Category Archives: spiritual intelligence

1000 ORIGAMI CRANES

 

logoMonday, September 21st, is the United Nation’s 27th annual attempt to promote an International Day of Peace.  We are asked to pause and reflect.  Or perhaps set aside our personal or political anger.  To cease fire.  For one day.

We are asked to inspire our students to celebrate this day of peace in their own way.  And perhaps we should.  Maybe the adults ought to all just chill for 24 hours.  Maybe we just take a break from spewing venomous hate speech at Town Hall Meetings or calling the President a fascist or the second coming of Pol Pot.  Maybe we ought to quit shouting across the great divide:  “You Liar!”  You racist!

Maybe on International Peace Day we stay in our seats when we might otherwise rush the stage and yank the microphone out of some 19-year old entertainer’s hands to promote Beyonce.  Maybe we accept the line judge’s call instead of threatening to shove the “f-ing tennis ball down her throat”.  Maybe we disarm.  Maybe we turn down the volume on our talk radio stations. Maybe we have a civil discussion without a deer rifle slung over our shoulder. 

Maybe we make this International Day of Peace about our kids.  Before someone gets hurt.

Last week the House Speaker warned that the climate of hatred towards the President is starting to feel very much like that of San Francisco in the late 70’s– when Dan White’s voices urged him to murder city councilman Harvey Milk, a gay rights activist. She was immediately vilified.  Her political adversaries accused her of encouraging Americans to assassinate the President.  But all week long cable news pundits were saying the same thing:  that we are witnessing a zeitgeist with potentially frightening consequences if some nut gets too close to those in power who were elected by the “people”. 

We’ve been here before.  We heard Bobby Kennedy’s powerful speech on the Mindless Menace of Violence in America...  just before he too became a victim of the mindless menace of violence in America.

On this International Day of Peace,  a ceasefire in Afghanistan and Africa and Iraq and the West Bank and in the border towns of Juarez and Tijuana would be a blessing. 

But I’ll settle for a day in which our children are permitted a moment to lend their voices to the tumult– their prayers for peace.

So at El Milagro we will commemorate this Day of Peace.  And I’m sure we’ll hear about it.  We’ll hear that we should be using our instructional time more wisely and preparing our kids for the standardized tests.  Or that we are putting ideas into their heads.  Or we are teaching them to be soft.  Or to be socialists.

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But the 7th and 8th grade students in Mr. Medina’s class have already made 1000 origami cranes and inscribed them with a wish for peace.  They will wear white to signify their solidarity.  And they will lend their voices by vowing to keep a day of silence. 

Each student will carry a Pledge Card that says:

•Today I am silent.

•Today I am silent… reflecting on peace within myself.

•Today I am silent… reflecting on peace within my family, my school, my community, and the world.

•Today I will walk in silence with my classmates and we will stand for peace.

•Today I am silent… for the last time!

•From this day forward, I will raise my voice in defense of others.  I will be an advocate for peace, non-violence, and justice for all people.

 By Tuesday the International Day of Peace will be over and we will not likely have effected any real change in the world.  At least for now. 

There are still 1000 origami cranes.  The wishes they bear will be released to the universe.  The prayers they carry will have come from our children.

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Filed under El Milagro, President Obama, spiritual intelligence

MUSICIAN’S VILLAGE

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Spring Break just ended and I have now gone the longest I have ever gone between posts.  It is bad practice, no doubt,  to miss my weekly publishing day (which is normally Saturday!).  But I have a good excuse.

dsc_04111Anne and I have just returned from New Orleans where we volunteered for service with Habitat for Humanity and helped build homes in Musician’s Village. That is, we helped in the way that volunteers help when they have limited experience with actually building, using power tools, climbing ladders or hanging from roofs. But we helped. 

And as always, the ambiance of New Orleans was amazing.  

But so is the heartache. And so are the wonderings.

And so I wondered, 4 years after Katrina, why there are still hundreds (thousands?) of homes with holes in the roofs and boarded up windows and debris piled in the yard.

dsc_0376_2I wondered why so many  of those uninhabited houses still bore the crimson “X’s” spray-painted by search and rescue teams and framing the cryptic code for the number of  victims still inside.  And I wondered how those search tattoos worked on the psyche of children and adults alike.

I wondered why in some neighborhoods, all of the properties are restored, while in the poorer, more segregated neighborhoods, entire block are still abandoned. (Actually, I didn’t really “wonder “why this is happening at all.  These are the same people that were abandoned from the day the hurricane hit. They were left on bridges and rooftops and dumped into sports arenas.  And they still aren’t getting much help.)

So I wondered if the guy they keep trotting out as “the next Republican contender for president, the governor of Louisiana, has been in the Lower Ninth Ward lately.  I wondered how you can approach the problems and challenges of the presidency if you can’t tend to the needs of your own community.

I wonder how many people moved back into homes that they shouldn’t have moved back into.  Homes where the walls are filled with mold and the cockroaches prop up rotting foundations on their backs.

I wondered why so many schools still aren’t operational yet and how much longer it is going to take.

But then again, I wonder what we can all learn from a resilient city that has bet the majority of its waterlogged educational system  on the promise of charter schools .

I wondered, with the return of so many musicians to New Orleans, could the city’s full revival be far behind?

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And I wondered how the children are since Jazz Became Hope.

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Filed under charter schools, El Milagro, resiliency, spiritual intelligence, Uncategorized

STIMULUS: 20 Leadership Lessons From Barack Obama

stimulus | ‘stim yul us
noun (pl. -li | -,li)


• a thing that rouses energy in something or someone; an interesting and exciting quality

pres1On this, the thirty-day anniversary of the historic Inauguration of our 44th President, this much is clear: when it comes to leadership, Barack Obama has some game! In just four weeks (about the time it took most of us to figure out where the restroom was in our new school), President Obama has named and re-named cabinet members, passed a nearly $800 billion stimulus package, flown to Denver, Phoenix and Ottawa, launched Hillary into the Far East, visited a Washington DC charter school and took Michelle to dinner on Valentine’s Day. Whether you agree with his policies or not, there is much to learn from this president’s powerhouse approach to governing.

Metaphors for leadership abound– in Fortune 500 Company CEO’s, NBA basketball coaches, and admirals who have captained naval ships. You can find their books in Borders or read about them in Fast Company. Or you can follow CNN on Twitter and study how one man, our president, has approached his first month on the job and confronted the most complex and urgent crises of our generation.

So whatever your role in schools might be, here are “20 Leadership Lessons” from the dynamic presidency of Barack Obama:


1. Keep your eyes on the prize: There is nothing like a wordle to know you are consistently ‘on message’.

2. Invite them to the barbecue: Stepping outside of the hallowed halls helps to build social networks with allies and adversaries alike. Kegger at the White House!”

obama_running_blueflys_blog_flypaper_123. Don’t wait: Hit the ground at a sprint and knock over the furniture. Launch and learn!

4. Keep your family first. Period.

5. Feed your inner gym rat: Stay fit!

6. Bipartisan “process” is secondary to doing the right thing: So do the right thing.

7. Be resilient: After the inevitable setbacks, betrayals, and disappointments… you have to bounce back stronger.

8. Don’t be a sap: “I am an eternal optimist,” said the President. “Not a sap!

9. Read stuff!

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10. Don’t give up your Blackberry: Especially if it is your link to the only people who will tell you the truth.

11. Speak to the conflict: When you speak from the heart to the needs of people that didn’t vote for you, that’s real Servant Leadership.

12. Have some courage. Enough said.

13. Sneak out to dinner: (But leave your Blackberry at home.)

14. Change the culture to change the outcomes: Replace the curtains hung by your predecessor and then make up your own rules.

lincolnjpeg15. Stand tall on the shoulders of giants: Don’t wobble, they became giants for a reason.

16. Appreciate the ghosts. (If I lived in the White House I would walk around at night and listen to the spirits whisper.) Our schools have a history too.

17. Surround yourself with the best people you can find: Build your own team of rivals.

18. You belong in the room: So when you feel like you are over your head, it is good to remember that you were hired for a reason.

19. Communicate… communicate… communicate: Make it your gift.

And finally, whether you are an urban school district superintendent, the assistant principal of a small elementary school, or the most powerful leader of the free world, one month on the job–

20. Remember that HOPE is what brought you here.

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(Cross-posted at Leadertalk, a blogging community for school leaders hosted by Education Week.)

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Filed under President Obama, resiliency, spiritual intelligence

ALONE FROM EL MILAGRO AND INTO THE BORDER WAR

trolleyjpegWhen the bright red San Diego Trolley pulls into the San Ysidro station at 4:30 on a weekday afternoon, it opens its doors to thousands of people coming or going into the early dusk.  This is the Tijuana border crossing.  The busiest international port in the world.  Mexico’s day laborers silently shuffle across the footbridge to the caracol.  Their heads bowed.  Their eyes, darting nervously.  No matter how many times they have made this crossing in the past five or twenty or fifty years, this is no time for complacency. 

carsJust moments ago they were in America.  They were tending the landscape or working in fields or changing hotel linens or cooking in restaurants or cleaning homes.  Service, labor, business. They are cogs in the wheel of an ailing international economy.  As they cross into their homeland, they are no doubt welcomed by the unmistakable aroma of Mexican gas, street corner taco stands and open fires.  There are miles of choking cars and buses and taxis.  And there are too few police.  

It is no comfort to the border crossers that two more police officers turned up dead this morning. They had been bound, gagged, tortured, and executed. And even more chilling, they had been warned by the drug cartels in a brazen threat broadcast over their own police radios to the beat of narcocorridos.  Tijuana is a war zone.  Tijuana is out of control.  

And if it is no place for adult citizens who have made the silent journey to their jobs in America every day for decades, it is certainly no place for Jorge.

Just an hour ago he was leaving Mueller Charter School– El Milagro—  by way of our back gate. When the three-fifteen bell dismisses a thousand kids into the afternoon, there is an explosion  of energy.  There is running and boys chasing each other into the grass. Parents line their cars up all the way to Broadway to pick up their children.  And the parents will wait because God knows they don’t want them walking home alone.  Too dangerous.

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But Jorge carves his way through the playful chaos.  Quietly.  Silently.  As if to mirror the faceless adults who have been his anonymous companions on his daily commute.  He walks down the back driveway of the long apartment complex.  Passed the trailer park.  Across H Street and into the Trolley station.  Every fifteen minutes another trolley stops and he looks for the Blue Line running south to San Ysidro.

Jorge may be Mueller Charter School’s most resilient child.  And we are filled with resilient children.  We grow resiliency.  We study it and foster it and promote it and we have teachers and counselors who are authorities on it.  We are frequent conference presenters on resiliency.  Ryan is focussing on “resiliency in immigrant children” as a potential doctoral dissertation.  I am writing a book about it.

But nothing prepared us for seeing the very personification of resiliency in the dark eyes of Jorge. We had him on our radar screen.  We had discussed him a few weeks earlier at our quarterly Resiliency Monitoring session with his classroom teacher.  We categorized him as a “Quadrant 1”. In our system, that means Jorge is facing dire life crises.  He is in immediate need of urgent care. gunmanjpegHe is in our version of ICU.  There had recently endured unspeakable family tragedies including the decapitation of relatives in the border war.  

But now America’ imploding economy was closing in on him even more.  He and his mom had recently been evicted and they had to return to living quarters somewhere in the squalor of Tijuana. She couldn’t ask for help because she was afraid that Jorge would be disenrolled if we discovered they were living back in Tijuana.  California law is clear.  Not even charter schools can serve children living across the border in Mexico.

So every day, Jorge climbed the trolley and made the trip to Tijuana alone.  He struggles in math. He struggles in reading and writing.  He struggles with English.  But he never misses school.  He finds a way to get here, even if he has to step over bodies piling up on the border to do so.

And that is resiliency.  Jorge is 8 years old.  His story brought tears to our eyes when we talked about him in our staff meeting on Friday.  

We will be able to get his mom relocated and help them with housing and other basic needs. Our efforts will not be reflected in our API because Jorge will tank on that test.   But we owe him for what he has taught us about ourselves.   About how children, even as young as eight, are willing to rise above adversity for this opportunity to learn.  Jorge is a child worth fighting for.  Regardless of his standardized test score, he is one of our most gifted children.  It is called the spiritual intelligence.

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Filed under charter schools, El Milagro, resiliency, spiritual intelligence