On Thursday I witnessed one of the most profound moments in my work with young people.
We are running an internship program for ten students between the age of 14 and 8 to learn to be effective mentors and leaders.
As you can imagine some of the students are more engaged and participatory than others. Since much of their training has been about conflict resolution, team dynamics and empathy, the teens have recognized that two of their peers aren’t bringing their full self to work. And because of their training, they know how to appropriately address the issue.
So on Thursday evening, everyone circled up to debrief on the week. After a few people spoke about good things that have happened, one person, from a place of love, called out the problem as he saw it.
A few other students spoke up, all from places of love, saying things like “We know how much you’re capable of, and we feel like you haven’t been putting in your best effort recently.”
The student in question took the feedback gracefully and responded that he has been dealing with some issues at home. Others responded empathetically saying that they know what that is like and appreciating that he said something.
The conversation was passed around the circle to the point where everyone contributed loving, kind and aspirational words. The teens expressed their desire to do great work and for everyone to contribute to the team, while also maintaining an understanding for the difficult circumstances that come up at home. The conversation closed with a collective ask of what the group could do better to help each achieve to their fullest potential.
As a part of the circle, I watched on the verge of tears for minutes. Fiercely optimistic for the future of the team, and imagining how beautiful the world could be if conversations like this were the norm.
What if classrooms had conversations where students expressed caring for each other and offered to help their peers thrive? What if school was viewed as a project where the students and educators were all working together to maximize the potential of each child? I think that was the intention when it started, but that mindset and culture has been lost.
The conversation was difficult for everyone involved, but as a result the team is stronger, more psychologically safe and higher functioning than before. The team debrief will happen every Thursday to create space for more moments like this. Just imagine all we could do if all teenagers could have these conversations with each other.