Coins Made Change!

P1000707

Read HERE to learn about the service learning project third graders implemented this year in connection with students at a school in Moblomong, South Africa. As with many projects in life, results are sometimes immediate and sometimes they take time to take tangible shape. We just recently received photos and letters from children who attend the school in Mablomong sharing images and stories of the books they are now enjoying.

One of the most moving elements of a service learning project such as this is that impact and growth is experienced on both sides of the shared connection. Today children reflected on some of the things they read and saw, recognizing both extreme differences and comforting similarities between things as simple as individual’s names, favorite foods, siblings, favorite activities, and feelings about school to realities as complex as lifestyles, family structure, and living conditions.

“No one knows everything. But together, we know a whole lot. This is the reason the Why community exists – to bring people together to listen, to speak, to give, to take…to share.” – Simon Sinek

If…then…

“The clear fact of everyday experience is that human intelligence is diverse and multi-faceted. For evidence, we need only look at the extraordinary richness and complexity of human culture and achievement. But the foundation of all these achievements is a unique, personal aptitude combined with a deep passion and commitment.” – Ken Robinson

IF we are truly interested in creating a school culture that is inclusive of many intelligences…
IF we believe that one size does not fit all children (a belief we can hold even when we are limited in what sizes we can fully accommodate)…
IF we hold that  a child in our school deserves to believe they have distinctive value and worth…
IF we trust that taking safe risks is necessary for children’s growth and development…
and
IF we know that children need modeling and transparency to set them up for their best chance at success in these risks…

THEN we need to start by naming and including our intelligences in that school culture
THEN we must recognize that our strengths, passions, intelligences come in different sizes, shapes, colors, and complexities.
THEN we will believe in our own distinctive value and worth to this community, and be willing to see and acknowledge it in our colleagues.
THEN we can take our own safe risks for our own growth and development.
And
THEN we have, as the decision-makers and weather-creators of their daily school environment, a confident, flexible, and unapologetic answer to the question “How are you intelligent?” about ourselves.

It is easy to spend our days feeling weighed down by our struggles and challenges, by the things that go “wrong”. We forget that some of the core things children need for happiness and health are not their needs because they are CHILDREN, but because they are PEOPLE….and we as adults need them too. We need to allow ourselves to accept the reality that our weaknesses and challenges do not define us or our worth. We need to know and be willing to articulate for others our strengths and passions so that they can serve as springboards for new growth. We need to be seen and recognized. We need to contribute and to have a voice. There are many things we each bring to the table – for the sake of our students and our community – and some of those things we know about each other, and some of them we don’t. How are you intelligent? Who you are is valuable to children and to your school. What do you bring to the table?

Cultivating an “Antifragile” Character

Children who are increasingly self-reliant, resilient, and empowered self-advocates who persevere through success and failure is, I believe, a hallmark of what they will need to be successful in their future in the 21st century. Our local and global communities are constantly changing, requiring growing flexibility as we live and move within them. Rapid advances in technology make information evermore accessible, with the increasing need to be discriminate in our absorption and use of it.

This article, reflecting on a book titled Antifragile, uses that term to describe a dynamic and responsive resilience that grows and changes over time. 

Antifragile or How We Become Fragile

As we think about the rate of change of the world around us, the words of the article ring truer than ever as they pertain to education:

“We still think we benefit from protecting people and organizations from volatility—from life. It’s a practice with unintended yet harmful side effects. A fact of life: “no stability without volatility.” A little confusion can lead to teachable moments, growth and stability.”

As teachers (and parents), we ought be less afraid of randomness in our lives and in the lives of our students. We ought to be less anxious about providing experiences and challenges for children that we cannot see the clear end result of. We ought to resist the reflex to be overprotective and overly scripted in our living and teaching.

Let’s strive, as adults, to be more antifragile ourselves so that our children can face the challenges awaiting them in their future with confidence in their skills to adapt, solve, collaborate, grow, innovate, and effect change for their communities around them.

See also: Wendy Mogul, author of Blessings of a Skinned Knee

Learning & Frustration Points

Edutopia: The Dyslexic Brain

This is a useful article if you are working with students who are dyslexic or encounter similar challenges. The insights given here can help adjust our thinking about the nature of their challenges and the ways we can support each child in meeting and surmounting them, ultimately empowering them to advocate for themselves.

Regardless of whether a child is identified as dyslexic or not this article serves to remind that when any child is experiencing frustration while learning it is our job as educators to pause and ask ourselves “What is their frustration point? Can I make the material/experience more accessible for them by changing my approach, the environment, or the task?” Too often we lay blame and responsibility for the frustration on the child, becoming frustrated with their frustration or failure. We abandon them in a moment of need instead of stepping patiently and gracefully into our role as educators, recognizing we don’t have all the answers but that we can – in believing that all children can be successful – model growth-mindedness, risk-taking, and perseverance in the face of challenge: all the while holding on to the belief that success can be had.

Introverts as leaders?

Introverts as leaders?

This is an interesting op-ed article from the New York Times about leadership and introverted-ness. As we think about the children in our classrooms, the colleagues we work with, or the people in our lives, it’s important to remember (and granted I speak as an introvert myself) that introvertedness is not a social handicap. It is an alternative way of processing connections with others, sharing of oneself, and transforming the world around you for the better. Regardless of who you vote for tomorrow, regardless of who leads our country next, regardless of who you or the leaders you follow are: remember that children and people have so many different strengths, skills, and talents to offer. It is our job as educators to affirm and nurture these and thus create confident and capable leaders no matter where they fall on the extrovert/introvert continuum.

Talking to Children as People

Tips for Talking to Children

It is often easy to talk to children as if they are less present in the world than we are as adults. The truth is they experience failure, success, confusion, joy…the full range of human emotions just as we do. The only difference between us (adults) and them (children) is that they are not as far along the path of maturity in naming, controlling, and responding to emotions as we are. The link above has some concise, useful, and teacher-tried and approved tips for talking to children in ways that maintain clear boundaries of authority but also honor a child’s personhood.

4 principles of social-emotional health

It is well-known that schools are training grounds for more than just content. In fact, I would argue that some of the most important learning children do is not related to academic content at all. It is the stuff of relationships, manners, conflict-resolution, community involvement, etc. It is the often unscripted curriculum that happens every moment with often unpredictable timing and depth.

At a recent conference a fellow participant shared what she and her school have identified as the 4 core tenents of social-emotional health. They explicitly instruct, practice, and assess these skills. They are:

1. Self Awareness

2. Self Management

3. Awareness of Others

4. Management of Relationships

Everyone of any age is somewhere on the spectrum of developing competency in these 4 skills. Where are the children you teach? Where is your school? Where are you?