This past week was a whirlwind of activity at school with focus on the sixth graders’ Washington, D.C. trip highlights; Science Expo “conclusions;” U.S. presidents; black activists and famous black figures; Valentine’s Day celebrations, and much more! I ended my week having a remarkable ‘Morning Meeting’ with a first grade class. I say remarkable because it once again reminded me of the amazing virtues even our youngest can understand and practice!
I was immediately struck by the discussion students were having as I joined the circle on the floor. They began reading me the “message of the day” which included a quote from Gandhi — “Where there is love, there is life.” They eagerly took turns to tell me who Gandhi was and how he was a man of “peace” and, in their own poignant way, what they thought he meant by these words. This led to a discussion on living loving lives of “peace,” and students gave examples of how we can live each day in a peaceful and caring way. You could see their little minds swimming with thoughts and ideas! They feel that “all people should” live peacefully and with kindness towards others.
We then began to “practice peace.” The students excitedly showed off their collaboratively created greeting which consisted of a series of special hand motions, eye to eye contact, and a warm “Hello”…each “greeting” causing warm, toothless smiles of acceptance, belonging, and affection towards one another.
After this, they were eager to teach me a game requiring concentration, silence, eye contact, and deep awareness of those around you. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I made a mistake when it was my turn. According to the rules, I should have been “out!” The moment that I called the next “incorrect” person, my fatal flaw, there was a deafening silence; everyone was visibly worried for me. Within seconds, a brave little girl, as if calling a summit at the Pentagon, called out, “Why don’t we give her a second chance?”
As we continued the game, me included, a few more children also made a similar mistake, which ALWAYS meant they were out for the game. However, today, the peace activists of 1 Purple declared was “Second Chance Day!” As I glanced around the circle, I was struck by the fact that this was true synergy. There was true inclusivity — despite their diverse cultural backgrounds and varied skin colors, this little group was learning to work together to practice empathy, solve problems, and create solutions.
As I said my goodbyes and left the classroom, I realized I had just missed (lucky for the 5th graders) the 5th grade yoga morning where the entire class gathered in the gym for reflection, meditation, relaxation, and peace building. As I walked through the campus several 4th graders stopped me to share their “wearable technology” (rings, sunglasses, etc.) that they created (by trial and error) from electronic textiles that are sewn with conductive threads to create electricity! They have been practicing 21st Century Skills — collaborative problem solving — all year in Smart Tech and all their other classes. Now, they were putting their skills to work to independently design.
As I struggled to stay awake that evening, reading the last pages of chapter 2 from The Lincolns in the White House by Jerrold M. Packard, I had flashbacks from my discussions with 6th graders just one week earlier as they stood in awe at the Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. memorials. They so eloquently shared their views on the great contributions that these men made for equal rights. I remembered the sadness in their eyes when hearing the story of “David,” the fictional boy at the Holocaust Museum. When I see these same students and students in other grades in class working together to solve problems — fictional or real world problems — or when I read their sophisticated and articulate essays on social justice, current events, and/or analyses of historical happenings, I have a renewed hope for the future.
Our world desperately needs leadership in achieving sustainable social justice, not simply learning the answer to a test question. Future generations will be called upon to solve some of the most challenging problems ever created and faced by man: renewable energy, world hunger, climate change, and, ultimately, the design of a better world. They must also possess the compassion to recognize the rising human population and create a world that is inclusive, rather than exclusive.
Although this month, Black History Month, was mainly established to celebrate and honor the work of African Americans, it signifies unity and recognition cutting across racial and geographical barriers. It therefore holds a very special position and significance in today’s world where the importance of highlighting the work and effort of every single citizen of the nation, irrespective of his regional or national identity, is honored and celebrated. It brings to light that, despite our skin color, religious, cultural, or economic background, or despite the mistakes we may have made, we all need a “second chance!”
“If we wish to create a lasting peace, we must begin with the children.” –Mahatma Gandhi
The above quote, I truly believe! On that note, have a fantastic week!
Head of School