Monday, August 8, 2011
Perhaps the most telling moment for me was when I was stopped in the middle of the presentation by one of the attendees. At that point in the presentation I had explained the process we use in depth during the Listening Sessions and was beginning to share the vision of the young people in the paintings. I had just finished describing the vision in the second painting when I was asked, "So are you telling us that you have ABSOLUTELY no influence in how these paintings are created?" This was met with nodding heads from others who were also finding it hard to believe that the paintings were not influenced by adult minds. I believe people found a true wisdom in them that belies the years of the young people creating them (in their minds).
This tells me that there is a true opportunity for us to share with people the true wisdom that exists within young people today that may be largely unrecognized or at the very least passed over due to the way the school system is structured to work with them every day. At the conclusion of the presentation, we were met with much applause and a true energy in the room of gratitude and excitement to help us. Many people came up and offered to help in the ways they felt best able to be of service. It was quite meaningful to have our work so embraced.
It was our first presentation at an education conference and I feel we crossed a threshold while we were there. Ours is a message of hope fueled by the energy of our young people. It does not focus on what is wrong. It is not mired or entrenched in the current conversations in education. It has a freshness that offers people possibilities based in their love of young people and their reasons for working with them in the first place.
I want to thank Paul Freedman for inviting us to share our story. He is a tireless champion of children and of creating an educational journey for them that is nourishing. I will write more on the other presenters at the conference as I have time.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Saturday, June 25, 2011
There is a vitality, a life force,
an energy, a quickening
that is translated through you into action
and because there is only one you
in all of time,
this expression is unique.
And if you block it,
it will never exist
through any other medium
and be lost.
The world will not have it.
It is not your business
to determine how good it is
nor how valuable
nor how it compares with other expressions.
It is your business to heep it yours,
clearly and directly,
to keep the channel open.
You do not have to believe in yourself
or your work.
You have to keep open and aware
directly to the urges that motivate you.
Keep the channel open.
- Martha Graham
There is so much that is noteworthy for how we approach reinventing education for young people in the future. Let's start with
"There is a Life Force that is translated through you into action"... I think of this as a voice, a unique voice that exists within every child - every child. This Life Force is so precious in all of us, but when we are young, it is particularly innocent, alive, and powerful...especially if it is allowed to flourish. Can we design education so that it enables the voices of our children to thrive? I can hear a cynical voice arise within me - it is an old voice, a tired voice...so tired in fact, it can barely utter the words, "no one can create a system like that for all children. It is impossible." Thank goodness it is so tired and useless in my world now. There is no place anymore for standardized, regulated, graded and evaluated in the new education we are seeking to create.
"And if you block it, it will never exist...and be lost"... Can we create an educational system for ALL children that holds this line as precious, and undeniably true if we are not vigilant stewards of the opportunities for their Life Force to grow and be nourished? So often in the current system, we see how blocked, cynical, jaded, depressed and desperate young people are becoming or already are as a result of years of being subjected to a system whose drumbeat is numbingly the same year after year. In the Listening Sessions, once the students have created their visions and shared them with each other, we ask them how the experience was for them. Quite often they say to us in disbelief, "You mean this could actually happen?" "Do you believe we could create this in the real world?" Through the process of the Listening Sessions, their inner hearts awaken and hope and possibility begin to grow. It is a remarkable change that occurs.
"It is not your business to determine how good it is..." No judgment! No Comparison! No Inner Critic! No Fear! Can we create an educational system that eliminates these qualities? This would require courage of the greatest degree, for it would first mean listening within ourselves and healing our own judgments and inner critics in order to be present to this possibility. Yet, I believe it is a process worth undertaking if we are to nourish the Life Force of every child.
"It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open"... Can we create a system that enables young people to have the sense of presence, awareness and skills to be self-sovereign? Their inner light is their own and to know that they are the creators of their own future, that they are the lighthouse keepers, that their actions can grow possibility in their own lives is a worthy intention of an enlightened system.
"Keep the channel open"... Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all sit down together and explore the possibility of creating an education for young people that enables them to thrive in a world of possibility?
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Dr. Cajete is the Chair person of the Native American Studies Department at the University of New Mexico. A Tewa Indian, his work is "dedicated to honoring the foundations of indigenous knowledge in education." (Source UNM website)
"As Stella and I read the book, we were deeply moved by its wisdom, its scope of vision and its balanced compassion for all people and particularly native American youth. The book discusses in detail Dr. Cajete's views on the need to radically transform education for native American youth. What is so beautiful about his book, is his stated recognition that the system of education he is proposing can easily be adopted to all young people anywhere in the world. If you care deeply about education, this book is a must read.
Here is a marvelous excerpt highlighting his vision:
"American education must forge educational processes that are for Life's Sake and honor the Indigenous roots of America. A true transition of today's American educational orientations to more sustainable and connected foundations, requires serious consideration of other cultural, life-enhancing and eclologically vialble forms of education...Tribal education presents models and universal foundations to transform American education and develop a "new" paradigm for curricula that will make a difference for Life's Sake.
American education must rededicate its efforts to assist Americans in their understanding and appreciation of spirituality as it relates to the Earth and the place in which they live. It must engender a commitment to service rather than competition, promote respect for individual, cultural, and biological diversity, and engage students in learning processes that facilitate the development of their human potential through creative transformation."
This Friday, we will be meeting with Dr. Cajete and we are most excited to have the opportunity to sit down and commune on our views about educating young people today. He is a wonderful writer whose work is expressed clearly, thoughtfully and quite poetically. He recognizes and advocates the need for education to begin by focusing inwardly. In his book, he wrote: "Hah oh is a Tewa word sometimes used to connote the process of learning. Its closest English translation is to "breathe in."
We will post more about this meeting after it has concluded, but here is a brief bio of his life's work as stated on the UNM web site.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
|Orcas Island Participants Samara (our host!), Willow, Stephanie, Sebastian, Liam and Iris|
The next painting was done by Sebastian, Liam and Stephanie and we call it Glass Dome:
There are many qualities to our school:
There are evaluations and no grades
There are applied knowledge skills so that we know how to use what we learn when we leave the school
It encourages courage
Children know they have a voice
They learn by doing
More freedom/more choice
The school is self-sustaining as evidenced by the solar panels on top of the glass dome and the compost pile in the lower left side of the painting where a long pipe runs to the glass dome carrying the heat from the compost pile into the dome which is made of glass.
All is built on a Foundation of Love
There is a lot of education in nature
The community in the school is strong and the community outside the school is supportive and safe
A portfolio is required for graduation, not specific exams, etc.
We also have our own garden and our own observatory.
It is such a gift to be able to be present with these young people as they create from within their hearts. Given a chance in a trusting, caring environment - without constraints as to what their vision can be about - you can see that their wisdom emerges in beautiful ways. We are excited about the opportunities that are emerging on Orcas and thank each one of these beautiful young people for their contributions to Imagine Learning!
Friday, April 15, 2011
Following the discussion we solicited their input on the presentation itself. Together, we explored how effective our presentation was and whether there were other ways to make the material easier to understand. They were full of suggestions and extremely helpful.
On a personal note, all three of my children were there and it was wonderful to share with them the entire scope of our progress to date. So often, they have heard bits and pieces but being able to show them the entire scope of what we will be presenting around the country meant a lot to me. I thank them for coming as well as thank the other young people who attended for their listening and their input. And Chelsea, thanks for making it happen. Onward!
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Yes, Charlie, this is the time, and we on Orcas are ready. We are in our positions, we’ve sufficiently prepared ourselves, and we are ready to move forward.
It is all Written on Our Hearts.
The Presentation Stella and Charlie brought to Orcas was the spark we needed on Orcas to move us from dwelling on what is wrong with our Educational System, to discovering the possibilities that arise from receptivity, deep listening, and trust in our true nature.
Charles and Stella helped our group stay in that quiet place of openness, while we listened, shared, decided it was time to go forward, and while we talked about our next steps.
How accustom we are in our culture to staying in our heads when it comes time to make decisions, get things done, do our work. We have been taught to believe the heart cannot be rational, and should only consulted in matters of personal relationships. To get things done efficiently, we believe, we must remain rational, clear headed, and detached.
We become then, also detached from the truth of our being - which is not only heart centered, but includes the head, spirit, mind, body, earth, stars, universe...
We are parts of a whole that is so vast and unexplainable, that when our minds get close to it, they shut down. We, as a culture, have become afraid of this shutting down, and do not have many systems in place to help guide people through this process. Oh, sure, we have mental health facilities, ritalin, and all sorts of labels we can put on people who are simply, waking up to the truth of their expanded selves - or in the case of many young people, struggling to remain in that expanded self.
Our culture has developed many powerful systems that seem to be designed to keep people from even thinking about these matters. And yet, the human spirit cannot be squelched. We are speaking our truth, regardless of what is going on around us, because, at this point, as Charlie wrote in his post, we now know who we are.
Indeed, “We are the ones.”
The Next Steps
When I spend time with young people, I often ask myself these questions.
Who is this being before me?
Why are they here?
What are their gifts?
It’s amazing how these three simple questions will provide me with so much information. Often the information comes in at first, as an overwhelming appreciation for the incredible being that stands before me, and I connect with all the beautiful work they are here on earth to do. I might not always be clear about their specific work at this point, but being able to see their light seems to be the first step.
In spending time with the person, watching them in action, I might get more information about them, and as it comes in, I may or may not share it with them. I often wait until I’m guided to say something, and this is usually when they are most ready to hear and accept it.
I feel called at this time on Orcas, to help create opportunities of time and space for young people to explore, with the help of trained, skilled adults, these important questions. Who am I? Why am I here? and, What are my gifts? Charles and Stella have called those people who do this and other inner work, “Stewards of Learning”.
We have many on Orcas ready to do this work, and who wish to become Stewards of learning. We hope to go forward, with the continued guidance and partnership of Charles and Stella to help train these willing Stewards.
It also seems that a next step for all adults who feel called to do this work, might be for them to also ask themselves the questions, who am I, why am I here, and what are the gifts I have to share?
In asking myself, “Who am I beyond daughter, mother, educator, writer, friend, etc.?” I have discovered my being to be so great, it encompasses everything. I begin to know myself as everything. Then, going even deeper, I have caught glimpses of what it also means to be no-thing. These experiences have been both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.
When asking myself, “Why am I here? - what part of the vast whole am I here to express?” I might come up with Harmonizer, Connector, Nurturer, etc. These answers also may change over the course of my lifetime.
I may have been a system buster in my past, in resistance to systems I saw were killing people’s spirits. Now, I might be called to help transform those systems. I have changed from a system buster to system transformer.
As for gifts, we’re all accustom to listing listing the things we’re good at - skills we might have. This is great, and these skills are a part of what we have to offer, but I also like to go a little deeper into my “gifts of the spirit.”
For example, I seem to be gifted with a great intuition about people, I can often see their life purpose clearly, and can help guide them towards understanding and sharing their gifts. I also have the gift of healing, as I’ve been working with Reiki for years, and have recently been learning about sound as a powerful tool for transformation.
It seems as if I was born with these gifts, but in order to make best use of them in the world, I have, over the course of my development, needed the guidance and training from someone who has sufficiently developed their gifts. Some of that guidance has come from people, although much of it has come from the unseen world. Call it intuition, spirit guides, my higher self, ancestors inner teacher - it matters not what I call it, what matters is that I’ve developed the habit of listening, and have had the courage to take action based on what I’ve heard and learned.
So, again, I keep coming back to these words - given to me by that unseen help..
It is all written on your hearts.
Thank you Charlie and Stella for helping us draw out the wisdom and knowledge that is within each and every one of us, and for opening us up to the possibilities for us to eventually help the young people of Orcas Island to do the same.
In Deepest Gratitude,
Orcas Island, WA
Monday, March 21, 2011
Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate."
Let go of the shore. See who is in there with you and celebrate! As I reread this, I knew that this was the wisdom we needed to carry us all across the threshold. We needed this energy and this message to pave the way for the vision we were going to share. We decided to open the presentation with Stella reading it to everyone.
I closed my eyes and saw myself standing in the room with everyone there and I looked with the deepest possible love I could feel into each person's eyes and celebrated their presence, rejoiced in their willingness to let go of the "known", and felt a tremendous sense of connection to them for seeing with their hearts.
It IS the hour!
Thursday, March 17, 2011
It was a wonderful opportunity to share and we felt well met by those in attendance. Our hearts were filled by their passion for the subject. What should have been a 20 minute conversation at the end, went for more than an hour and a half! What was so gratifying was the fact that the conversation centered around how to move forward and not about whether our ideas were appropriate for them.
The conversation around the circle at the end demonstrated the significant wisdom that was present. Everyone was engaged and the thoughtfulness, care and determination were wonderful to witness. We really began to see some possibilities emerging for future time together. Orcas would be a wonderful community in which to begin to grow this vision. Its size, its unique desire to be a model sustainable community, as well as the significant gifts of its residents give it great possibilities.
One of the most beautiful aspects of the presentation for us was the way the information we are learning in the listening sessions played such a major role. The innate wisdom of the young people we have worked with thus far is providing a platform from which to offer a new educational term and framework. The shift that must occur from an externally directed and focused curriculum to one that is internally guided and focused is echoed strongly in their voices as expressed through the paintings.
Samara Shaw held the vision for us to come and for that we want to thank her. Hopefully Samara, you will add your own comments or post concerning your feelings about what happened after the presentation. Just know that we are deeply appreciative and excited for this opportunity and about where things seem to be heading.
Thank you Orcas!
Sunday, February 27, 2011
"...the whole intellectual trend of the day put up a plausible pretense that our troubles were due to imperfect political systems, badly drawn frontiers, and other environmental and economic causes. The whole history of man as he, Mopani, knew it, had tried all of those approaches over and over again and at last, as far as he was concerned, they were proved utterly bankrupt.
The real, the only crises out of which all troubles came, was a crisis of meaning. It was the terrible invasion of meaninglessness and a feeling of not belonging invading the awareness of man, that was the unique sickness of our day. And this sickness, he was convinced, was the result of the so-called civilized man, parting company with the natural and instinctive man within himself. Never had the power of the civilized over the natural been so great...
For that reason alone, the journey within could not be resumed soon enough..."
There is so much being said here and on many levels, but I would like to put it into context of what we see as the next step in creating a learning journey with and for young people. What van der Post says to me in this passage is that at some point in the distant past, a decision was made by our forefathers to follow the belief that the way to a better world was through rationalization, mechanization, and standardization, and in so doing set us on a course that moved us away from the natural patterns of life. In doing this, we began a long journey into the desert - a journey that has left our societies starving, thirsting, and so heat-stricken that we are struggling, even failing, to find a solution to getting out of this desert. The efforts that we have made over and over again have not worked and despite all of the modern day way of doing things, we have brought ourselves into an even more precarious position.
As I sat with this paragraph, I began to think of young people faced with this way of being in the world. How difficult it must be for them today to move from their childhood of intuition, flow, creativity, play into the rationalization, mechanization, and standardization. In seeing this through their eyes and hearts, the impact on them is enormous. As it was designed by those same forefathers, our current education is designed to honor this old path, to teach our young that the secret to success lies on the outside, lies in re-creating what we already have in place. But as they well know, this is not the answer and I believe it has led many of our young people to a sense of aloneness, powerlessness, and despair.
As he says in the last line, the answer lies by taking a journey within - back to the natural self that exists in all of us, a self that is filled with magic, intuition, wonder, and curiosity - all seeking to create a sense of meaning and belonging - the place where real nourishment occurs.
What would happen if we sat down together and answered together, the question Imagine Learning is asking, "How do we educate young people to thrive in a world of possibility?" The optimal word here in this instance, is "thrive." Isn't it time that the learning journey moved from a system based on testing knowledge into one that teaches each and every student the skills, the insights, the ways to journey within themselves for the answers they need and for the nourishment they seek?
We can sit and point fingers at all sorts of reasons why we are here and who caused us to get here, but wouldn't it be better if we just sat down and did what our inner voices were telling us needed to happen?
Won't it be the most amazing day when we sit together and embrace the inner light of our young people as being sacred and that fueling the growth of that inner light is the most important thing that we can accomplish? I am so excited that we have reached this point in our history, that we can now look back and see that the time has come to choose a different path - not one that leads deeper into the desert, but one that leads to fertile lands beyond that will feed every one of our parched hearts, particularly those we call young people.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
We are circulating an invitation to everyone on the island that says that we:
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
According to the reports, the earthquake struck at lunch time, one of the busiest times of the day and more than 75 people are dead and up to 300 are missing. The downtown is in a shambles. We can do no more right now than offer our energetic prayers and send healing energy to them.
In September of last year, an even larger earthquake struck there and while it was not as terrible as this one in terms of its toll on human life, its impact combined with the thousands of aftershocks took a very heavy emotional toll on everyone there. Now this is their darkest time.
Please join us in sending them your healing thoughts and prayers, especially Cobi, Holly, Julia, Max, Morgan, Pip, Glynese, Lee, Jocelyn, Vickie, and Gaike.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
This inspiring quote from the book Courage, by Osho, really spoke into my heart. It does seem that we have gotten so caught up in being the providers of knowledge that we have forgotten to listen. Listening to the inner wisdom of young people is a gift that carries immeasurable possibilities. It is also a gift of giving them an inner sense that they are worth being listened to and that holds immeasurable possibilities as well.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Samara has a deep belief that a new learning journey for young people needs to be created and she spoke about the desire of the island to recreate its systems to really support young people in their growth and learning.
In her email to me, she wrote: "We envision our island of a population of 5,000, becoming a model sustainable community, providing programs for young people to learn about sustainable education, living, community building, etc." What a beautiful intention they are holding and we really are looking forward to meeting everyone and seeing all they they are doing and planning.
Here's a little map I found on the web. As you can see it has a very unique horseshoe shape and is filled with natural beauty.
It is located in the San Juan Archipelago of Islands in the Northwest portion of Washington State. There are somewhere around 743 islands, islets and reefs at low tide. Of that many only 172 are named and out of these only thirty are inhabited. Orcas is the largest of all of the San Juan islands. I have visited the San Juans several times before (but never Orcas) and they are remarkably beautiful.
Many thanks to Samara for her gracious invitation. See you soon, Orcas!