205 Principal Dana Moen -- Adults Connecting With Kids


A little about our guest this week, Dana Moen:

My name is Dana Moen, principal of Classical Academy High School (CAHS). I have the great honor of serving as principal of this distinguished high school. CAHS is passionate about partnering with parents to provide the best education possible so that students become successful thinkers, communicators, and achievers. We provide a rigorous and flexible academic program that meets the University of California A-G requirements. As a Distinguished, award-winning, California public charter school, CAHS offers a nurturing environment teaching students to: work hard, live pure, lead with courage, and honor each other, while preparing students for college, career, and citizenship. CAHS has been recognized by Newsweek magazine as the 136th school in the nation for preparing students for college and number one in San Diego as the best high school for homebuyers in 2016. Classical Academy High School is located in downtown Escondido, is one mile from the 78 and 15 freeways, and is within easy walking distance from the Sprinter station on Valley Parkway.


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Scott Schimmel: Well, Hey, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of YouSchool podcast. I'm here with a friend of mine and a principal local principal in San Diego, Dana, Moen- Dana, thanks for being on the show. And then give us a little context of where you're at what you're doing how you got there.

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Dana Moen: Okay, great. Um, cut me off. If I'm too long but I'm at Classical Academy High School. I've been the principal for going on 11 years now. I have the opportunity to help start this school 15 years ago when we when we opened the school cool. How did I get into education? I love my high school experience like high school was amazing to me. I felt like that changed the course of my life. I did some things really well. I did some things really badly. through all of that I just really enjoyed High School. So I've never left I decided I wanted to be a teacher. So went to school, to be honest and be a math teacher. calculus kind of changed me changed me my course to history became a history teacher coach, did that for about six years. Then I started doing ASP advisor and then had this opportunity to start school Classical Academy school.

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Scott Schimmel: Where did you go to school in San Diego, you grew up here?

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Yeah, I've I've been in Escondido guy my whole life except except for when I went to Azusa Pacific University and then got a job in Covina right next to Azusa, but I have been born and raised in Escondido, California. So

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I'm happy to be back. For those people that don't understand classical academies. It's it's extremely well respected charter school, but maybe talk about the model. So other principals listening in can understand what you what you do. Yeah,

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Unknown: so classical Academy, when I got on board, it was a K through eight model, and my wife had got a job as an educational specialist. And we were homeschooling our kids through classical, okay, that's a hybrid model, where most of the kids in K through six are coming to school two days a week. And the school is training parents and providing curriculum for three days at home. So that's what my kids were doing. That was the environment my wife was working in. I had got a job back at my alma mater, Escondido High School doing ASB their student activity, loving that. The school had gotten really, really large since I had gone to school. I mean, we were up maybe 2500 students when I mean just a different culture than even when I went to high school, you know, 20 years ago, or whatever it is 30 years ago. So I saw some great things happen at classical with the hybrid model. So I asked if there's anything I could help them do. And then Cameron curry now the executive director, he said, to come help us start a high school. So I'm more than four. I was amazing. I thought I was going to come over and start a leadership program or a PE program. Um, I did start a leadership program. But the probably one of the most exciting pieces was getting to be a part of that high school development team. And we toured several states and just took a lot of best practices into our high school. Our families still have that hybrid model where they can kind of have a hybrid of on campus at it and at home, but most of our families, by the time their kids are getting into high school are wanting their students to be on campus a little bit more. So our high school models like four days on campus Tuesday through Friday, okay. But most of our kids are doing some choose to do some online learning, but the vast majority are doing four days on on campus.

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Scott Schimmel: Well, I've spent, I've spent a lot of time with students at Classical. And I have to I tell some people lie. It's one of the most bizarre places I've ever been. I've called it the upside down world of high school. Because it's been absolutely remarkable. The level of, I'd say maturity of the students kindness towards one another. I mean, it's palpable. I remember working with a group of students probably three or four years ago, and halfway through, and it's conversations around their life and their values and their story. I just realized I might allow my backgrounds with college students, and they really carried themselves, like college students just very well spoken, thoughtful. And it's whatever you're doing, there it is, parents are listening in on this, I can consider that as an opportunity. Because I know we are

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Unknown: with Thank you, Scott. I mean, it's that our motto is partnering with parents, right? So that's our number one motto, it's part of the culture, everything we do our mission, vision values, your parents so that that impacts everything we do.

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Scott Schimmel: Yeah, and I know many of your teachers, and they are so engaged with students, like in their personal lives. And I call it mentoring and helping them grow personally. What do you guys do to to model that to ensure that happens? Like what are you doing as a principal to make sure that's,

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Dana Moen: that's all? That's a great question. I would start with, I started this conversation with high school impacted me, right. So yeah, the way the way high school probably impacted me the most was being part of the team. And being part of a team of culture. So I was highly involved in sports, I was highly involved in ASP. So my at least at the high school, my kind of goal here is that every single student belongs. So the way to get them belonging is to get them part of a team. So yeah, on the other flip side of that, as I asked every single staff member to get involved as well. So whether that's a few of them might be involved, because they're they're leading their department, but most of them are jumping into chaperone events. They're running a club, we have, I think we have this year 2020. early in the year, we have 25 active clubs going out and only have 30 teachers on this campus. So having 25 teachers running clubs, that says a lot about my staff, yeah. And then the vast amount of just sports and extra curricular activities, the arts, I just find that when kids get connected outside of the classroom is awesome. And there can be amazing connections in the classroom, right? We do a thing called cohort, where each year has a group of 25 to 30 students that they take for four years. And they meet once a week and trying to develop some mentor type relationships between student and teacher. But I find the place where they get where they feel belong, and they feel the love design teams.

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Scott Schimmel: You your a dad, too. And you've obviously spent your career with students. And part of the conversation that we were going to have on this episode was around relationships and connection. So there's obviously a big question, but what are some of the themes that you've seen about how student culture is changing? And I know as, as parents and as educators, we just know, implicitly, it's changing. But what are some of the trends that you see? Yeah, that's

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good. So part of that belonging and why I want kids to get connected and belong is there's been some research that shows if kids feel connected to other students and the caring adult, then they feel more hopeful. If they feel feel more hopeful, the research shows that they're going to thrive in school and outside of school. Yeah. And for whatever reason is the kids get older, throughout school up into the middle school, high school grades, some of them start losing hope. So my job, my role is to give them hope, again, find hope by getting them connected. Now, you and I have chatted a little bit. And I've seen you know, kids get connected in the wrong ways, which I think we're going to go there eventually. But yeah, when they start when they start losing hope, you know, I think everybody knows, especially if you're an educator or a parent right now, it's stress, anxiety and depression are just through the roof right now. You don't I don't, I don't I actually don't exactly know why some people blame it on cell phones or, or screen screen time or whatever. Yeah, but I think there is a lack of human connection component as to why feeling stressed, anxious.

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What, what are you doing as a as a leader? What is the staff doing? Obviously, you're getting connected, but you're part of your model is online education, or there's some component of distance learning at least one day a week? How do you kind of make sense of that? Obviously, they're getting involved in teams. But how do you talk about that with students?

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Yeah, we, we do have an online education component. And we we do have some kids that are actually fully online. So how do we get them connected to other humans through a teacher, Reza, other students? A lot of our online students are doing it because they're excelling in some area of their life, some passion that they're doing what? Acting or golf or music or singing? Yeah, so many of those kids are, are getting that connection, whether it's on one of our teams, because they're on the golf team, whether they're driving up to LA every day, and they're acting, and they're part of a community there. Right. So yeah, there is that. Now, those connections may or may not be with my staff, hopefully, they're with my staff, there's, you know, there's a requirement to meet with a teacher weekly. So even if you're in the online education, you're going to be meeting with teacher every single week.

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Wow. So what does that look like from a teacher perspective? They're meeting with all their students every week.

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Unknown: Yeah, not all at the same time. So I technically and not the principle of the online program. Sure. Yeah. It's actually grown so much so much that we have an entire principal And Staff Dedicated to the online and the blended online, which most of our students that do online are coming now this year, three days a week. But yeah, like I said, there are some that are fully online. It's we find Scott at the high school that fewer students want that full online experience. And it really it really is those kids that are really spending 40-60 hours a week acting or right there, right there in action, nationally recognized golfer or something like that. And they need that flexibility to maybe do their their school work in the evenings or on the weekend.

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Scott Schimmel: But yeah, the vast majority of our kids want to come to school, and don't don't want to leave school. It's like, the end of the day, they just want to hang out. We my son and I were on a walk last night in our neighborhood. We don't live too far away from your school. And there's a it's just a bizarre scene we saw a garage this nighttime, the garage is open. And there's a kid apparently is 14. And he's got this camera setup with the light gear. And so we're walking by and my son goes, Oh, that's, that's so and so I'm like, Who? He goes, Oh, he's this like huge Tick tock, social media influencer guy. And so I'm like, Why don't you talk about some we walked by, and I looked this kid up. And he's got 1.3 million followers. And he's a model. He's got an agent. And I asked my son like, Well, how do you know who this kid is? Does he go to school with you? He goes, No, I think he goes to classical.

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Unknown: I don't know the kid. That's really funny.

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Scott Schimmel: But it's one of those, like head scratchers, like that's that's a thing for a kid or, or even have someone that's so invested in their golf career or acting or dance. That's, I didn't know those kids grown up? No, I think that's changed. What? What do you see in terms of shifts and trends in students and connection that either concerns you or encourages you?

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Dana Moen: Yeah, well, I'd say I would like to focus on the web encourages me. So we've chatted a little bit about this in the last, you know, since we've started talking recently, I encourage my kids, when they start High School actually started in eighth grade, that I have three kids tips for them. And these are based on kind of my life experience. And yeah, and I like to encourage them that their grades do matter, because by the time they get to their senior year, here, they actually have a transcript and that transcripts going to impact their, their next four years, whatever they do, right. And it's not just it's not just getting into college, it's preparing them to, to be prepared to actually be successful in college, you know, and not be dropping out after their freshman year college. So their grades matter, their academics matter. And I encourage them to pay attention and follow directions and ask for help. Yeah, the second thing that we've just talked about today is getting connected. So I want to all connected somewhere, there's lots of places to get connected. The thing that I think that's encouraging and disappointing at the same time is that is the high school dating. Mm hmm. Um, they hear it classical, more encouraging than not seen, or So as we've seen a rise in anxiety and depression and stress, you have all seen a rise in not with my kids that are almost just walking around campus, like they're in a marriage relationship. Like they're already married, they're in this really intense emotional relationship, this connection, sometimes physical, everything is about that other person. And that's a scary thing that I've witnessed. And I've seen a lot of kids not handle that. Well. So my third piece of advice is don't date and high school.

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Scott Schimmel: That's great. I mean, you can imagine that couple you're walking through the hall, and you're like, that's not going to go well.

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That's like, either you. And Scott, most of them, unfortunately, don't look happy. Yeah. I mean, I, you I'm married. I've been married for 24 years, and I, and it's a happy marriage, but there's been some rough parts of any relation that that you got to work through and, and high school, it's a tough time to work through some of those inner personal things with this right in a romantic relationship with another person. So yeah, I encourage the kids not to get into a serious dating relationship. And many, many are actually following my advice and thanking me by the time they graduate. They so good, they end up graduating with more friends. Great social skills, a really high grade point average. Yeah. And part of that is, is because they have waited a lot of that dating drama in high school.

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I can I can only imagine if I had done in hindsight, like not still have unresolved issues and drama at the high school reunion years later.

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And that was the one so I added my three things, get involved, get good grades, and don't date. That's the one that I did not do well in school. Right? That's like that was like I learned from the other model. Is it good for me? Yeah, I dated for a couple years really intense right relationship. We thought we're going to get married. And a great girl I you know,

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I don't

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we're friends now a great, great gal, but it just wasn't healthy for either one of us in high school.

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So what to do instead if if the message is don't say what do you get them to do?

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That's awesome. And I and people, sometimes people get me wrong on this. When I say don't date.

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Unknown: I want that.

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Scott Schimmel: And like I told my son, my son's a junior in college. Now I wanted him to get to know as many girls in high school as possible. I wanted to have lots and lots of relationships. The kids that graduate high school with a lot of friends are the ones that didn't have one dating relationship through high school. They have, they have more guy friends, and they have more girlfriends. My, my daughter just graduated last year, she's also she's a freshman college, the, in her senior year, her group of friends planned a camping trip around California, they, they hit up these most amazing place. big group of guys and girls that were such good friends, that they were on this two week camping adventure. And the parents trusted them all as a

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writer, I cannot imagine that.

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Because these kids had made great decisions, and they weren't romantically involved in each other. They had formed these amazing friendship. So what do I say in front instead? Yeah, create friendships, right? No invested in your friendships, guide friendships and girl friendships. And I don't mean don't ever go on a date. Like we do dances and right. It's real fun to ask somebody out on a meet and, and most of our kids here, they, they might ask somebody, but they're going in a group, they're not going to be and then 24 hours just with one person hanging out with the one person?

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Well, you're even in this context of this conversation, you're talking about very personal things for young adults, you know, it's like, you know, we're talking at school, your principal, the school talking about relationships, and dating and romance and all that stuff. Like, because there's there's quite a few teachers in the world educators in the world that would say that's not that's not what we do. That's not I have a degree in math or I have a degree and I don't I'm not qualified. So how do you make sense of that? Because obviously, you're going you're you're getting it?

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Yeah, I'm for I've been, like I said, I've been principal 11 years, I started saying, work hard on your grades, your grades matter. Get involved in don't date, I started saying that about nine or 10 years ago. And for the first couple years, I had a lot of parents, like people warning me Don't talk about dating, like, telling me I was wrong to say it, I was taking a risk. It's not my business. It's not my place. And I'm like, Guys, this isn't a rule. It's not a school rule. It is just it is it's just a nice arrangement. But it's costly traction. It's literally caught traction now, and more and more people are like, yeah, Mr. Mo, and you're completely right. And I actually have kids making decisions based off of my encouragement to them to adjust it. And honestly, there used to be Scott, this this notion that you're not normal, if you don't do right, Totally, yeah. It'd be like, you're not cool if you're not in a relationship wrong with you. Right. And, and that's more of the stereotype we're trying to break here.

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Yeah. Well, what I love as a dad, knowing that my kids, I'm on the other end of the spectrum from you, as a parent, my oldest is 13. So he's entering into those years. What encourages me as a dad is I know that he's pulling away from me, and my two girls will as well, they'll listen less than less likely to my advice, and look more and more to other people, probably their peers for how to make sense of the world, which is very normal and natural. But here you are in school, giving them wise counsel like wisdom from your life experience, like that is how this whole project needs to work this whole raising kids school. So I just want to thank you for that. That that's a that that warms my heart that there'd be leaders in schools who care about my kids in that way.

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And and I'm encouraging the kids, I'm encouraging their parents, I'm normalizing that it's normal not to be in this semi marriage type relationship, right? When you're 14 1516 year old in high school, right. And and I'm not saying that all relationships are wrong. That's not what I'm trying to say. I've seen very few freshmen navigate a healthy dating relationship. I don't know if I've actually ever seen a freshman of 14 or having a dating relationship. I've definitely seen some at about sophomores have a healthy relationship. And I've definitely seen some juniors and seniors have a healthy relationship. All that say the ones that

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avoid it completely right

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graduate with the most amazing interpersonal skills and the most amazing group of friends just ready to take on the world.

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Yeah, you're just like, I'm just saying, This is research people. This is just numbers you choose.

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And research that me you mentioned research, I used to do my own informal, just kind of pulling like because my kids go to my high school. So I'd be driving around four or five kids. And I'd ask him, Hey, guys, what are your grades? What what kind of grades you getting right now? And I just kind of do a little poll. And I say how many of you guys were dating? And I was literally see

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which ones are dating or their grades? Were that was like informal poll. Yeah, I was

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so happy after multiple years of saying this, that a study just came out on the effects of teenage dating. It was it was conducted by the center, the Center for Disease Control. It's really for Control and Prevention. Why? Because they're looking at patterns of depression and suicide, and how dating is impacting those things. So they they ended up surveying almost 600 500 594 sophomores they surveyed, and they search they surveyed the sophomore and their teachers. And what they found out is that the the teenagers, the sophomores that were not dating were happier. They were depressed, and they had stronger interpersonal skills. Hmm. That's

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right. I've been right

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all along. Now there's a study. I feel like that's half of my life these days, is saying things and then finding that there's a study that's proven it, like recently has read this long white paper, and years of research that came to the conclusion that when students feel like an adult on campus cares about them, they do better academically. And I was like, Yes, I mean, but I'm glad somebody spent the time and money to go research that but then we already know that.

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We didn't know that and was an amazing study. That was another study that came out that I'm like, that's why I've been pushing this connection. Like, I want kids to be connected at school because and the only reason I really knew it is it worked for me. It worked for me, and then I was seeing it work for other kids. My Okay, so it's not about one sport or one activity, but we have a lot of boys at classical that play football. There's 80 to 90 boys every year that play ball during this season. Those kids are jammin Yeah, great. their grades are extremely high. There's no discipline issues. But those kids don't go on to another activity after football. struggle. Some of them struggle.

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Yeah. Dana's way to rule the world. This is awesome. This is great.

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Dana Moen: It is about a caring adults on campus. It's it's a group of kids, but it's also a caring adult. And that's why I encourage all of my staff to be advising a club or coaching or running a team on campus. I've a teacher that's not doing any club or sport, but he just he's going to start taking kids on Mondays when they don't have to be in school this winter up to Mountain High to do something, according well, and if you have a group of 10 or more, it's an amazing deal. And this and it's he's calling it a snow club. It's nothing official. Right? He's gonna have a snow club of our escondida kids and while driving a mountain high and walking on Mondays this winter.

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Scott Schimmel: Well, I feel like the whole mission of YouSchool is to pull out all the best of what you're doing and sprinkle it into local public high schools and middle schools. So thanks, thank you for what you're doing. Thanks for the culture you've you've created and continue to cultivate. And I just wish you guys absolutely the best. And hopefully I can continue to stop by and be refreshed and reminded there is an upside down where this will work. The project does. It does matter.

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Unknown: So thanks Awesome Scott, thank you so much. Thanks for all your support over the years. Yep.

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