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Thursday, June 07, 2018

Reflection Points

We've been coaching our young students ahead with the biography project. It's an intense project with many, many steps. And since projects by their nature are virtually limitless, there is a point where you decide a project is done even though there's always more you could do. For example, with a biography project, you could expect a simple timeline or a report or move upwards to a full fledged documentary or book by the authors, Doris Kearns Goodwin or David McCullough.

As we discussed students' projects we found ourselves discussing the end points--the places where we decided a child's research, writing, portrait, timeline, and digital poster were enough. As we talked, I found myself remembering the collaborative project I completed with friends in sixth grade about Abraham Lincoln. We met at my friend's house, created a silhouette, and then added a few pictures and facts. Compared to what we have students do today, our project was basic at best and much more like something a first grader would produce now. Times, resources, and pedagogy have changed a lot and what students learn and produce at fifth grade is much like what I was learning and producing as a senior in high school.

Several years ago I heard a Tufts University professor give a good talk on our changing expectations and the heightening sophistication of what children see and do. He compared television shows from long ago to today to point out the heightened vocabulary, science, and other aspects of the shows maintaining that times have changed and our expectations for knowing have become more sophisticated. Certainly our tools are far more sophisticated than in the past particularly since the Internet allows us quick retrieval of all kinds of information within seconds if we know how to look for it.

As I think more about this, I am thinking about the reference points we use to teach well, make choices, and assess situations. We all tend to see the world through our present day lens, lenses that are affected greatly by our age, geography, culture, gender, and circumstances. What I see and what you see are often different, and that's why discussion and debate are so important to any work or decisions we do.

Further as I think about these reflection points, I recognize how important it is to use an empathetic lens-to think about a person's stage and circumstance and as much as possible put yourself into that person's shoes, see it from their point of reference. Of course the best way to do this is to really observe and listen to individuals--to hear their points of view and thoughts without judgement or our perspectives. Another less effective, but still important way to view another person's point of view is to remember back to when we were that age--to see it from our own perspective as a person at that stage of life. This approach makes one have to think back to what that was like while also leaving room for the other individuals differences from you, differences in time, place, and other factors that affect an individual's point of view.

As I thought about my own points of reflection, I did a chronological scan which resulted in the following developmental look at what mattered to me at various age frames:

  • 0-5: family, basic needs, fun, play, story, nature
  • 6-10: family, play, basic needs, school/learning, family adventures, clubs and activities, nature
  • 11-14: friends, social groups, family, school/learning, adventures, clubs, activities, independence, choices, social structures/judgement
  • 15-17: friends, social groups, social structures/judgement, job, choices, independence vs dependence, development of self concept, school/learning, family
  • 18-22: social groups, structures, judgement, and choices, school/learning, independence, personal decisions and direction, relationships, family
  • 23-31: social groups, structures, judgement, and choices, school/learning, job/profession, professional development, relationships, marriage, family, apartments/houses, travel/adventures
  • 32-59: parenting, marriage, family, professional growth/development/challenges, home, travel/adventure
What matters most changes from stage to stage and year to year. As a young married woman, the idea of having and taking care of a family mattered most. Later care for my children and family events took priority, and as my children became more independent, I found I had more time to devote to my professional life and relationships related to and outside of the family. 

So as I think about the decisions, affiliations, and judgements we make, I am cognizant today that what we believe, what we do, and how we react depends a lot on our reference points and our ability to empathize with others with regard to their perspectives and point in life's journey too. Onward.