Tagged love

On Relationships

I’m finding this school year to be so much easier than the first and second years. This can be attributed to many things. I think the biggest factor involved here are relationships based in trust and love.

I made a little chart to examine the shift in dynamics between people when you have an established relationship rooted in trust & love. In my time teaching in public schools, I felt that one year was never enough for me to get to this place with my students. When I began teaching at the Friends School of Charlotte, one thing that excited me to work there was the 3 year cycle with the same teacher. At Mosaic, I can enjoy relationships even beyond that 3 years, which I love.

 

Relationship with Trust & Love Relationship with Fear & Distrust
  • New experiences are embarked on together with excitement – you are willing to embark on something you’ve never tried before with a person you trust.
  • When a person doesn’t agree with you, you are open to see their perspective. Ultimately, you believe that this person is doing the best they can in this world.
  • When you spend time with this person, you are focused on loving them & yourself. Your time is joyful and playful.
  • Coercion, shame or guilt are used to make the person do something you believe is the right thing to do. An adult who fears a child might never learn to “X” believes that without coercion or shame, the child will not do it.
  • You are skeptical and distrusting of the other person’s intentions. You are concerned that without some type of punishment or negative consequence, the person might never learn to act or think in a way you feel is acceptable.
  • When you spend time with this person, you are trying to control them or focus your conversation on little lessons that you hope will make them act/think in a way you like.

 

In traditional schools, sometimes teachers get a challenging student in the classroom, and you can hear in the teacher’s lounge, “well it’s only one year, they’ll be gone next year.” This is a mindset too, that if there is a challenging student, you just need to “put up with” them for one year. So the year is spent managing behavior because that’s really all you need to do to survive the year. To me, this is not humane treatment of children.

It takes time to build relationships. A person in a trusting relationship with another will joyfully and happily engage in something new, challenging or difficult. This is a common concern that I hear from parents, “If they aren’t forced to take classes, won’t they just do the same thing every day? What if they never try anything new or challenging?” This question exists in a different paradigm than the one I choose to live in. One doesn’t worry about something like this if you are focused on loving and trusting other people. I am personally willing and excited to do new things with people who I know love me and believe the best in me. I believe this applies to most people.

Having existed in another paradigm, I know the mindset of the other side. I have coerced, punished and manipulated children. I have been on the receiving end of this as well, having lived in a world where the common mindset is that this is the only way children can learn to be “good” adults. I’ve woken up to see that this isn’t true. A simple look at all the disheartened adults hurting themselves and each other in the world is an easy wake-up call. As I learned more, I decided to act differently. I love applying Maya Angelou’s quote to my own life: “When you know better, do better.”

I am thankful for the opportunity I have to grow deep relationships with children (and their parents) over years of time. I have the time and space to see them, know them, and love them. I am in no rush to make them do anything, ever. I can wait for moments of inspiration to leap us into new discoveries. I can listen to their perspectives on life and, with joy, smile and appreciate where they are now in their journey (as opposed to feeling anxious for where I want them to be).

I’ll end this post with some quotes on this topic from some people whom have inspired my awakening into a new paradigm of thought:

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For further reading, you can read this article, one of the best ones I’ve read that describes the leap into this paradigm in terms of “deschooling” and “unschooling,” but in the end, is really all about trust.

Wedding Vow

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I had the pleasure of marrying @Tomis last Thursday, May 14th, 2015, on my 32nd birthday. I am so grateful to have gotten married at my place of work, with all of the people I see daily. I’m thankful that the kids at school, who have watched the love between Tomis and I grow for many months, could be a part of our day in a fun, relaxed and easy way. I loved inviting them to be a part of our ceremony and preparations and that my husband loves all the kids just as I do. I have never been good at separating my work from my life. My life is my work and and my work is my life…those lines have always been blurry. And now my husband is all up in that mix with me!

For this blog post, I wanted to share what I spoke out loud to Tomis at our ceremony. It was important for me to only make a vow that that resonated with my beliefs about love, abundance, and life. I’m glad I wrote it down (in a google doc, of course) so I can connect with and remember this magical day always – it’s a little glimpse into my 32-year-old brain in this moment.

Reading my vows before the ceremony in the school library.

I’d like to start with quote from The Way of Mastery:

 

If You Would Know Love, Know Your Self

 

“Love embraces all things, allows all things, trusts all things, and thereby, transcends all things. Love is never possessive. Love is never fearful. Love is simply Love. Love cannot shine with specialness upon anyone at any time. For specialness, itself, is a contradiction; the attempt to take Love and make it shine only on one object, only on one person, only on one being, only within one universe.

 

…Love resides within you as the core and the Source of your very being. Therefore, if you would know love, know your Self….Then indeed, Love will flow through you.” [TWOM page 71-2]

 

I vow to you and our family & friends today to remain rooted in Truth and remembrance of who I am, which is love. Because it was because I knew my Self that I was able magnetize the opportunity to know you in my life. Your dreams are my dreams. We don’t just support each other to pursue our dreams, we share the same dream. This fact alone is something I never knew was possible to have in a relationship. I feel overwhelming joy that we have been able to create this for ourselves. So if knowing my Self and being connected to who I Am brought you to my life, it’s important for me to always take the time to meditate and be still to remember who I am and my dreams in life. I vow to do that and request your support in reminding me to do that if it seems I am losing my way.

 

“God thinks infinitely, timelessly, patiently, and certainly, above all, God thinks playfully.” [TWOM page 101] This is how I see you thinking and moving through life. It’s what drew me to you so passionately when we met. I was magnetized to you because to think like this is what I desire for my own life. By virtue of just being you, you connect me daily to the infinite game of life – a game that I love to playfully play in with you. I see how to treat others and how you respond from a place of infinite love in every situation the universe provides you. I followed your example and I have become more playful, joyful, and patient myself.

 

You are perfect love in every way. You support me daily to remember how simple and perfect my life is. I am so thankful to be your wife and to play the infinite game of life with you and to remember always that love is all there is.

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I appreciate so greatly all the people who came together to help decorate, set up/clean up, bring food, run errands, provide incredible musical gifts, and share their love and blessings with us on this day. When I get pictures organized I’ll write another entry so I can recap more of amazing contributions people added to our wedding day!

Facilitating vs. Policing

I’m an Agile Learning Facilitator (ALF), at least that’s what I’m always striving to be. What does being an ALF mean? I am working on an entirely separate post about that, but what I’d like to share here is a beautiful excerpt I found on a blog from Lisa Nalbone called, “Cultivating the Future: Inspiring Communities of Learners.

A great teacher is a loving human being whose top priority to help the students value themselves, learn how to learn, and to connect. No matter what the subject matter, a teacher has a duty to help the students see their strengths and tune into their own intrinsic motivation, so that they are ultimately choosing to learn for their own reasons and take actions to meet their goals. We want them to become self-directed learners!

 

This can’t happen unless the teacher in the room knows how to create a safe learning environment, and can lead learners in sharing both success and struggles, and collaborating to create new value for themselves and the community.

 

How? The teacher must embody and model everything they are trying to teach and to show that everyone in the community is a learner, The teacher must be willing to share the power rather than wield power. To learn from the students. To learn WITH.

Nalbone uses the word “teacher” while I prefer to use “facilitator,” but that doesn’t bother me because I see the message she is really trying to hone in on:

  • Adults in a space with children must come from a place of love
  • Adults in a space with children have the main focus of creating a safe learning environment (unlike in traditional systems where the main point of a teacher is to make children master the content in a particular curriculum)
  • Adults in a space with children work WITH children (as opposed to ON children)

Facilitating or Policing?

What I am currently thinking about are the times when I feel like I’m not facilitating, but policing. Whenever I feel like this, I know it’s really my own fault. I choose to relate to seeing kids doing things that I know their parents wouldn’t be happy about in this policing type of way. (This is why in my opening sentence I wrote that I’m always aiming to be an Agile Learning Facilitator- are you ever “arrived?” I don’t know – I’ll add that thought to the other blog post I mentioned earlier). When this happens, I am aware that I choose to feel responsible for how the kids spend their time and I choose to start policing them rather than facilitating with them.

There are circumstances I have come across during my time at ALC Mosaic where a child is not allowed to do something at home and then when they get to school, that is ALL they want to do. If the facilitators are not aware of the child’s particular restriction, and what the child is doing is not in conflict with others in the space, well, then most of the time the child will indulge in this fancy as much as they can while they have the freedom to do so. When facilitators know about a particular at home restriction, each ALF must then make a decision about how to respond. In order to cultivate a relationship with the child that is not authoritarian, it feels important to me that ALFs master the ability to work WITH a child from a place of honesty rather then telling on them to their parent. For example:

Example: The adult at school knows a particular child is not supposed to eat refined sugar, and does not have this type of food at home. At school, the child begs for candy from the lunches of other kids.

Facilitating response: Speak honestly to the child from the heart. “I feel uncomfortable watching you ask repeatedly for candy when I know that this is something your mom doesn’t add to your diet at home. I’m curious if you know why you guys don’t eat refined sugar. Has your family talked about that?” (Then the ALF accepts whatever answer is given and engages the conversation further if it seems the child wants to engage AND allows the child to make their own decision about whether or not to eat the candy).

Some possibilities from this response:

  • The child and the ALF might end up looking up resources on refined sugar together and then teach others along way about it.
  • The child might say, “no” in the moment and eat the candy anyway, but later on ask their parent this question at home (or not!).
  • The child might say, “yes I know why” and then explain it and then make an informed decision about eating the candy.
  • Food sharing is a practice that can happen at school (which is something that humans normally do in many cultures when coming together to eat)
  • The child practices making an informed decision – (possibly setting them up to continue to do this as they age when it comes to food, sex, drugs)

Policing response: Tell on the child to their parent, create a rule that there is no food sharing at school, or create firm restrictions on what foods are allowed at school.

Some possibilities from this response:

  • The child hides their actions from the ALF in the future.
  • Food sharing cannot happen at school – and there is a distinction made between “how we eat at school” and “how we eat at home or at our friend’s houses.”
  • The child views adults as in control and they look for ways to take that control back in their own life.
  • The child doesn’t eat the candy. The child knows that they cannot eat candy whenever they are in a situation where they can be caught.

What I’d love to hear from parents and other ALFs in our network is feedback on what facilitating looks like rather than policing. The question I am keeping in the forefront of my mind when I think about which role I’m choosing to step into is: “Am I trying to control the child’s behavior so I don’t hear parent complaints, or am I working to facilitate a loving and safe learning environment where I work WITH children?” For me, acting from the former elicits fear based actions coming from me to the child, while the latter encourages loved based actions coming from me to the child.

 

 When you are facilitating, you would:  When you are policing, you would:
  • View conflict as an opportunity and ask:
    • What can we learn from this?
    • How can the resolution to this conflict help us create an even more awesome community?
  • Work with children and other adults to get to roots of conflicts. Is willing to invest time to do this, and genuinely interested in hearing the perspectives of those involved.
  • Talk through conflict with the children/adults involved
  • Accept that you, yourself, are the only person you can control the thoughts/actions of and use that gift powerfully.
  • Views conflict as problems that mess up the day/waste our time.
  • Tries to create rules that make it so this conflict will no longer take place in the space. These rules tend to be band-aids to the problem and never get to the root issue though.
  • Desires rules to point to rather than have a conversation: “Well the rule is that we can’t bring candy to school. That’s just the way it is.”
  • Strives to control the environment and the actions of the people in the environment.

 

If you want to add to this table, please email me or comment with additions and I’ll add them in and tag each author!  I could also see this being a conversation to expand on during our ALF Summer Program this year too 🙂

 

 

Gratitude in Drawings

Something I have shifted to realizing now in my 30’s is that expressing gratitude regularly can have a profound effect on your life. What I am finding is that when I take the time to be grateful for all that I have in life, I stop playing the “I’ll be happy when” game. I realize that I have everything already – I just need to take the time to remember and pay attention to what I have.

The past two weeks I’ve spent a great amount of time thinking about gratitude as I drew pictures for the parents of the children at ALC Mosaic. When I think about the parents here that are choosing to take such a courageous leap into pioneering a new model of education, I simply lack the words to tell them how much they mean to me. Being slightly socially awkward myself in person, I wanted to think of a way I could express my gratitude for them joining this ALC journey.

I decided to stretch my artistic skills to draw each one a picture of their favorite animal and write the animal’s Native American totem meaning on each. I was challenged to draw animals I never had attempted before and it was fun and hard! I did most of them at school and explained to the kids what I was doing and why. They were asked to tell me what animals to draw for their parents. Some they knew, some guessed, some went home and asked.

As I drew each animal I simply thought about the parent and sent love and gratitude through my heart and hands. My goal was to have energetic frequencies of love flow through the drawings. I’m really proud of how they turned out and for how I felt when complete with my project! This overdose of gratitude for others made my life increasingly happier each day. As I gave, I received. It’s beautiful.

 

The Most Challenging

To me, horses are the second most difficult animal to draw after humans. Their snouts and faces and body proportions have always been challenging for me. I decided to opt out of drawing their bodies so I could focus my practice on getting the eyes & nose placed well.

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This one blew me away…Elisha was browsing animal drawings with me to copy for the lion. She chose this one for me to copy (I am not at the point in my artistic career to draw without an image to copy from). I told her I thought it was too hard, but then ended up really loving how it turned out! The kids seemed pretty amazed by this one.

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The cheetah was another animal I was worried about getting right. My attempts look very different from one another, the first being a little more cartoon-like and the second more realistic.

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The Surprising

I had never drawn realistic sheep or many realistic dogs before (but plenty of cartoon versions) and it surprised me how much I loved them!

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The Power of Lines

I am amazed at how just many little lines together can show changes in fur texture, feathers, and create the shape of an animal. These animals show off this power really well:

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As I drew each hawk I was thinking about the specific person I was drawing them for, as I did with each animal. Interestingly, before I labeled them, the children of these parents came up and saw them and identified the hawks correctly as being for their parent, saying that that the first one looked more like Kristen and the second like Jim.

 

The Sea

 

When I got the sea animal request in, I wasn’t sure how to make them look smooth. I was feeling pretty good about the fur and feathers, and had to use the power of the line differently for these creatures.

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 *There are a couple of animals I didn’t get pictures of before sealing them up in their cards, and two more I need to draw for a family that is out of town! I just want to note this for parents noticing a few missing 🙂 

Love is Something If You Give It Away

There is song I sang a lot with kids at the Friends School where I previously taught that continuously ran through my head during week two of my gratitude drawings:

Love is something if you give it away, 

     give it away, give it away

Love is something if you give it away,

You end up having more. 

I ended this project with having even more gratitude for the families choosing Mosaic than I did in the beginning. Thinking about each individual parent through the drawings led me to hold sacred and honor each of them uniquely for the commitment they have made for their child(ren). Without them, I wouldn’t be blessed with this school and the life I am currently living.

“Help! My Child is Obsessed With ___________”

On Thursday evening I found myself sitting across my dining room table watching a friend of mine crying over how I’ve vanished from the life of her family.

Now, to rewind, she reached out to me the weekend before asking if we could connect and catch up. Looking through our calendars, Thursday night was the day. She’d bring the pizza, I’d grab some wine. She lives about 30 minutes away and made the drive up to Charlotte to make this night happen!

We spent some time reconnecting, and it was halfway through the evening that she brought up that she was upset that I haven’t seen her family in a long time. I am her son’s godmother. I’ve known her since we were 5 years old. When we both first moved down here, we hung out all the time, but since this whole school thing has transpired, I’ve basically disappeared from her life. Her oldest daughter asks about me. She simply stressed that she just wants them to know me and me to know them. That’s important to her. Tears were streaming down her face, and she kept apologizing for crying, feeling a bit embarrassed for how emotional she was.

I promised to do better. I told her I could do better, and that I would.


A Beautiful Reminder

I was gifted a beautiful reminder by the universe: Love and connection are what human beings need most. This is what we all crave and want from one another, and this is how we can reach one another.

We can stress over everything else, wanting others to behave how we want them to, or care about what we want them to care about, but none of our efforts matter if we aren’t starting from a place of love and connection.

I was reminded also of the dynamic differences between human beings, and that I, like some of the children I work with, tend to become single-mindedly obsessed in whatever it is I’m working on. I’ve always been like this.

I was the child sucked into books (and that still happens with fiction books, so I have to be careful when I decide to read one). When the internet came to my house as a middle-schooler, I spent every afternoon after school on it, either building websites for the boy bands I liked or browsing chat rooms where I could make a smiley face talk to other smiley faces (back then adults weren’t aware of the dangers of chat rooms). I would tinker with projects in my room or in the basement where my dad’s workbench was. Being the baby of 4 children in a very busy household, I had a lot of free time and was either overlooked or trusted to occupy myself. Or everyone realized that I either did two things: got into something and stayed involved with that myself or walked around the house bothering people for attention. I guess when I got into something, it was best to just let me be so I wouldn’t annoy anyone else!

To this day, this tendency remains the same. My friends and family have joked with me my whole life about my “one-track” mind. Just this past October, I had a sick historical fiction Netflix problem – watching the Showtime dramas The Borgias & The Tudors. I would spent 5 hours straight watching episodes on a Friday night, just to turn it back on Saturday morning. I would even put it on my phone with my headphones and watch when I was blowdrying my hair. After about 5 or 6 weeks of this I felt like I needed a change so I’ve stopped watching them. I just got sick of it.

I love the privacy I have in my life. I love that I am able to come home each day and have a place where I do whatever I want without anyone watching me, judging me, or wishing I would do something different. I am stubborn and hard-headed and like doing what I want to do. I like to fully immerse myself into what I doing, and I will ignore the world around me when that happens.

Just because I get like that, it doesn’t mean I’m mean, selfish, or that I don’t care about others. It means that I need support and love from my friends and family to remind me that they love me and want to see me sometimes.

Right now, my big obsession in life is this school, and I love it. My friends and family that are not a part of this community, though, sometimes think I’m nuts or just do not know how to relate to me anymore. I go on long rants about education, an article I just read, something I learned from a child that week, etc. Does this remind you of your child who won’t stop talking about Minecraft, perhaps? How can a friend or family member outside of the school community reach such an obsessed individual?

Well, let’s think about what my friend, who has known me for 26 years did: connect with me and love me. My friend came over to hang out and just re-connect. She didn’t demand that I see her more, and she didn’t berate me or accuse me of being too obsessed with my work. She hung out with me, asked me about my school and life, told me about hers, and eventually she brought up that she missed me.

 

So, Your Child is Obsessed With ____________________

Minecraft, Pokemon. Familiar obsessions in any of your children’s life?

Let’s think about the life of the typical child: Almost every action and word they make is judged by adults as a good or bad response. The teachers at school need the children to do well on tests so their lives are easier, and parents want their children to be the incredible people they know they are – and become embarrassed by them when they don’t say or do what it is that they know, or hope, they are capable of. Many kids have zero free time between a long day at school, after school sports, dinner, homework, and bedtime. They are being reminded constantly of what they need to/should be doing.

Now, many of the kids in our setting do not have this lifestyle, thankfully. They do have free time at school – lots of it. And I know many of them also have this at home. But they are still around adults constantly. We have all of our own ideas about what makes a high quality life and we want to pass on all of those lessons to the children. They feel our judgments about their choices even if we don’t voice them. Body language, tone, and just overall energy we put out signals this to them.

As a person who obsesses with a project (this school) to the point that I have let friendships fade (more than the one I opened with, I have to admit), I empathize with the kids who are like me in nature. Because I am an adult who has reflected on this, and was given a beautiful reminder last week of what works, I want to speak up in support of these kids.

 

So, What Works?

  • Love
  • Connection

Yeah, that’s pretty much it. Like parents, I have no magic powers to “make” a child want to do things that they don’t want to be doing. I can’t “make” them stop wanting to play Minecraft and Pokemon.

I can make them stop doing those things, sure. I could reward or punish them to change their actions. I could manipulate them by judging what they do and making it clear what I want them to be doing. I’ve done these things in the past, and have to check myself daily to make sure I’m not reverting to this very common way of “making” people do what you want them to do. I do struggle when I talk to parents who want their kids to make different choices at school and then get disappointed by lack of results – I have to carefully check myself to not make children do what I think their parents want them to be doing as a way to make myself look better in their eyes as an educator. I try not to do this because the results typically come back like this:

Girls: become people pleasers, obsessed with trying to make others like them by doing what they think others want them to do.

Boys: become disgruntled, angry, moody, defensive

So, back to connection and love. When people feel loved by you, they can hear you better. It’s not about whether you love them or not – I love all the kids at school – but do they feel loved by me? That’s the key to connection. I can say I love them over and over again, but if they cannot receive it, it’s not helping.

When the kids get into their phases, joining them without judging them, seems to be the key. Asking them to share what they love about what they do always helps them open up.

Then I’ll notice little things start to happen. For example, they’ll notice me more. They’ll start talking to me and telling me what they are doing/thinking without me initiating the conversation. And it’s a true connection, not one that is forced through behaviorism or manipulation of any kind.

From that place, perhaps we will discover that what the person is obsessed with is actually amazing. Perhaps we will hear them better, just as they can hear us better. I believe that my time spent working on this school is all extremely worthwhile. I don’t want to hear anyone tell me differently! So telling me to stop just doesn’t work. I only end up resentful and end up feeling like the other person doesn’t understand me.

Or, perhaps, from that connected place, the obsessed individual will see an area where they can work harder, like what I realized when I saw my friend asking me to just try harder to connect with her and her kids.

I believe when we let go of wanting to change others, we open ourselves to much deeper levels of connection. And this is where the awesomeness can start!