Seek the Spark

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

D'S Fire

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  <>

Share your spark stories below.

7 Responses

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  1. I had the hardest time finding my spark and it was always limiting what i was able to do. I had a lot of energy, but no direction. One day, I was working with the homeless shelter and I wanted to give kids and moms a chance to be part of something great. Something that they can be proud of. Something that can help them believe that they can do anything in this life, including changing their circumstances. We started ER gift bag project, where kids and moms would decorate the bags and staff with various fun things to do. Then we would deliver it to the ERs allover Denver. When we were doing it, many unrelated people of the community were coming together and making project happen. I found out my spark …. I can ignite people, energize them to do something great… inspire them to step out of the box. This is how I found my spark. I am still learning to use it, but I love that I know what it is and thrilled to utilize it for many more projects to come.

  2. I found my spark “by accident” when I took a silk painting class with Susan Moyer while I was living in Hawaii. A woman who works at Exotic Silks in Los Altos, CA told me about the class while I was in the store one day during a visit to see my family in California and the class “just happened” to be in Hawaii near where I was living. That was 10 years ago and I’ve been painting on silk ever since! When I first put the brush to the fabric it was so exciting. My heart was leaping with joy and my spirit was so ecstatic! It felt like I had done this all my life. After I painted my first scarves I brought them to show my friends and family in California over Thanksgiving. I went home empty handed as every one of them had sold! I was so pleasantly surprised and this began my business, Carol Lorraine Designs. I went on to design a line of clothing.prayer flags and paintings, and custom pieces that I call “Spirit Art.” I am now teaching silk painting at the local community college in Napa! The sparks continue to fly as my students are having so much fun now too!

  3. Hi Laurie,
    We met in Uniontown when you spoke to our teachers last Monday. (I am the tall gal that gave you a hug!). I have been thinking so much of you and wanted to thank you again. I just bought your book. Looking forward to reading it. Thank you for sharing your gift-it is so great to know that there are others out there who share my love for teaching and for the hearts young and old we meet in our profession. I am really looking forward to this school year! Hope our paths cross again soon.
    Warm regards,

  4. […] pieces of the Uniontown teachers were assembled on paintings that I’d prepared to portray the spark. The teachers created a hive of success and […]

  5. H Laurie,

    I have found you again after all these years. Two of the teachers from Hearthstone came to my teacher training in August and told me where you are! What you are doing is monumental! I am proud to know you! I wish you the very best in this venture. Please keep in touch!

  6. Yes, I designed my website by myself. Good luck with your website.

  7. Hi, Barbara,

    I just found your post on my blog, which I had abandoned for a while to focus on Unity Through Creativity. I still remember your course, which gave me such a good overview of the Waldorf curriculum. Thank you for our kind words about my work. All the best, Laurie

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