

Mackenzie: Like we'll pick up your slack. 

Ella: We'll pick up your slack and you can bring it tomorrow.

Tim Fish: Wow. And you, and you've done that for others, and others have done it for you. Right.

Mackenzie and Ella: Oh yeah.

Tim Fish: So let's, let's dig in on that a little bit, right? Because one of the things I'm curious about, is, you know, what school should be like. Right. And this, this whole podcast was founded around the idea of what should the purpose of school be? Like, why should we have school? What do we need from school right now? I'm curious if, looking at your experience, what would you say?

Mackenzie: I think that there's a lot of purposes to school. And I think one of them is showing people the pathway, or your pathways and your options, and what is your purpose? because if we go through life meaningless, then I'm not going to, personally, I'm not going to pay attention or put my all into anything, without purpose. And so One Stone... We do a lot of purpose finding here. And not just the what, not just like, I'm going to go work in healthcare, I'm going to go work in construction or market at a lavender farm, or whatever. It's why? Why do you do that? What's important to you? And so that's what we do at One Stone, I'd say every day.

Ella: Yeah. 

Mackenzie: Is a lot of reflection and like, OK, why are you doing that? And then learning the soft skills to go with that. So we, our assessment tool, we don't have grades. I don't have a GPA.

Tim Fish: Hmm. What's that going to be like applying to college? Mackenzie, are you finding that colleges are saying, we don't want to talk to you because you don't have a GPA? Or are they intrigued by what Mackenzie might bring to the college campus? Or are you not even thinking about college?

Mackenzie: I've been, I'm super blessed that there were, oh, how many classes before? There were, I think, four other graduating years that have come before me. Now, the first graduating class might have had a little bit of difficulty. I don't really know. But in the past four or five years we've been accepted, I believe it's into 140 colleges, with our, what we call the growth transcript. 140 colleges, internationally, and like, I think a million dollars on average in merit scholarships every year. Every year.

Tim Fish: Wow. So, so the college thing is working out. OK.

Mackenzie: The college thing is working out. Some colleges are still like, you know what, we don't, we're not really into it right now, but year after year we've gotten colleges that we haven't before, so we've been really successful on that front. Really successful.

Tim Fish: You, so I love this notion of, one of the purposes of school is to help each individual student find, do what you called purpose pathways, purpose finding. To find their purpose through exploration, experimentation, trial and error, connecting with people. And the other was that notion of what you said, I think, was the soft skills. Connecting in, learning how to work with others, learning how to be part of a team, learning how to manage a project, to be responsible, to show up, to be all in. 

Mackenzie: I'm just going to expand on it a little bit, is at One Stone, and I think this is one of the things that should be what school is, is we look at students. We have a 360 view of students. We're not just looking at your competencies in mathematical application, but we're looking at your humility and your empathy and your desire to grow and your ability to fail forward, on top of your scientific inquiry and your critical thinking skills and your critical reading.

All of those things are what makes up a person, and that's what we're not only self-evaluating, but having coach evaluation on, is like, how do we get proficiency in those things? 

Ella: To, to go back to the question of, of what should school be, I feel like, I feel like learners and students should come out of school with that sense of purpose. And that's, that really resonates with me because I feel like that's what I want out of school. I want to leave school and kind of know what I want to do and who I want to be in the world. And one thing— 

Mackenzie: And why. 

Ella: Yeah. And why? The why is huge. 

And one thing I want to touch on that, that we haven't yet, is we have a program dedicated specifically to wayfinding and to passion finding. It's called Living in Beta. We make artifacts and we just like, really reflect inwards and figure out like, what is that that drives you? Can you distill it down to one statement, like what is your why? And those things are super powerful and a lot of times give students that direction they need, going out of college and into life beyond.

Tim Fish: It's not easy, too. I think back to when I was in high school, if somebody said to me, what's your why? I don't know. Just I didn't have a, I didn't really have a why. And, and so what you're saying is, by your why — and your why can change, I'm sure. Right? But it's not like, what's your job going to be? Or what college do you want to go to? Or what course do you want to take? But it's that notion of like, why are you here? What's your purpose? Right?

Alright, so here's another topic I'm interested in from having now had a few conversations with the two of you and enjoyed every one of them. Is this idea of like, how, how tired and exhausted and stressed so many kids are that are involved in their high school years and college years and so on, right? There's this idea that, that, that to get to excellence, to get to rigor, right, to get to the pursuit of passion and purpose and hard, doing hard things, also brings with it like soul crushing stress.

And what I sense from the two of you is a whole lot of energy and excitement and passion and engagement and hard work, and probably some stress along the way. I'm sure  there are stressful days and nights, but what I'm not sensing is the soul crushing part. And one of my questions is, what's different about the work you are doing? As opposed to the work maybe a friend of yours is doing at another high school, where they're just taking a whole lot of courses and they don't have as much input, possibly.

Like what's, what's different? Why is one experience that some students are having, why does it feel soul crushing and other, and yours feels liberating.

Ella: Mm. I feel like one of the things that really drove me to come to One Stone was that real world application. So everything we do, we're like out in the community making real impact, doing real things. And it's that just knowing that my work really matters, that kind of, that kind of keeps me like, energetic, keeps me focused, keeps me passionate, because I know what I'm doing is going to impact someone somewhere. Or maybe impact me or a peer.

And that is so inspiring to know, that your work is going to go somewhere and do something, and it's not just going to, you turn it in and then it's stagnant. Like it's always evolving with you, which is super cool. And I think that's one of the big things that keeps me, keeps me focused and keeps me zoned in.

Tim Fish: Yeah. So your work, Ella, your work has a why. It's not that you have a why, but also your work has a why. You know why you're doing that thing. You know why you're staying up late on a Tuesday night to do that project and maybe you're stressed out and maybe you're not getting enough sleep, but you know why, because it's going to have impact on somebody. Right?

Mackenzie: I think one of the biggest things I've learned in the past three years is how to find meaning in everything that I'm doing, even if it seems... we don't do much here that's, quote, meaningless. But in other things that I'm doing in a job or whatever, finding meaning even in what seems meaningless, completely shifts my mindset to how I view stress.

It's not like, oh, this is pointless. What am I doing? And I'm still stressed out about it. And here's the due date. It's like, no, there's a point to this. And doing it meaningfully, with intention, is really helpful to that whole process. 

And don't get me wrong, I'm stressed out and that's because I care, because the things have meaning. But you're right, soul crushing? That is not, that is not a word that would even come close to what I think Ella or I experience.

Tim Fish: So how would you describe your stress?

Ella: I would describe my stress... less, less so stress. I would call it ambition. Like, I think the weight of ambition sits heavy on my shoulders because I strive for the, like, the next best thing I want to keep doing. I want to keep going, I want to keep pushing. And One Stone really allows me to do that and empowers me to do that. And my peers here like, empower me to do that. 

Tim Fish: Man, the weight of ambi— Did you check that out? The weight of ambition sits heavy on my shoulders! Come on, make a t-shirt. That was awesome!

Mackenzie:  I cannot believe you just said that. That literally embodies everything. Thank you. I don't, I have nothing to add. The weight of ambition is where the stress comes from, is always wanting to do better. To be better and to know that we can. 

Tim Fish: One of my favorite authors is a guy named Ron Berger who wrote one of my favorite books of all time, called An Ethic of Excellence. And one of the things he talks about is creating a culture of craftsmanship.
Right? That one of the quotes I think from the book is that spontaneity comes on the 27th draft, right? Like that's like that notion of staying with something until it's beautiful.

Mackenzie: The 51.

Tim Fish: The 51, it's what 51's all about, right? 51. Because the 50, the first 50 things have already been tried. It's the 51st where beauty comes from. Right? 

So tell me about that. Because what I think you all are, are explaining, is this magic where when purpose and agency are present and where we believe in the power of students, we can in fact get both. We can get excellence, we can get rigor, and we can get joy, and we can get this sort of notion of positive ambition. And I think one of you had said positive stress.

So like that for me, and you have this whole thing on the website about the secret sauce, right? I'm wondering, is that part of what the secret sauce of schools should be, is creating communities where that lives in harmony?

Mackenzie: Yes, absolutely. And it's really hard because you're seeing Ella. I mean, I have never seen, I haven't seen Ella when she's at her disengaged side, but it's hard. And I am not a coach or a staff member, but I do do mentorship in other ways, to get students to believe and to care. And that's like where the trick comes in, is if you can find something for them to care about, they can succeed and they can go far.

But if there isn't the caring, the purpose, the meaning, you won't, we won't get anywhere with a student. Because a student can care about music and we can be like, OK, so now how can we like.... you care about music, so let's explore math through that and let's explore sound waves and let's learn about trigonometry and build instruments, or let's look at science and the effect of music on a person with Alzheimer's, right?

Like all of those things, we can tie it in and you can look through your experiences through this lens of music, but it's not just like, yeah, we're doing whatever we want. So you get to sit and do nothing. Like it's that pushing students, the healthy balance of pushing students. And this is where great coaching comes in. And great mentorship, is you do have to find the thing that students care about and relate it, everything that you're doing, to that. And then we're in the home stretch.

Tim Fish: Wow. So there is push, right?

Mackenzie: There’s always push. Oh yeah.

Tim Fish: Like this is a community that pushes, right? This is a community that reaches higher. For that note, that sense of how can we have greater impact?

Mackenzie: And here's why. Our purpose is, we believe in the power of students, right? So we believe that students can do and reach those great things. We believe in you to do this. We know that you can do it. We know that you can do better. How can we elevate this? It's not just like, oh, OK, well, doing whatever you want. Sweet. That sounds good. Like, it's like, no, I believe that you can do this. And that's what's so, so powerful about our model. 

Yeah. And knowing that someone has that trust in you, like you have to trust the students. Knowing that someone has that trust in you as a student is so, so powerful, because now you know, like someone knows you can do it. Someone thinks you can do it, so why not go do it?

Tim Fish: Ah, man. A friend of mine gave me one time a little steel block, right? And in it is pressed the words, what would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?

Mackenzie and Ella: Yeah. Hmm.

Tim Fish: And, and I'm, I've always, I just leave it on my desk. It's a great paperweight, but I just leave, always have left it on my desk. And, and for me, what it pushes me to do, what it, what it calls me— and I wonder what the two of you think when you hear that phrase, right? What it says to me is, when am I letting my fear of failure stop me from taking the next step? 

That's what it says to me. So when I kind of feel like, you know, why aren't I doing that thing I thought? Is it because I am afraid I may fail? I don't know if you have thoughts on what you, what you think of when you hear that phrase.

Mackenzie: I mean, that's kind of exactly it. And I have a great example of everything you just described, Tim, of last week. I went in to talk to some of my mentors on this project that I'm doing, a year long project that each graduating student does. It's a service project, and I was like, yeah, you know, very unlike myself.

I was like, yeah, you know, I'm just like, they're like, how are you feeling with the project? I'm like, that's whatever. I'm interested. There's other things that I've been working on that like, this just hasn't really taken the forefront of my mind. It hasn't been what I'm doing. Like I'm OK, I'll be fine if the implementation in the project is just like, is like, this high, couple inches above the bar.

And they look at me and they're like, Mackenzie. Mackenzie! And I'm like, yeah. And through a bunch of discussion, I came to realize that, that it was absolutely a fear of failure, a fear of taking a big swing with my implementation and a fear, fear of failure, which is totally the opposite of everything we practice here.

We practice failing forward. It's encouraged, because like I said in the beginning of this, failure is where the greatest learning comes from. And so I just, I needed a little bit of a, a push. To remind me, like, Mackenzie, what are you doing? Get your head in the game. This is what you are here for. You're here to fail and to try. And if it doesn't land, oh well. And like, whoa, fix it in your last couple weeks or whatever. But like, the purpose is to go. And so I needed that push. Even now, after four years of doing this, I needed that push of, Mackenzie. Come on, what are you doing?

Tim Fish: Yeah.

Mackenzie: That happens every day.

And that's the importance of having incredible and good rapport with your mentors and your coaches. So they can have those kind of conversations with you. And I don't leave the office feeling, oh, feeling bad for myself. I just got yelled at. No. Like I left being like, They were right. What am I doing? And I like went off and did a bunch of work and got my head back in the game and whatever. So pushing, believing in the power of students. 

Ella: Yeah. And even, I don't know, I just, I had one moment in my first year where I tried to do a science experiment. I was trying to determine the effectiveness of household cleaners by growing like bacteria in petri dishes and then killing the bacteria. And it totally failed and it didn't work. And I was so scared that I was, cause we had to come to school the next day and we had to present our project to all of our peers and our coaches for feedback. And I was like, well shoot, now I don't have a project. I don't know what I'm going to present on. I'm probably going to be in huge trouble.

And I was really dreading it. So I was like, I can save this. So I made a big presentation about why it didn't work and everything. And I was so nervous to give this presentation and my coach after I gave it was like, Gosh, I'm so proud of you for owning that failure and I can see how much you're going to grow from this. And we sat down and we had a conversation about that, and I was like, oh my gosh, why? Why was I even scared of failing? Because this is now a great learning experience for me. 

Tim Fish: So how do you think grades often affect that willingness to take risk? That willingness to fail?

Ella: This is something I talk about a lot actually. When I talk to parents on tours and things. Before I came to One Stone, I went to traditional public school through kindergarten to eighth grade. And grades were how I measured my self worth, where I got my validation. Like that was how I was like, yes, I'm a straight A student. That means I'm awesome. 

And like that was, that was my mindset. And as soon, as soon as my, my grades would start to drop at all, I would like, stress about it. I would lose sleep. I would stay up all night, like, studying. It was, it felt crazy. And then I got to One Stone and my grades were completely stripped away.

And for the first couple months it was really rough. I really struggled like, who am I without my grades? How will I validate myself? How will I know that I'm being successful? And it was through our evaluation process where we get to reflect and look back and like, cooperation with coaches and mentors and peers that I realized, I can gain that validation from myself and from within. I don't need a grade to tell me that I'm doing well, because I'm satisfied with my work. And I'm happy about it, and that's what really matters. And that is what pushes me to keep going, because I know that it's going to feel so good when I see the thing that I'm doing, like be successful and matter and just like have that why that we were talking about.

Tim Fish: Wow. So, alright, so let me, let me try to summarize that. What I think I heard. What I think I heard, that was so awesome. Is that when you had grades, your identity in many ways was more about your grades, right? Your notion like I was an A student, so like the A's made me awesome.

Ella: Yeah.

Tim Fish: Right? And now you just know you're awesome.

Ella: Yeah. Yeah. Now I get to, I feel like I get to be like, yes, I'm a learner and I'm a student and I'm on the board of directors and I love admissions team and I love my school and I love the people at my school. And that is why I'm awesome. And that's why, so, like all of the One Stone students are awesome, because we're all all in and we're all willing to, to really go there and like, do the things.

Mackenzie: And I think what we get to do when we don't have grades, instead of looking at things from a deficit viewpoint, we can look at things with a, here's the biggest language change that I made. Of like, here's where I struggled, versus here's my areas for growth. And so we get to talk about things in terms of, OK, what do you have to grow?

So yes, Ella's awesome. And, Ella can grow and improve upon blank, blank, blank, blank and blank. 

Ella: Yeah. And every, every term we set blob goals, which, our blob is kind of the bold learning objectives. Yeah. They're all these—

Tim Fish: Blob. I love it.

Ella: —all these areas we've identified that we think students should show like— 

Mackenzie: —proficiency.

Ella: Yeah. And so I go through the blob or I guess all students go through the blob, and we pick a couple areas that we're like, I think I need to show growth here. So one of my big ones this term is vulnerability. Like, I really want to be open and have those willing hard conversations with people and, and just kind of get comfortable being uncomfortable and embrace ambiguity.

So that can look like anything, like a student could say the same thing for critical reading or mathematical application or empathy. So I feel like that's huge, is also being able to, like, look inwards and be like, I need to grow here. And I'm doing really great at this, but this is something I should probably work on and improve upon, which I think is super cool.

Tim Fish: When you tell folks that you're, that you're a student at One Stone, if they know anything about it, what are some of the misconceptions they sometimes have about the school?

Ella: No grades. You sit around and goof off all day. 

Mackenzie: That it's easy. 

Tim Fish: Is it?

Ella and Mackenzie: No.

Mackenzie: It's easy if you let it be easy, in the sense that if you don't want to grow, if you don't try to grow, you won't. Just like a student in public school that doesn't try, they won't get a good GPA. But that's not the motivation here.

The motivation here for us is to grow. So if a student doesn't want to grow, how can they? How can they?

Tim Fish: How can they? So what's the number one thing you look for in the admissions process? If you're looking at those files? Ella, what are you looking for?

Ella: Ooh. We look a lot for that desire to grow. Where it's like— 

Mackenzie: — which is a blob objective. 

Ella: Yeah. Where it's like, oh, this person really does want to show improvement. They really want to explore those different facets of yourself that you can, they want to dig in deep and they want to learn. We really look for like, passionate students who have a love of learning.

Tim Fish: Yeah. Do you have a particular question you ask? I did admissions for a long time and had the great joy of interviewing a lot of students. Do you have any questions you ask to help you discover if a student has that sort of innate willingness, desire of, you know, to grow?

Ella: We have one question that I really love that we ask students all of the time at One Stone. I've been asked this, I feel like so many times in my, my One Stone journey, we ask what breaks your heart? And what are you going to do about it?

Tim Fish: Hmm.

Ella: Yeah.

Tim Fish: Wow.

Mackenzie: It’s a, it's a thoughtful one.

Tim Fish: It is a thoughtful, that is a big question. That is a big question.

Ella: Yeah. And the answers are just always so inspiring and it's so cool to get to hear people, people answer that question. Especially when they've been at One Stone for like a couple years. 

Mackenzie: Yeah. How much that answer has changed for me. Since the beginning to now, it's gotten so much deeper and more meaningful. And there's so many, I've really learned to identify, what does that even mean?
What breaks your heart. Like, there's a bunch of things that, OK, I could break my heart and let's like, but what are the pain points for you?

Tim Fish: What I love about it, I, I think it's powerful. I'm going to hold onto it. I'm going to try to find if I can get a little metal block made with that on it. Because, because what I love about it is what breaks your heart and what are you going to do about it? This notion of that we're all called to serve humanity, to, to serve the larger purpose. And that is what you are all bringing to this whole experience. 

You know, closing statement, thoughts for the future. You know, there's a whole lot of educators who listen to this podcast. Any sort of thoughts from a student perspective that you would give to, to educators? I wouldn't call it advice, just maybe your thoughts on either school or the journey or education in general that you might share. Or life.

Ella: I would just say that building such a tight-knit and empathetic community is so valuable for students, to just know that they're welcome and know that it's a safe space to be and to fail, and to learn, and to try again. I think that has been one of the most powerful things for me throughout my journey in education.

Mackenzie: It's One Stone's purpose to believe in the power of students, but it, I would love it, for it to be the purpose of education anywhere. Is when you believe in us, that is the ultimate way you can show us that you care. When you hold us accountable, when you hold us to these high expectations because you know we can do it, that's what's really meaningful and super powerful. 

Tim Fish: Talk about being needed. Talk about coming in every day and feeling like, I gotta give, I gotta give what the community believes I can give. That is an incredibly powerful piece. This has been, wow, what a great conversation. I am so lucky to have spent time with both of you, and I guarantee you next year I will be in Boise.

Mackenzie and Ella: Yes. Yay!

Tim Fish: I can’t do it this spring, but I am coming and I don't know where you're going to be, Mackenzie, but you gotta, I gotta do it when you're back in town, because I gotta, I owe the two of you lunch somewhere to say thank you for this incredible conversation. What a gift.

Mackenzie: Thank you so much for having us, Tim. 

Ella: Yeah, thank you, Tim. This was amazing.

Tim Fish: This was so much fun. This was so much fun. I just, I am grateful. So be well, both of you.

Mackenzie and Ella: Thank you, Tim.