“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.” Dalai Lama
This is a quote that I hope all children (and adults, alike) think about before they pass judgment on someone else’s path, or put so much pressure on a young mind to be on a “path to success,” (or someone else’s version of that path).
Free will and choice are what makes being human and living in the free world so amazing. The ability to wake up and say, “I am going to learn black and white film photography.” Or, “I’m going to take an edX course in neuroscience.”
In school, kids really, really need to learn the soft skill of empathy. And, we must support everyone in being on a different road. The “athlete” road, the “music” path, the “not-so-advanced math” route. To the people among every group, there are insiders and outsiders. Who cares? Every path has opportunities. There’s quite a bit of talk of uninvented jobs of the future. So, the imperative is for us to help kids find their passion and have the skills and confidence to be successful on whatever path they may be on in that moment.
As educators, it’s our job to help personalize the learning for every child, regardless of what path they’re on.
Perhaps there should be less stress or emphasis on what path someone is on, and more emphasis supporting different paths, having the skills to learn something new, seeing opportunities, listening, empathizing, and taking action.
When asked what surprised him about humanity the most, the Dalai Lama replied:
“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
Whether the Dalai Lama said this or not, this struck a chord with me. I feel like I used to be really good at living in the present. Now, not so much. It’s either nostalgia, having more responsibilities as a father and the stress of work-life balance, or the combination of everything. I’m working on this.
We are so busy and it is oftentimes so difficult to maintain our perspective of the present … and we miss it. Time is our most valuable commodity. The past and future are only concepts that exist in the present. Be here now.
Highlights from the school year.
I can’t believe another school year is just about in the books!
It was an awesome school year and a few highlights come to mind in my reflections that I wanted to share.
These are just a few of the amazing things I’ve seen this school year:
- Peer reviews
- Cross-curricular and interdisciplinary projects and lessons
- Students teaching other students
- Students explaining content and “Why”
- Students setting goals
- Personalized lessons and differentiation for students
- Students creating with online and offline tools
- Personalized instruction with and without technology
- Students designing and creating
- Teachers coaching and facilitating
- Students talking about perseverance and growth
- Students “pitching” designs and concepts “ala Shark Tank”
- Students being leaders and collaborators
- Students helping one another
- Students having fun, laughing, and experience joy in learning
Showing up. Because it matters.
In the last few days of the school year, it’s easy to become relaxed and to “loosen up.” It’s also tough to engage our students in new content and new lessons when they, themselves, are ready for a break. Students might feel like “it doesn’t count.” And, technically, it might not for the grade book. However, we need to model that it always counts. If we aren’t engaged with our students, in reflection, in helping them set goals for the next year, in team building – if we don’t model that it matters, if we don’t show up, how can we set those expectations for life and career for our students? It’s an opportunity for making learning personal, for team and relationship building, and for students to explore something of interest. Try something new. Show up. Because our students matter.
The concept of “How” do I …?” is often a discussion for educators and students. “How do I … ?” fill in the blank … “solve this word problem,” “write this conclusion,” or the thousands of examples in which teachers explain, model, and demonstrate for students how to do something. As we close the school year, perhaps we show students how to “reflect on the year.” I would agree that the “How?” of learning is possibly one of the most important skills. Students need to learn how to learn and develop metacognition. With our help, they can develop perseverance, develop grit, and work through the struggles and failures of learning. However, I believe we must start with “Why?” and finish with reflections about their “Why?” This is probably the most important aspect to model and discuss with students. This year, we were proud to see our students in all of our schools set and work towards personal goals. The teachers and students are certainly reflecting on those goals as we approach the end of our school year (and some are possibly setting new ones for the summer and for next school year).
Here are some ideas to finish the year strong:
- Lead reflective discussions (perhaps use Pear Deck since teachers control whether responses are displayed for the class, plus they’re displayed anonymously)
- Share your own personal life lessons on setting, achieving and/or not reaching goals
- Discuss favorite or memorable lessons and ask students to explain why they were so memorable (this will help show that you are reflecting as a teacher on how you can make lessons better for students)
- Have students create bulletin board or whiteboard wall art that explains, “Tips for “incoming” students.”
- Consider tracking goals using Sheets and Docs – perhaps students can track some type of personal progress over the summer
- Watch and discuss Angela Duckworth’s TED Talk – “Grit: The power of passion and perseverance”
- Have individual student-led conferences to help students finish strong
- Create a “Pride Wall” for goal achievements where students can share their accomplishments
In the end, start with “Why,” and continue to come back to that throughout the year.
Plan – Do – Check – Act – it’s all a process, especially for learning.