Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Kindness of Teenagers

The banner students created for my Mom while I was away, thanks to the guidance of my colleague

They say the highest form of wisdom is kindness, and this past week, I experienced it from all angles, but most impressively from my students.

My incredible dad passed away two weeks ago after an unexpected Stage IV small cell cancer diagnosis. It was a rare and viciously aggressive form, and his death came a mere two weeks after the initial diagnosis.

Returning to school, returning to a new norm, and grappling with the why’s, the what if’s, and connecting all of the disparate dots after such loss can only be described as surreal.

Once again, however, my students have much to teach me. They, too, have endured loss, the resultant shifting perspectives, and the constant battle to make sense of what has happened and how it connects to what they need to do.

Each of my students wrote heartfelt cards to me, with wisdom, verbal hugs, and insightfully appropriate humor. My colleague encouraged and guided them to create a banner of thoughts and quotes for my mom, who they know is suffering on a different level.

You see, I used to not open myself up to my students. My educational experiences shaped my initial teaching beliefs where you went to school, kept everything personal at the door’s threshold, and when necessary, acted on autopilot as if nothing were amiss. My first year of teaching blew those beliefs out of the water. My first students (they were high school students) were curious, asked questions, wondered, and showed me that indeed I could find a sweet spot of the personal and professional. Those were powerful lessons they never knew they taught me. 

My classroom was, and has been, all the richer. I learned that my students are a delightful diversion when I am having a bad day. They have the power to put my own ills into perspective, cheer me up, and otherwise help me appreciate a different way of looking at things.

Kindness is an incredible form of both strength and wisdom, topics of discussion in our classroom this week. Yes, these are high school students, but their kindness and strength bely the losses they have endured. They also negate many of the myths of selfish teens. They have experienced rethinking life anew, and have begun a journey of shaping their new selves. Their notes to me displayed genuine kindness as they applied their hard-won knowledge of life’s lessons to help me make sense of my own loss.

Kindness as the highest form of wisdom?  Our kids have got it. Now, to keep tapping into that throughout the year, and to remember that every single student truly does bring their own gifts to our classrooms, no matter the language they speak or their level of expressive ability.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Now More Than Ever

I recently found this declaration of the value of global education and and wanted to share. This would be a great primary source to use in class, with students discussing cause and effect, or adding their additional ideas. I will use it to jumpstart our human rights unit in my class by having students each take one "because" or one affirmation and find evidence of each within both historical and current events. This declaration is an ideal foundation for understanding the value of taking action, and could easily spur students to create their own manifesto of being a 21st century learner. 

I would love to know how others have used it to enhance their students' learning.


                  A Global Education Declaration

A Declaration of the Value of Global Education
Presented at the 2013 Global Education Conference

Because we are citizens of our individual nations and also part of a larger human family;
Because it is important to learn about other cultures and to understand the similarities that unite us and the differences that define us;
Because global understanding, empathy, and compassion depend and are built on communication, shared experiences, and relationships;
Because we increasingly live in a "global village";
Because we increasingly work in geographically and culturally interconnected ways;
Because we are interconnected physically and our ecological and resource-use decisions impact others;
Because we share a world which appears to be increasingly fragile;
Because complex worldwide problems need collaborative, cooperative, and intelligent solutions;
Because wars, conflicts, abuse, slavery, misinformation, and other forms of oppression both exist and also exert powerful influences;
Because we live in a world that is increasingly "flat" and where Internet technologies have dramatically increased the global connectedness of individuals and cultures;
Because creation and sharing technologies of the Internet and the Web dramatically shift personal and community capacity;
Because the world increasingly is our classroom;


We affirm the universal and inherent worth of every child;
We affirm the deep importance of supporting learning opportunities for all people generally;
We affirm especially the importance of providing wholesome and healthy learning opportunities for all children;
We affirm the need to support the variety and uniqueness of learners, teachers, cultures, and circumstances;
We affirm the importance of independent intellectual inquiry and thought;
We affirm the value of connective technologies and their ability to provide broader learning and thinking experiences;

We affirm the individual, cultural, and worldwide benefits of students learning about, from, and with peoples from around the world;
We declare the critical importance of helping our students, teachers, administrators, parents, and all others to connect globally and to learn from each other; we express appreciation for those who provide opportunities for such global learning activities; and we devote ourselves to furthering the cause of global education.