The Conscious Classroom

Times of Challenge, Times of Opportunity

April 12, 2020 Amy Edelstein Episode 5
The Conscious Classroom
Times of Challenge, Times of Opportunity
Chapters
The Conscious Classroom
Times of Challenge, Times of Opportunity
Apr 12, 2020 Episode 5
Amy Edelstein

We are living through a great cultural change, while we are in the midst of something so big it is hard to see what is changing and where it will leave us. Still, as educators, this is the time to use the best of our historical knowledge and context setting to think in constructive ways about these times and to challenge our students to think in the same way. During the Civil War, Walt Whitman wanted to create a poem so noble, so beautiful that it would end war. "Song of Myself" sadly did not put an end to war but it did introduce an incredible vision of acceptance and equality, heralding the LBBTQ movement and profound recognition of our universality as well as our uniqueness. Henry David Thoreau looked at the devastating pollution and overcrowding of early industrialization, and with "Walden" laid a foundation for the environmental movement. With these and other examples, Amy Edelstein shows how we can think about these times and create a vision for a future that is more caring and just than the recent past we are coming out of. 

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Show Notes Transcript

We are living through a great cultural change, while we are in the midst of something so big it is hard to see what is changing and where it will leave us. Still, as educators, this is the time to use the best of our historical knowledge and context setting to think in constructive ways about these times and to challenge our students to think in the same way. During the Civil War, Walt Whitman wanted to create a poem so noble, so beautiful that it would end war. "Song of Myself" sadly did not put an end to war but it did introduce an incredible vision of acceptance and equality, heralding the LBBTQ movement and profound recognition of our universality as well as our uniqueness. Henry David Thoreau looked at the devastating pollution and overcrowding of early industrialization, and with "Walden" laid a foundation for the environmental movement. With these and other examples, Amy Edelstein shows how we can think about these times and create a vision for a future that is more caring and just than the recent past we are coming out of. 

Support the show (https://bit.ly/supportCCPodcast)

Times of Challenge, Times of Opportunity

by Amy Edelstein 

[00:00:07] Welcome to the Conscious Classroom podcast, where we are exploring tools and perspectives that support educators, social workers and parents to create a more conscious, supportive and enriching learning environment for teens. I'm your host, Amy Edelstein, and I'll be sharing transformative perspectives and easy to implement classroom supports that are drawn from mindful awareness and systems thinking. The solutions that I'll offer can improve your effectiveness, vitality and perhaps most importantly, your own joy and fulfillment in your work. I'll be sharing with you the best tools and insights from my 40 years experience with meditation and critical thinking, and also open your minds and hearts to questions that are relevant to us as educators in this culture that we share. 


[00:01:06] Welcome. I'm committed to providing  tools for you to support you during this time [of coronavirus]. As we start moving through the first couple of weeks of tremendous stress and insecurity, we're going to find better ways of supporting our students, even though we are right now, as they say,  laying down the tracks as the train is running. I think that out of this, we're going to be able to find ways to really support and better work with our students and also get their input on what works for them and what doesn't. I'm inspired about that. . 

 

[00:01:58] I really want to take time before we directly do the self care exercises to look at the opportunity of the time right now, because we have a moment where we can really envision a better world. On the other side of this, this has up-ended our world as it is. It's upended our way of life. It's upended our way of communication. And there are changes that we can make out of that. For example, this is a time when, all of the sudden, money was not an impediment or a barrier to give access to all Philadelphia district students to computer or Chromebook and access to the Internet so they could learn. 

 

[00:02:48] Now, everyone's known there was a digital gap in the city for the last decade and a half. 

 

[00:02:57]  It took this crisis to bring everyone together and say, oh, look, there's this unequal access and only some of our kids are able to learn at home and online. So all of a sudden, the district accepted a donation of five million dollars from the Comcast CEO and his wife. Apparently, Comcast offered to give Chrome books to the district almost 20 years ago and we're turned down because the district didn't know what to do with them, it was too early. 

 

[00:03:29] So the School District came up with six million dollars. All of a sudden. Fifty thousand students are going to be able to learn online, or however many needed them. 

 

[00:03:42]  That was an incredible mobilization, it's fabulous. And we're not going to roll that back when this is over. That's a good thing because we were losing so many of our students who weren't be able to explore and study and innovate and create on their own because they didn't have access to a computer. They didn't have access to the Internet. This is a really good thing. 

 

[00:04:06] We, of course, want ask the question why didn't happen before. But also, we really want to focus on moving forward. If we look at a couple of moments in history, we can see that it wasn't just practical changes that were made. There were visionary changes that happen during the time of the Civil War. Walt Whitman, who is our neighbor in Camden at the end of his life, was so horrified by the brutality of the civil war and the loss of life in the division between families, that he wrote the poem Song of Myself. He wanted to write a poem that was so beautiful and so exultant and so vast that there would never be war again, that he could, through the power of his words, make war a thing of the past. 

 

[00:05:10] That didn't happen in terms of war. But what he introduced was phenomenol. 

 

[00:05:14] He was one of the first major voices of the LGBTQ community. Way before its time in the eighteen hundreds, he was one of the voices of the Naturalist movement. He was one of the voices of that creative self-expression and free verse which gave rise to so much innovation in our culture. A lot of American rugged individualism also dates to that  time of romantic expression, of the creativity, of Self. 

 

[00:05:48] Henry David Thoreau, around the same time,  was so appalled by the horrors of industrialization, the pollution, the devastation on the environment that he wrote Walden and started to really advocate for environmental protection. The hipster movement now is really an echo of Henry David Thoreau, who was looking at the rape of industrialization of our natural resources and the beauty around us. 

 

[00:06:20] William James also was looking at industrialization, was looking at poverty, and he wrote The Moral Equivalent of War, which if you haven't read it in a longtime, it's super powerful and worth reading. Out of his essay came the Peace Corps. Somebody decades later read it and was inspired and said, "yes, global poverty is the moral equivalent of war. Let's do something about it.". 

 

[00:06:53] The scientist paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin was a medic in World War One and in the trenches of World War One. He started writing his evolutionary philosophy, which basically looked at the evolution of our interior as well as our exterior. So Teilhard de Chardin, in the trenches of World War One, was looking at.... I mean, that was such a brutal war. They were still using bayonets and killing thousands of people. He was a stretcher bearer. And he started envisioning out of the horror, like a mass sense of the world, in the midst of horror, also still evolving towards greater good in the capacity of human nature, humankind to keep evolving towards greater complexity of harmony and love, not just greater complexity of technology. 

 

[00:07:45] We are at one of those flex points in culture whom we can really envision a world the way we want it. I think we're going to come out of this providing better access to health care, to essential communications tools, to services, food and medicine. I also think we're going to come out of this with a greater protection for the environment. We've stopped, we stopped building, we've stopped digging, we've stopped, you know, paving roads is a huge polluter - just because the temperatures it takes to melt asphalt and build cement. The sky is blue again. There are rivers that are running clear again. Dolphins showing up in waterways where they haven't swum for a long time. It didn't take that long. 

 

[00:08:41] So if we can mobilize for this, for human life, we're going to recognize that we're all in this together. We literally are. Because anyone can infect anyone else. It's going to travel through the air waves. You can't isolate yourself on in your gated community. And be sure that you're not going to get it from your package. 

 

[00:09:07]  This is kind of like the traditional fasts from work, the Sabbaths taking a break, taking a break from the busy pace of life. I know for for a lot of people, it's challenging being at home with your families and your kids. I don't have kids at home, so I'm not trying to work with with that around. But I know a lot of my colleagues are. But it's also time where people are spending time together, they're having important conversations. They're enjoying each other. And that also is going to help change our culture. So it's a good time to really think about, well, where do we want to be? Where do we want to end up at? When we come out the other side of this. Not just with the negatives of increased surveillance and increased tracking, but how can we marry the left and the right. How can we marry government and business? 

 

[00:10:17] How can we marry the creativity of individuals and small groups of people who are often discounted, who have so much to contribute? Because of a decentralized response to this in America and a lack of strong directive and leadership from the top  we're seeing a lot of grassroots initiatives, which is chaotic, but it's also empowering to so many people. 

 

[00:10:50]  Once we can are able to get back in touch with our students through,  once we have online access in a more regular way, I wonder what our students are going to come up with. 

 

[00:11:09] How are they going to want to communicate? How are they going to want to work with us? 

 

[00:11:14] What do they need? What are some of the solutions they've come up with? What are some of the grassroots ways they found to stay in touch? I think, especially among our high school students, there's a lot of creativity that we can invite input on. 

 

[00:11:33] We need strong leadership and for our students, our classroom teachers, as we get back in the schools, our principals. . .  We all need guidance, we need good guidance from the district. But this kind of situation breaks down some of the negative tendencies or habits that come out of strong leadership, which is a one-way system of education where we teach and they learn. Because we're going to need to figure out together. 

 

[00:12:05] What's their environment like? We don't see them in a class. So how can we reach them? What's going to be useful? What if they found what helps them? What are they missing? We need to have more creative ways for input back and forth. I think that's going to be helpful. In inperson classrooms you only call on one student at a time. But now we can start inviting response from all of them, they can chat all at once and we can scan and see what's going on. And it won't create chaos. We can start getting more voices in the mix. 

 

[00:12:39] This type of digital learning  takes a while to get used to. It's not my favorite medium. I'd rather be in a room with people. I'd rather be able to see people and talk to them and know what's going on. It's it's hard to just especially if you have a lot of digital meetings, one after another. It's just really hard because you feel get your attention so confined. You realize when you're with people, you're looking all over, you're looking up and down. And especially our students are, you know, back and forth and connecting with each other. How are we going to create those opportunities for them? How are we going to create opportunities for learning that invite movement? That allow for breaks and let everyone come back. How can we share? 

 

[00:13:31] One of the things for teachers now is to think about how we can include our students in this process because they're going to educate us in ways that we'll be more able to teach them. 

 

[00:13:48] And if we don't find out from them what works and what doesn't in this environment, then we will we're going to lose more of them than we're already losing. Because that relationship with them is so important. 

 

[00:14:03] How are we going to build relationship? You know, when you stand at your class door and the kids walk in and the kids walk out and you're touching base with them, how are we going to create that in a digital environment where everyone arrives online at once and everyone. You  can privatize the chat but most people don't. So everyone can see everything. 

 

[00:14:28] How how are we going to be there for our students? How are we going to provide little pick me ups for them, for the ones that are kind of looking a little bit lower than usual? And how are we going to support the ones who are having successes? 

 

[00:14:45] Because we're not really going to hear about it in the same way. We're not standing in the hall and overhearing their conversations. And knowing that something really great happened on the weekend or something really bad happened on the weekend. How are we going to make space for them to tell us some of those things that they need to tell us? 

 

[00:15:11] One of my colleagues, there was a shootout outside her house a couple days ago, which has never happened before, it was horrific. If we would only meeting in a group online, she may not have told me. It was a big deal. How are we going to find out those things from our students? How are we going to find out that somebody's grandmother got sick, got Coronavirus and give them support. They may not want to say in front of everyone. Any ideas that you have or that the kids have because they'll know where how they're going to feel comfortable to connect, we want to find out from them. We want to invite them. 

 

[00:16:01]  I think there's an opportunity to lean into the changes that we feel we want to make to humanize our education system more, provide better education, more creative and more education that more stimulates their creativity more. 

 

[00:16:20] I don't know if testing is going to be eliminated this year. So if they do eliminate standardized testing this year, then there's an opportunity. If they're pushed, then without the pressure of testing, what do they want to learn? How do they want to learn? 

 

[00:16:43] That's challenged them to respond to us about it and tell us how they want to learn. Probably some of them have been learning because there's only so many TikTok videos can you watch before you get really bored. some of them probably have started experimenting with Khan Academy. 

 

[00:17:10]  One teacher has set up hangouts and posted in in the classroom, which is great. And a Google number so they can call. So you can you can set up your own Google Voice number. It can be forwarded to your cell phone, your home phone, so they don't have your cell phone or home phone. But that number can also go just to voicemail. And then you can find out from them. And it can you can say on your message that it's a confidential line so they can reach out to you. You can post questions to them on Google classroom and have them write, you know, email back to you or call back of how are they learning? What are they learning? What are they interested in and what new technologies have they found? We don't have to source everything. 

 

[00:18:03] When we are inviting our students to engage with us, we also the same as we do with ourselves. We don't want to push. We want to invite. 

 

[00:18:16] Students have enough pressure. And they don't need more pressure, they don't need more forced engagement, and we don't want to push. 

 

[00:18:31] We're gonna do some practice right now, some mindfulness practices to help calm and relax you  because you need it. And when we start doing them with the students, definitely going to remind the students that the didn't never want to push through too much anxiety. We don't grow that well through intense pressure. We can make leaps of achievement through pressure. But there has to be a foundation. So like athletes, you know, they get pushed and pushed and pushed by their coaches and they'll get pushed again. It'll make a breakthrough. But remember, they've been training for months and years. They don't get pushed on their very first day to exceed their limits. So as we get back into starting as we get back into working with the students, as we start inviting them into tell us ways of communication that work, we want to keep inviting input and build momentum without just pushing them into a level of engagement that is is too much pressure right now. That's a very interesting dance, the sensitivity. 

 

[00:19:53] Those were the thoughts that I was thinking this week, really using this time to envision the possible. Ask your students, gett them to write essays on how they'd want the world to change coming out of this for the positive. You don't really need more apocalyptic essays from them, but how do they want the world to change for the positive? What would they want to see? Envisioning that for ourselves. Sharing those ideas and coming up with ways to communicate and learn, especially through the digital medium that works. 

 

[00:20:36] Thank you for listening to the conscious classroom. I'm your host, Amy Edelstein. Please check out the show Notes on Inner Strength Foundation.net for links and more information. And if you enjoyed this podcast, please share it with a friend and pass the love on. See you next time.