The Conscious Classroom

From Alienation to Connection in the Classroom

July 06, 2024 Amy Edelstein
From Alienation to Connection in the Classroom
The Conscious Classroom
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The Conscious Classroom
From Alienation to Connection in the Classroom
Jul 06, 2024
Amy Edelstein

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What happens when a student fails to show up for a crucial presentation? Explore the profound lessons on commitment and responsibility in this episode of the Conscious Classroom podcast. Join me as we unpack the culture of individualism and what that means when we try to instill a sense of commitment and purpose in our youth. 

In this episode we also delve into the impact of feelings of loneliness and alienation that students experience, how the pandemic exacerbated this, and why our situation today only underscores the necessity of fostering a connection to a purpose greater that oneself. Stay engaged with our transformative educational journey, and find more resources at www.innerstrengtheducation.org

Support the Show.

If you enjoyed this episode please leave a review!

Your review supports our podcast to reach more educators and share the importance of creating more conscious classrooms.

The Conscious Classroom was honored by Feedspot in their Top 100 Classroom Podcasts. We are committed to sharing insights that transform outlooks and inspire with what's possible.

Subscribe so you don't miss a single episode!

Visit Inner Strength Education for more on the great work of the Conscious Classroom.

Want to train to teach mindfulness, compassion, and systems thinking to students? Courses are available at The Conscious Classroom.

Get your copy of the award-winning, bestseller The Conscious Classroom: The Inner Strength System for Transforming the Teenage Mind.


Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

What happens when a student fails to show up for a crucial presentation? Explore the profound lessons on commitment and responsibility in this episode of the Conscious Classroom podcast. Join me as we unpack the culture of individualism and what that means when we try to instill a sense of commitment and purpose in our youth. 

In this episode we also delve into the impact of feelings of loneliness and alienation that students experience, how the pandemic exacerbated this, and why our situation today only underscores the necessity of fostering a connection to a purpose greater that oneself. Stay engaged with our transformative educational journey, and find more resources at www.innerstrengtheducation.org

Support the Show.

If you enjoyed this episode please leave a review!

Your review supports our podcast to reach more educators and share the importance of creating more conscious classrooms.

The Conscious Classroom was honored by Feedspot in their Top 100 Classroom Podcasts. We are committed to sharing insights that transform outlooks and inspire with what's possible.

Subscribe so you don't miss a single episode!

Visit Inner Strength Education for more on the great work of the Conscious Classroom.

Want to train to teach mindfulness, compassion, and systems thinking to students? Courses are available at The Conscious Classroom.

Get your copy of the award-winning, bestseller The Conscious Classroom: The Inner Strength System for Transforming the Teenage Mind.


Amy:

Today, I want to talk a little bit about a process that I've been exploring, which is really how to take, in the complexity of our time, the sense of calling a vocation to improve the way our world works and particularly the way our young people are trained to think about the world and to find the right path forward. We're presented with such a host of options and, as David Brooks' book the Second Mountain talks about, our heightened culture of individualism has left young people with precious little direction at the time of their lives when they need it most. They're encouraged to focus on their own wants and desires, their own sense of truth, their own sense of truth, without pointing them towards a commitment and an identification and a connection to a purpose greater than themselves, whether that purpose is family or community or center of education. Young people need mooring. They need a goal that is lofty and worthwhile. They have a heightened sense of right and wrong. They have a heightened sense of justice, and yet we're often remiss in letting them find their own truth. My truth is what's good for me.

Amy:

I had an experience of this at the end of a very successful internship. I ran for 10 students where they were learning really advanced and fun perspective-taking, emergent dialogue techniques, mindfulness practices, relationship building, as well as problem solving on a global scale and innovation thinking, learning about stakeholder analysis and SWOT definitions and how to look at complexity to propose a solution to a global problem. The students were required to come every Saturday, from 10 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon, so it was a big commitment. Now I was there as well, so it was a big commitment for me too, and there were two girls who were wonderful both friends and they happened to have the prom the night before our final pitch day, where they presented their projects in front of a panel of judges, and of course, they were up late. I didn't ask for the details. One staggered in and I had to help her get her shoes on. She was bleary eyed and wanting to sleep. But she was there and she presented and she did a fantastic job, in spite of the tiredness and the after effects of being out all night and celebrating the end of their senior year end of their senior year.

Amy:

Now, her friend just was a no-show. She didn't communicate with her teammates, she didn't communicate with me, not even a text. She told her friend to say that she was tired from the prom and so she wasn't going to show. So her team had to frantically scramble hours before their presentation before this panel of distinguished judges, professionals in the world of business and finance and technology, and redistribute and reassign her parts. So at the end of the day, when it came time to give out the certificates for the completion of the program, one girl asked if she could take the certificate to her friend and I said, well, your friend didn't complete the program. This was a big part of it completing the pitch day and showing up and she said, well, she was tired. I said, yeah, you were tired too, but you showed up, she was tired. I said, yeah, you were tired too, but you showed up. I said it's important that when we receive something we've actually carried through, followed through and come to completion.

Amy:

Now the young woman didn't really know what to do. She actually got angry and she said well, everyone has their own truth. And I felt like coming and my friend did not and I think she should get her certificate of completion. That illustrates the dynamic that young people are in these days. The dynamic that young people are in these days where she knew she needed to show up for her teammates, for herself, for the completion of this three-month program, and yet she felt remiss or afraid to censure her friend for backing down, for opting out, for leaving her teammates in a lurch, for being a no-show. They weren't equivalent accomplishments and they don't deserve equivalent rewards, and yet she was unable to make that value distinction.

Amy:

I see that dilemma played out over and over again Among the young people I work with. I see them having a very strong moral sense, which is part of that period of adolescent brain development. Things are somewhat binary, one polar, the other, and students feel a strong sense of outrage against injustice. That's why many of the social movements have been led by young people, people who are too young to take that kind of responsibility and yet, compelled, they feel they must. And as I work more and more, having worked with at this almost 30,000 students 29,000 and change in this three-month mindfulness and systems thinking program, the thing that stands out to me more than ever is the need and responsibility and obligation as an adult to give them experiences both of delight and fun and ease, so they can be young people in our world, which is so challenging, and also to give them truths are not equal where we can value all life, whether it's the tiny plankton growing in the sea or it's the great mammals roaming across the plains, or it's human beings who don't look like you or speak the same language. And yet, when it comes to our actions, our humility, our grace, our generosity and our care for a purpose larger than ourselves, it's important to set directionality, and young people crave that. They need that. They're going to find their way anyway. But simply telling them to find their own truth when they've only lived on this planet for 16 years and the first few of those they were just concerned with eating, sleeping and pooping that's not a big help. So I've really been thinking a lot about this concept of goal and purpose and its relationship to contemplative practice.

Amy:

Contemplative practice, mindfulness and related tools has always had directionality, always had an orientation towards that which is, in the classical phrase, good, true and beautiful. It points towards humility before the complexity of life and the mystery of our awareness of being conscious beings, because nobody knows how we're conscious or why we're conscious. We just are. We know that we are. We don't know why or how, and that's a profound and beautiful mystery. We don't really know why the human organism evolved to be so complex. We can plot some of the stages, but why evolution was directed towards greater complexity we don't really know. We don't really know. So there's a wonder and an awe and a reverence and a humility before this, as well as before the powers of life and sentience and consciousness that we don't understand, consciousness that we don't understand. We're even in great catastrophes, like holes in the ozone layer. We've seen regeneration when there's just a little bit of care, at rates that were unpredicted. What does that mean about possibilities in our times, when there's so much pollution and degradation of our systems of water and soil and food and biodiversity? That all remains to be seen. But helping students really connect with that sense that we don't know everything. Chat GPT doesn't know everything, and the fact that there are things that we cannot know is a wondrous thing and it brings an openness of heart and it brings a care and sensitivity for all the ripples that all of our actions create in the pond of our existence.

Amy:

Now, simply setting students on their own to find their way is going to result in more and more loneliness, more and more alienation, more and more depression, more and more loneliness, more and more alienation, more and more depression. Whereas when students feel any of us feel connected to a purpose greater than ourselves, where we're giving, not taking, we find ourselves filled and rich. We find ourselves connected with other people who also give. Maybe their calling, their vocation, isn't the same as ours. Maybe their calling, their vocation, isn't the same as ours. Maybe their calling is to care for their family with great love and affection. Maybe our calling is to care for the world of contemplative practice and what that can bring to a life. Maybe someone else's calling is for the environment. Maybe someone else's calling is to cure infectious diseases. But that calling for something greater than ourselves, it brings out something in the human spirit and we recognize that in each other and we find connection and sisterhood or brotherhood with others who look different, but we recognize that light in their eyes as the light in ours. We recognize that large and beautiful heart as one that we can trust and feel connected to.

Amy:

The crisis of loneliness is real. In the classroom I still see the effects of the pandemic and what has happened to young people who lost that time of socialization. And more than that, they were instilled with a fear of the other. The other could get you sick, the other could transmit something that you couldn't see. You can't trust anyone, even your own family. That went deep. It was not entirely conscious, but it instilled a reticence to engage.

Amy:

Loneliness is one of the great ills of modern life. We no longer gather for the same celebrations, we no longer gather for meals. We no longer gather to sing. We no longer gather to sing, and what we see in cultures that are less financially affluent is we often see a greater connectedness, greater socialization, a greater sense of belonging. I'm not glorifying the lack of resource. I'm simply commenting on what I've observed in my travels around the world and in living in some of the much less affluent countries in South Asia. So what are we missing? And what are we not serving our children? And to me, that is the essential question around the future of education. We can talk about retooling education for the new workforce. We can talk about the personalization of AI and providing tutors so students can learn.

Amy:

Are we thinking and creating tools that address that sense of being adrift, of not having purpose, of not having purpose, of having to chart one's way when it comes to fundamental questions around goodness, around truth, around righteousness, around purpose? I am very passionate about the potential of AI. I understand the downsides, but I do believe if we train technology correctly, we can really support the better sides of our humanity. We can really empower our caring and our connectedness, and our connectedness At the same time. The importance of a cause larger than oneself that connects one with others can't be underestimated. That's where our sense of fulfillment comes from, that's where our sense of happiness or joy comes from, that's our sense of being aligned with the universe and here for a purpose really comes from. Purpose really comes from. Are we giving that as much attention as we're giving the practicalities around using AI to cheat on tests or fake news, fake facts, fake information, fake information and, over the coming months and years for inner strength.

Amy:

What I see is an increasing emphasis on focusing on purpose, using the mindfulness practices and self-discovery and self-centering and exploration of how we are, how we show up in the world, how the evolutionary currents have brought us to this point, what are the habits and triggers and where are we heading to. I see those questions as becoming more pronounced in the way we teach and how we teach. Mindfulness is great. I've been practicing since 1978, when I was a sophomore in high school, and I wouldn't have been doing it all these years if I didn't love contemplative practice and didn't find great benefit and joy that comes from it. My mindfulness practice came after I already had intimations of purpose. I was one of those students that felt that the world was not and my education wasn't meeting my deeper calling. I wanted life to make sense, I wanted it to be heading somewhere, I wanted there to be purpose and value and nobility in being on earth and I found the practices as part of my seeking rather than the other way around. So as we implement mindfulness and other contemplative tools more and more for mental health, let's underscore purpose meaning directionality.

Amy:

Mindfulness, as I've often said, is not a pill that we can all take and feel better. It has to be set in a context from which we're understanding the world around us and our place in it, and we're understanding the world around us and our place in it and we're recognizing the value of life, the preciousness of life and the delicacy of life. So if you are a teacher of mindfulness in the classroom or you're an educator who's working to bring stability, groundedness, resilience to students who have so much anxiety, so much fear, so much lack of confidence, do work with these tools. They help, they support, they heal and bring in that context of meaning, of the sense of the ultimate value of being alive, being sentient, of knowing the questions around what else is sentient and knowing the orientation to treat everything around us with gentleness and grace. I invite you also to communicate with me and share with me what is inspiring you.

Amy:

I will be doing a deeper, more focused dive into ideas around the future of education looking at educational technology, looking at compassion and wisdom, building tools, looking at what students want and see in their ideal world and their ideal education, looking at equity. What does that mean and how can we not erode difference, steamroll over it as we launch these large language models and other forms of technology that are covering our globe. How can we preserve and protect independent voice, unique expression, cultural richness, diversity and diversity that comes out of place, and rootedness, tradition and habit, and even tens of thousands of years of culture? There are parts of this world where humans have been for a very long time. How can we bring that forth and not lose that?

Amy:

And what are the systems and structures of public policy that will prioritize meaning, purpose that brings joy and service and happiness and fulfillment, that ignites human beings with a sense of care larger than trying to feed their own hunger for connection, because it is in giving that we receive and it is in loving that we experience love back. Can that be institutionalized? Can that be embedded in required curricula? Can we lead this next new age, this next new digital age, with wisdom and compassion, purpose and a sense that being simply being being alive, being conscious, being sentient is precious? These are all the questions that are keeping me up at night.

Amy:

I am finding some really amazing people who are also asking and posing answers to these questions. As you come across them, please share them with me, and I look forward to this next phase of looking at the future of education and what that means about creating more conscious classrooms. Thank you so much. Till next time.

Amy:

Thank you for listening to the Conscious Classroom. I'm your are enjoying this podcast, please leave a review and pass the love on, and check out the show notes on innerstrengtheducation. org for links and more information.

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