Why do the little stories matter?

Our society tolerates gross unfairness every day. It tolerates misogyny, racism and the callous indifference to those born without privilege.

I think that most of us are programmed to process the little stories, the emotional ones, things that touch people we can connect to. When it requires charts and graphs and multi-year studies, it’s too easy to ignore.

We don’t change markets, or populations, we change people. One person at a time, at a human level. And often, that change comes from small acts that move us, not from grand pronouncements.

Seth Godin

This one is for celebrating each second…

Every year the Banff Mountain Film Festival travels to a nearby theater for two nights of mountain-adventure themed films that always leave me creatively inspired, hungry for movement outdoors, and primed to soak up more of the marrow from my days. This short five-minute video shown last night is a particularly captivating narrative on taking hold of the moment, on refusing to let schedules and devices and to-do lists (though necessary and real parts of our worlds) pre-determine our levels of happiness and connection.

I refuse to believe that joy costs something.

Or that we have to get on a plane to find it.

Or that it has to happen on our vacation.

Or that dreams can’t come true on a Tuesday.

My heroes…are those who discover that inside we are all capable of surprising ourselves. –Brendan Leonard

*Improv Will Not Reduce Belly Fat

Read this brief piece by Tina Fey titled “Rules of Improvisation that Will Change Your Life and Reduce Belly Fat*”. As only Tina Fey can, she provides the perfect pairing of wit and wisdom and translates common rules of improvisation to real-life lessons. And, in all seriousness, what day of teaching young children doesn’t feel like a thorough exercise in improvisation? The sound bytes:

Rule 1: Say “Yes.” Respect what your partner has created.
Rule 2: Say “Yes, AND…” Don’t be afraid to contribute.
Rule 3: Make statements. Whatever the problem, be part of the solution.
Rule 4: There are no mistakes, only opportunities.

Not untimely reminders as we navigate a time of year peppered with unpredictable weather, schedules, children, families, and colleagues.

Connected, but Alone

This TED talk by Sherry Turkle is worth the listen and the thought-time. As we model for our students and children how to engage meaningfully in community, navigate emotions and relationships with friends and loved ones, and balance increasing demands on our time and attention as a result of this digital age: reflecting on Sherry Turkle’s words will not be a waste.

“We seem determined to give human qualities to objects and content to treat each other as things…and the end result is we expect more from technology and less from each other…When Thoreau considered “where I live and what I live for,” he tied together location and values. Where we live doesn’t just change how we live; it informs who we become. Most recently, technology promises us lives on the screen. What values, Thoreau would ask, follow from this new location? Immersed in simulation, where do we live, and what do we live for?” – Sherry Turkle

Empathy vs. Sympathy

When somebody (of any age) shares meaningful events or emotions with you, how can you respond in a way that invites connection?

As we seek to help children become people of strong character…
As we listen to our students share pieces of their worlds with us…
As we interact daily with colleagues, families, and strangers…

…this short, beautifully animated lesson from Brene Brown on the “how” of empathy is powerful and transformative.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

panthera

Recently at Tuxedo Park School we had the privilege of learning about wildlife conservation efforts for big cats around the world (jaguars, tigers, lions, snow leopards, and cougars). The Vice President of the wildlife conservation organization Panthera, Andrea Heydlauff, shared the story of these secretive, majestic animals. Panthera’s mission is “to ensure the future of wild cats through scientific leadership and global conservation action.”

At TPS part of our mission is to – from our earliest years in the Pre-Kindergarten – train and inspire learners who are knowledgeable, skilled, and driven agents of change in their local and globally communities. Ms. Heydlauff shared information about four of the worlds “big cats”, threats to their survival, the science behind world-wide conservation efforts, and things we can do – at all ages – to join these efforts.

As our students grow and develop in a world that looks very different from the one in which we were educated, we work to prepare them for their future, not our past. Ms. Heydlauff’s visit was a perfect opportunity to give students an additional snapshot of the broad array of career paths that are available to them. When you ask a student what they would like to be when they grow up, you know you are asking a question the answer to which will likely shift and change many times throughout their lives. That said, you are also likely to get one of these answers: doctor, veterinarian, musician, movie star, pro-athlete, or something to do with Legos. We hope that in drawing attention to professional adults who have followed the passions of their hearts and strengths of their minds – to careers that many of us aren’t even aware of – that we can continue to train children for their future, one in which they live the mission of TPS as adults.

Take a moment to to watch the video below, an award-winning video telling the story of one of Panthera’s projects. In it, the narrator is a young boy who lives on a ranch in the Brazilian Pantanal learning how cows, people, and jaguars can all live together. It serves as a shining example of the work they do in local communities.

AND is Better

Surely you’ve seen the Ford Focus commercials where two people are driving in the car and talking about how “and” is better than “or” (for example: sweet OR sour chick, black OR white, protect OR serve, going to a bed OR breakfast). They have a point.

As I was reading the other day in Because We Can Change The World by Maria Sapon-Shavin, I took note of how this same principal applies to the idea of being – as Pat Bassett says – schools and educators that strive to grow students who are “smart AND good”. Maria Sapon-Shavin writes:

“Educators are realizing that we need not dichotomize or choose between teaching skills and teaching students to be caring and responsible human beings. We need not sacrifice reading to teach sharing or abandon math goals in favor of teaching mutual support and help. Rather, the classroom community can be structure so that students learn reading through sharing, and work on math goals with teacher and peer support.”

We strive for excellence of skills AND excellence of heart because, as with the Ford Focus, AND is better.