Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Beauty, commercialized art, our brain & experience

A beautiful, fun video: thoughts on our experience, sponsored artists, and things that are just fun...

A few thoughts on this:  It helped me consider perspectives, time, and the importance of fun. (This post was not sponsored by Morton Salt or by the band OkGo)
As an educator, this reminds me of how differently some brains experience

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Habits of the Heart that create real Democracy

Example of working together to solve a problem -
building a civil society through dialogue.
Democracy is seeing a test for civility in our society. Our children are watching, waiting, listening, and absorbing what it looks like to be an adult in our democracy.

Let us be our best selves. Let us understand what values support a humane society. Let us dig deep to stand against fear, hate, or blame - and let us find strength and trust in each other to build the society we want our children to inherit.

There are two quotes I'd like to offer:

“Establishing a lasting peace is the work of education,
all politics can do is keep us out of war.”

  ~Maria Montessori
"Saying you don't care about politics is like
a drowning man saying he doesn't care about water."
~Mahatma Gandhi

So, what are we to do?
We are compelled to both realize the limits of politics, and work tirelessly to make sure we keep society civil for our children.

The work of Parker J. Palmer serves as a reminder of the foundational requirements for a functional democracy and civil society. In his book, Healing the Heart of Democracy, five habits are identified that I see build stronger neighbors, classrooms, and communities in general:

1. An understanding that we are all in this together
2. An appreciation of the value of "otherness"
3. An ability to hold tension in life-giving ways
4. A sense of personal voice and agency
5. A capacity to create community

At Great River School we use these five habits as a training tool for faculty and staff to give a framework for our community meetings. Our work building community is primary to our success as a school, and our view of how we work together in the midst of challenge relies on these concepts.

These are deep concepts, and I wanted to bring them to your attention. These are explained well below, and I invite you to join in our work of practicing these habits and contributing to a civil society for us and our children.

For more information, see these described by Parker J. Palmer at the Courage & Renewal website: 
http://www.couragerenewal.org/habitsoftheheart/

The habits are described below also, compliments of the Center for Courage & Renewal:
“Habits of the heart” (a phrase coined by Alexis de Tocqueville) are deeply ingrained ways of seeing, being, and responding to life that involve our minds, our emotions, our self-images, our concepts of meaning and purpose. I believe that these five interlocked habits are critical to sustaining a democracy. Download as PDF.
1. An understanding that we are all in this together. Biologists, ecologists, economists, ethicists and leaders of the great wisdom traditions have all given voice to this theme. Despite our illusions of individualism and national superiority, we humans are a profoundly interconnected species—entwined with one another and with all forms of life, as the global economic and ecological crises reveal in vivid and frightening detail. We must embrace the simple fact that we are dependent upon and accountable to one another, and that includes the stranger, the “alien other.” At the same time, we must save the notion of interdependence from the idealistic excesses that make it an impossible dream. Exhorting people to hold a continual awareness of global, national, or even local interconnectedness is a counsel of perfection that is achievable (if at all) only by the rare saint, one that can only result in self-delusion or defeat. Which leads to a second key habit of the heart…
2. An appreciation of the value of “otherness.” It is true that we are all in this together. It is equally true that we spend most of our lives in “tribes” or lifestyle enclaves—and that thinking of the world in terms of “us” and “them” is one of the many limitations of the human mind. The good news is that “us and them” does not have to mean “us versus them.” Instead, it can remind us of the ancient tradition of hospitality to the stranger and give us a chance to translate it into twenty-first century terms. Hospitality rightly understood is premised on the notion that the stranger has much to teach us. It actively invites “otherness” into our lives to make them more expansive, including forms of otherness that seem utterly alien to us. Of course, we will not practice deep hospitality if we do not embrace the creative possibilities inherent in our differences. Which leads to a third key habit of the heart…
3. An ability to hold tension in life-giving ways. Our lives are filled with contradictions—from the gap between our aspirations and our behavior, to observations and insights we cannot abide because they run counter to our convictions. If we fail to hold them creatively, these contradictions will shut us down and take us out of the action. But when we allow their tensions to expand our hearts, they can open us to new understandings of ourselves and our world, enhancing our lives and allowing us to enhance the lives of others. We are imperfect and broken beings who inhabit an imperfect and broken world. The genius of the human heart lies in its capacity to use these tensions to generate insight, energy, and new life. Making the most of those gifts requires a fourth key habit of the heart…
4. A sense of personal voice and agency. Insight and energy give rise to new life as we speak out and act out our own version of truth, while checking and correcting it against the truths of others. But many of us lack confidence in our own voices and in our power to make a difference. We grow up in educational and religious institutions that treat us as members of an audience instead of actors in a drama, and as a result we become adults who treat politics as a spectator sport. And yet it remains possible for us, young and old alike, to find our voices, learn how to speak them, and know the satisfaction that comes from contributing to positive change—if we have the support of a community. Which leads to a fifth and final habit of the heart…
5. A capacity to create community. Without a community, it is nearly impossible to achieve voice: it takes a village to raise a Rosa Parks. Without a community, it is nearly impossible to exercise the “power of one” in a way that allows power to multiply: it took a village to translate Parks’s act of personal integrity into social change. In a mass society like ours, community rarely comes ready-made. But creating community in the places where we live and work does not mean abandoning other parts of our lives to become full-time organizers. The steady companionship of two or three kindred spirits can help us find the courage we need to speak and act as citizens. There are many ways to plant and cultivate the seeds of community in our personal and local lives. We must all become gardeners of community if we want democracy to flourish.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Giving to Great River...

Farm Trip - made possible by Annual Fund gifts
Planting & Harvest - made possible
by Annual Fund Gifts

Great River Families and Community,

I write this month as we begin our 2016-17 Annual Fund Campaign. This is the way to put resources into our school to create a learning environment where our children thrive. 

This week (on November 10th & 11th) we will hand each family a letter at conferences asking for participation. Participate in supporting the school the way you would participate in supporting any public service that strengthens the fabric of our society. Give what you can. Please give something. We'll be awarding each donor a button to wear in show of support for Great River.

We are a public school, and giving is not obligated. However, when you give, you indicate a caring for the mission and vision of the school and you join in sustaining the future of our program. 
So, if it's $1 for the year, $1 per day, or $10 per month, please participate. We reach our goals as a community not because of extreme wealth but as a result of everyone pitching in what they can. Please, pitch in what you can. 
go to: www.greatriverschool.org/give
\
Hands-on Learning and
Microeconomies- made possible
by Annual Fund Gifts

Every participant counts. Give now and help us reach our Nov-Dec kickoff goal of $15,000. We reach our milestones because every community member pitches in!

And, in the face of a year in which civility and integrity seem to be in sore need in our politics, I'm asking you to recognize the grace and courtesy our students are learning and putting into practice each day at Great River.

Experiential Faculty Inservice:
made possible
by Annual Fund Gifts
If you value any part of the unique experience we build together at Great River School, please participate in supporting the mission and vision of our school.

I'll close with our traditional request - read the mission and vision of Great River; count the words that ring true for you and your student; count the ways your values and experience have been impacted by this institution. Is it 2 ways? Is it 6? Give something for each way Great River has touched your lives.

Read through the text below, and for each bold word, see if you can connect to an experience that you value with a gift...

Great River School Mission and Vision:
Great River School, an urban Montessori learning environment, prepares students for their unique roles as responsible and engaged citizens of the world.

Great River School integrates academic and social experiences in an environment of civility and trust. The Montessori philosophy and International Baccalaureate diploma program inform the curriculum and pedagogy, inspiring deep questioning and peaceful action.
Great River School fosters self-expression in a supportive environment that values critical thinking and the richness and strength of a diverse community.

Great River School encourages students to seek new challenges and explore their abilities. Instruction through travel, practical learning, the arts, and micro-economic ventures provide relevant skills to meet the world with compassion and a sense of responsibility.


How many did you count?
Give for each!