Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Builders

I'm currently reading a powerful book, Authentic Happiness (M.E.P. Seligman, 2003).  Dr. Seligman is a Ph.D. in Psychology, and in this book he focuses on the positive and proactive side of psychology, rather than on the back end issues of pathology and treatment.  It's a very intriguing read, and, in particular, he makes some interesting observations about raising children (which is, as you know, our "business" as educators).

A quote of Dr. Seligman's regarding the raising of his own children: 
"Raising children, I knew now, was far more than just fixing what was wrong with them.  It was about identifying and amplifying their strengths and virtues, and helping them find the niche where they can live these positive traits to the fullest."

We are responsible (morally obligated, I believe) for teaching our students a body of knowledge and skills that go FAR beyond the academic curricula.  At Guthrie CSD we have captured many of those elements in the development of our Guthrie Graduate Profile (linked here: http://www.guthriejags.com/profile.html).  How rare the number of communities and schools that have actually taken the time to carefully articulate (as have we) some of the beyond-the-academic elements that stand every bit as much of a chance of affecting meaningful, happy, and productive lives for our children as do the academic contents.  That work has meaning ONLY if we keep our own attention, and that of our children, centered on those elements.

As we enter the craziness of the "testing season" in Texas public schools, I believe there are some important things for us educators to reflect upon:  
>  our work along the non-academic lines is just as important as the work in the academic dimensions
>  the surest way to affect learning in students is for them to be in the charge of caring and nurturing adults
>  the fruit of our "work" may not be realized for years or even decades (and certainly will not be captured in the results of a multiple choice test taken on one particular day).

My lovely bride, Moe, wrote a song several years ago with a very powerful chorus in it:
A Builder's eyes can always see such great things that there might be
Hands are strong and arms will hold
A child's faith to shape and mold
Building hearts and building joys
Building girls and building boys
I remember the hands
I remember the heart
I remember the love...of a Builder

As educators, we are those loving Builders for our students (in some cases the only ones they have).

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