A little story about a moment I’m proud of

As I’ve learned more about progressive education, I started listening to a podcast called Human Restoration Project. They interview educators from across the country who are experimenting with innovative practices.

Last Thursday, I opened up my email to see the subject line: “Podcast Inquiry” from someone at Human Restoration Project!!

Somehow, a show that I listen to and admire reached out to us to hear about the work we’re doing in Delaware.

You never know who is watching. You never know where the next opportunity will come from.

I was honored to be on the show and I’m excited to share this episode:

https://www.humanrestorationproject.org/things-fall-apart/2018/11/11/s2-e26-engaging-students-with-meaningful-work-and-partnerships-w-zack-jones-dual-school

What’s a lyric

Today we played a little game with some teenagers where we said “what’s a song lyric in your head and what does it mean to you right now?”

From 10 students we got 10 different answers. We had debate around what the artist actually intended it to mean, versus how a student interpreted. An easy hook into a deeper topic of art and where meaning comes from.

We also got some real responses from teens who might not have otherwise vocalized their thoughts or feelings.

Perhaps the most important part is that everyone took pride in the lyric they chose and the meaning they made.

Any time students can be proud of something they made, said or did for no extrinsic reward, that’s a positive moment for all of us.

I don’t know what to do next

Does anyone?

Does no one?

Like always, the answer is somewhere in between. Our conviction depends little on outside circumstances and primarily on our confidence and confidence is built through repetition.

If you don’t know what to do next, figure out what you’d need to know in order to know.

Instead of “I don’t know what to do next, thus I won’t do anything.” Start thinking more like “I don’t know what to do next, so I’ll see if anyone has faced this dilemma before. Maybe I’ll read books, or find a mentor, or search online for other case studies.”

No one knows what to do next. Some people are just better at finding out how to know.

All that it takes to start moving down that road is a little self-awareness, curiosity and hard work. Luckily those are things we’re all capable of.

Seasons

Life comes and goes in seasons.

Unless of course, you live somewhere without them. If you do the same thing on Saturday as you do on Wednesday. If very little changes day to day.

Otherwise, you know how seasons feel. None are better or worse than others. They just are. And that’s beautiful.

Separating learning from life

Learning isn’t something that happens when you’re ready and expecting it. It doesn’t happen on a set schedule.

Learning happens because you’re living. Because you’re trying things, meeting people, being exposed to new ideas.

One of the biggest tragedies of a traditional school model is that it teaches students that learning only happens inside school walls. Recess is play. Home is home. Learning is school. Sadly, lines are drawn between everything.

In reality, learning is everywhere.

What’s college for?

Learning? Kind of.

The piece of paper? Kind of.

The connections? Kinda of.

To find yourself? Kind of.

To acquire marketable skills? Sometimes.

Status? Mostly.

Life changing

Isn’t about big checks or fancy cars. It’s not about the glitz and the glamour.

It’s about seeing people.

It’s about understanding them on a human level on connecting authentically.

What’s terrifying about this concept is that it could only take 15 minutes. All the work you’ve done on that project. The logo design, the planning, the emails. You didn’t need to start there. You could have met a person and connected with them and you would have more traction that you do now.

That’s scary. That’s worth hiding from.

Skills everyone needs to have

Empathy

Critical thinking

Communication

Collaboration

Bias to action

Question asking

Listening

Mindfulness

Creativity

I’m sure there are many, many more. How many classes teach these things? How many tests evaluate for these things?

When we work with young people who are embarking on a journey to help someone and add value to the world, they are missing these skills. They’re not missing the ability to memorize something, or regurgitate an answer. They’re missing the combination of critical thinking, empathy, bias to action that are all key components required to add value to someone else’s life.

If you can add value, you are valuable. What more important reality could we prepare young people for? What is more fundamental than adding value?

Rushing to nowhere

The more important the work is-the deeper the lessons are-the more difficult it is to rush. In fact, rushing actually gets you nowhere.

Pushing hard may feel like the right thing to do, but that rush toward accomplishment takes away from the real magic.

Recently, we tried to cram 90 minutes of work into 45 minutes. It didn’t work. We thought we could rush it, but instead we got backlash.

The kicker is that the lessons happen during reflection. Reflection happens when you have time for the ideas to marinate. Rushing prevents both these steps from occurring.

Give more space for reflection and most importantly, value it deeply in any educational context.

Leaning back

Sometimes you feel like you’re around people who will catch you if you slip.

Just like the classic trust exercise, what happens when you fall backwards? Does someone catch you? Maybe they let you get close to the ground, and at the last moment they hold strong. Or maybe they sense you leaning back slightly and give support in the moment it’s needed.

Either way, we’re all going to lean back at point. The question is who is standing behind us and how are they going to show up?