Here’s an excerpt from the first Step in Beating the Odds for Teachers:
“Aim for the high goal and achieve smaller goals along the way.”
—The Dalai Lama
Portrait of the spark of my younger
Son, Daniel. 18” x 24” acrylic on paper.
One day I was driving the country roads of Rappahannock County, Virginia, with two nine-month old boys strapped into car seats in the back. One was my older son, Jeremy, and the other was a boy named Colin. As we drove along, we passed a truck. Colin squealed with delight. His body shook with excitement, his legs pumping and arms waving. Jeremy glanced at the truck and glanced away without responding. A few minutes later, we passed a horse. Jeremy squealed with delight. His body shook with excitement, his legs pumping and arms waving. Colin glanced at the horse and glanced away without responding. I had just witnessed the “spark” in these two young children.
I begin with this step because it is key to all success—seeing the spark of the children who are in our care. My Quaker upbringing has led to a lifelong practice of seeking the Divine in others, which is another way of defining the spark. Dr. Peter Benson, of Search Institute in Minneapolis, put it this way at a conference entitled Educating World Citizens for the 21st Century: “Every child has a spark. It is our job to help them find their spark, share their spark and have a use for their spark, so that they have a sense of purpose and become a resource for the community.” Knowing your students’ passions and affinities is the higher goal that encompasses the smaller goals of having success in meeting skill standards along the way. If children know they are valued and respected, they will perform better on the tests.
I hope that during recess, during lunch, as part of on-going writing exercises, or in homework assignments you can follow Dr. Benson’s wisdom: to ask at least one student, everyday “Tell me, child, what gives you joy and energy? What is good, beautiful and useful about you? What do you care for in life? Who knows? Who helps? What gets in the way? How can I help?”
What is your spark? How did you find it? What are you doing with it?
For more insight, check out Penn State’s Free Authentic Happiness Assessment: VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire <http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/default.aspx>
Share your spark stories below.