Setting the Tone for the New School Year

Beginning the new school year with a positive, proactive attitude and approach is key to setting the right tone for you and your family and sustaining it over the academic year.

Being a teacher educator who is married to a school teacher and has two girls in elementary school has taught me the importance of deliberate intention, visualization, meditation, organization, communication, and follow-up.

I have learned these conscious, mindful actions the hard way and over time. In fact, I have resisted many of these ‘steps’ because I have a propensity to challenge routine, particularly if it feels forced. That said, I have noticed over the years that my children respond very positively to consistent messaging, clear vision of home- and school-centered goals, an organized home, and predictable scheduling. By no means do my husband and I approach these actions without keeping in mind that play, relaxation, and fun are equally, if not more, important. My girls crave long stretches of interrupted play where they can draw, engage in imaginative role play, create projects, read for pleasure, and explore our backyard’s trees, plants, and insects.

So, being the teacher that I am, I am happy to share the ways we, as a family, attempt to structure and maintain a harmonious tone in our home at the beginning of and throughout the school year.

Intention is the conscious practice of calibrating and setting the tone we need, as a family, to sustain a relatively peaceful balance. For us, this balance requires a mindful approach to understanding each individual’s desires, hopes, and needs while considering how each individual fits together and contributes to our family’s collective realities and dreams. For example, both my daughters are involved in extracurricular activities that involve a financial and time-intensive commitment necessary for them to continue progressing. To set the intention to support these activities, my husband and I needed to have several conversations to organize practical and feasible ways to realize my daughters’ desires.

The intention we set as a family was a co-constructed endeavor that involved some challenging discussions around what we could and could not support either financially or logistically. For instance, one of my daughters wanted to play soccer on top of already participating in martial arts, attending gymnastics one night per week, and continuing with her weekend violin lessons. While financially we were able to support her in all these activities, schedule-wise it would have been a major hardship. Had she played soccer, we would have needed to hire a caregiver to transport our daughter to and from practices and games that were often scheduled last-minute by the school district. My husband’s daily teaching schedule and my evening university courses conflicted with the district’s projected practices and games. Though our daughter was disappointed that she would not be able to play for her second-grade school team, through deliberate discussions – where we explained to her all the variables involved – she began to understand some of the complexities.

The intention to set the right tone for our family meant negotiating and tweaking our schedule until all of us came to a mutual agreement. As parents, this right tone meant actively listening to our two girls, hearing them out, and considering their opinions. Because my husband and I had discussed our non-negotiables (e.g., we did not want to hire a person to transport our girls from activity to activity), we could listen to our daughters and hold our ground while being fair and compassionate. Once everyone felt that they had contributed to conversations around our home and school schedules, we were able to reach a space where our overall intention toward extracurricular activities was positive and forward moving.

Once an intention is set (and feels good), I have discovered that imagining the actions that follow the intention are critical to assisting me with planning, organizing, and working out any kinks. Since I am a very visual person, it makes sense to use visualization as a practical tool for these imaginings. For others who are auditory processors, talking through your intentions may prove very beneficial. For tactile learners, having a tangible planner in front of you as you are thinking through your intentions can help you transfer conceptualizations to concrete actions by imagining (and seeing) each day of the week in calendar form. For kinesthetic individuals, taking a nice walk and moving your body while imagining the way your intention will manifest into reality can be extremely helpful.

In my own experience, visualizing not only the action, but also the feeling behind the action is equally important. Manifesting a smooth transition into the busy school year means seeing each family member feeling joyous as they engage in home-, work- or school-related activities. If, for example, I see – in my mind’s eye – my daughters excited to go to their evening gymnastics practice and having a fantastic time while they are there adds to the energy and momentum of this reality being achieved. This practice of visualizing the event and associating it with a positive emotion is a process of our ability as human beings (with untapped spiritual potential) to co-construct realities we want to experience.

Meditation within the context of setting the tone for the new school year, for me, is a practice that underlies all the actions described in creating positive processes and outcomes. It is a state of being we can reach when we find congruence between our mind, heart, spirit, and body. This alignment within triggers a harmonious resonance through which calmness and a deep sense of well-being is experienced. Meditation does not need to come after visualization, nor, in actuality, is there any required order among any of the ‘steps’ described. For me, however, meditation is a way for me to solidify a knowingness that what I have intended, visualized, and felt is not only probable, but fully possible because I know and believe the reality I have co-constructed to be real and true.

Once this knowingness settles into my very core, then I can be very deliberate with organizing my actions without feeling anxious, frustrated, or overwhelmed. However, when I begin organizing without setting the intention and following through with visualization and meditation, I generally go into a panic. For instance, if I haven’t centered myself and I approach scheduling a monthly calendar of all our individual family member’s activities, I usually feel an anxious and uncomfortable energy arise from my navel. This shooting energy gets stuck in my throat. I then forget to breathe. I feel light-headed, and my pulse skyrockets. This is when arguments between my husband and I are inevitable. He may ask me a simple question such as, “Can you pick up the girls on Thursday afternoon?” And I, feeling completely ungrounded, unsettled, will reply with anger, short outbursts, and curt responses. I may even blame him for how I am feeling because, in these moments, when the energy is rushing so fast in my body, I may not be able to process that my state of being has been compromised by my lack of centeredness.

When I wrote earlier that I sometimes resist organization, I believe it is because I have frequently used organization as a tool to control inner or outer chaos. Instead of approaching organization as a mindful and conscious practice of sorting and prioritizing what is important to me and to my family members I have viewed it and used it as a last-ditch effort at cleaning up what I don’t want to look at. My resistance stems from a constructed belief that somehow organization is the antithesis to freedom. If I am disciplined and organized that, somehow, I will lose or stifle my inner creativity and spirit. So, instead of adopting organization as a spiritual practice of proactively attending to the important things in my life, I have done everything in my power to resist structuring my schedule and organizing my activities and those of my family members.

Though I have had moments of clarity throughout my life about organization and have attempted to have a healthy relationship with it, it wasn’t until I became a mother that I realized the importance of providing my daughters with predictability that could only come from organization. As a single person or even as a wife I could get away with a more reactive approach to organizing my life. In other words, I could wait until the last minute or until I had reached a desperate place before I would begin to deliberately put things in order. As a mother, however, I came to the difficult and honest realization that my negative reactions to setting up specific structures in my ‘world,’ many times, affected my young daughters detrimentally. I did not want them to get caught in my self-inflicted hurricanes, so I began to surrender. I surrendered to the understanding that organization – as a mindful practice – could provide important structures so that my children felt a predictability and trustworthiness that their world was safe and secure.

In practice, organization is now a deliberate process that is aligned with our individual and family goals. Setting the intention for how we want to feel as we create structures to ensure we can achieve our desires and needs has informed how we interact and communicate with one another. Communication has been a critical ‘step’ in understanding how each of us feels as we listen to and discuss with one another what each of us needs to meet our desires, hopes, and needs. Communication is essential in co-constructing a feasible structure that has been vetted by each family member (to varying degrees). For example, in our household, to be able to organize each of our varied school- and work-related activities, we have created a family calendar displayed on a white board near the refrigerator (which is color coded by person and shows each individual’s activity throughout the month) and a weekly menu (which is displayed on a small blackboard in the kitchen). We have divided up chores and household responsibilities (which are written down on lists) and organized specific home-, work-, and school-related events (via Google calendars).

Because we are attempting to make activities transparent in a variety of ways, it becomes important to check-in with one another and to see if the structures we have in place to organize these events are working.

Recently, my husband and I realized that much of our miscommunication about my work-related scheduled events on the calendar was occurring because my Outlook work schedule was not synching with my Google Calendar. A couple of times when I got home from work late because I was at a ‘scheduled’ work event, I detected a slight frustration in his voice. I would say, “It was on the calendar.” And he would retort, “No it wasn’t.” And I would respond, “Yes, it was. I scheduled it.” The tête-à-tête was ad nauseam. Finally, however, when the synching problem was resolved, we were able to get back into a groove that was aligned with our original intention. We were able to meet our needs, which included work needs, and felt good about knowing that we were following an agreed upon structure.

Finally, in this process of setting the tone for the new school year, my family and I have found that following-up with one another assists us in following through with the intentions and goals we have created. Following-up, for me, is interconnected with communication and is the action of speaking with one another to ensure the we each feel aligned with what we have agreed upon as a family. If, in a ‘follow-up,’ we discover that a family member is no longer in sync with or happy about the direction we are moving as a collective, then it is imperative to communicate honestly with one another and to listen with compassion about issues that are being revealed. Some of these issues may unearth not only the individual family member’s challenges, but signal to the rest of the family that a new conceptualization, structure, or intention is necessary. Following-up assists in following through. Following through is a related action and is characterized by what each of us does to continue sustaining a positive and proactive tone. Following through means to be continually proactive in our approach to communication and other ‘steps,’ such as meditation, that will facilitate healthy processes and outcomes related to home, work, and school.

When we are deliberate about actions (intention, visualization, meditation, organization, communication, and follow-up) that contribute to individual and family goals, we begin to sense an amazing power within that is freeing and expansive. We come to realize our co-creative abilities in setting intentions that have a high probability of being realized. As we become conscious co-creators, we can set the tone for how we want to live our lives.

We can see the seeds we have sown and teach our children the ways that they, through intention and action, can experience joy in all the activities in which they are engaged.

As we begin another school year, let’s make a conscious effort to set a positive and proactive tone for how we deliberately experience our life.

Setting the tone for joy,

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Doing vs. Being of Service

whenwewillallseeourrole

 

What does it mean to serve, to be of service to others? What does it mean to choose the role of the servant? How does the concept of ‘service’ translate to who we are and how we decide to ‘be’ in this world?

I remember in my junior year in high school I was considering running for an Associated Student Body (ASB) position. I knew I didn’t want to be President and I wasn’t interested in Treasurer either. Vice President and Secretary appealed to me and both were positions I thought I would do well in. My high school, an all-girls Catholic school, also had another position available. This position was ASB Service. Of all the positions, I wanted this one the least, not because I thought I couldn’t handle the responsibilities and not because I wasn’t well qualified (I had consciously been involved in service in different ways throughout my high school career). It was because I didn’t want to be known and seen as “the Service person.” What made matters worse for me was that almost every teacher and dozens of my peers told me I should run for Service, that I would be “so good at it.” Deep down, I knew they were right. I knew that I could help organize and lead retreats, plan specific service-related events on campus and within the community, and, overall, provide strong leadership and mentoring for other students, particularly freshmen and sophomores.

Even though I knew I would be excellent in this position based on feedback I had received over freshmen, sophomore, and junior years from teachers and peers about my service work, I resisted submitting my name for nomination. I actually filled out the nomination sheet for Secretary and was going to announce my decision when I heard that one of my good friends had already submitted her name for Secretary. In fact, many of my friends submitted their names for all the positions except for ASB Service. I found out that they were saving the spot for me (!). Their action was both infuriating and thoughtful. Knowing that my friends and fellow peers deliberately did not submit their names for Service because they thought I was a shoe-in, made me feel a responsibility to not let them down. I submitted my name for nomination and was voted in easily.

In retrospect, at age 17, I believe I was coming to terms with the humility of service. What made me so uncomfortable choosing to run for ASB Service was a deep sense that I wasn’t doing enough. True service to me, even as an adolescent and young adult, meant that I needed to do much more. My experiences felt too easy. For example, going to a pre-school and working with young children one-on-one or in small groups as part of my service hours didn’t feel like service. Even though I enjoyed being and playing with small children, this experience was just another assignment I needed to complete. Whether I was in the classroom or not, I felt like my presence didn’t make a huge difference on the children’s overall growth and learning. I was just another high school student or volunteer dropping in, getting her ‘service’ criteria satisfied, and driving away with all the necessary signatures to demonstrate my ‘involvement.’

Service as a mindset and philosophy meant something to me. Maybe it was being exposed to catechism that included in-depth case studies of specific saints and martyrs. If I wasn’t feeling fully connected to the acts of ‘goodness’ or ‘kindness’ I was enacting or if I wasn’t feeling some degree of sacrifice, then, in my young adult mind, I wasn’t doing my part. Not doing my part was exasperated by being known as “the Service person” on campus. Though my peers and teachers valued my service-related work, especially my shared written personal narratives about spirituality I wrote as part of my service leadership during retreats, I felt like an imposter. I realized that doing service was a far cry from being of service.

Being of service, I understood to a limited degree, at age 17, was a way of life, a choice to live every moment acknowledging Self but making decisions to be of service to others. Doing service, in contrast, could be measured quantifiably through external acts that others deemed ‘good’ or ‘kind.’ Even at 17, I cringed at the notion that people held a stick up to me and measured me as the ‘good kind of service.’ They didn’t know what I was feeling inside. They didn’t have a clue if I was ‘being’ rather than just doing obligatory service. All they could see – as they checked the boxes or signed the papers – were all the external, seemingly meaningful ‘acts’ in which I was involved. The more hours the better. The more ‘impact’ – as measured by how many people I served lunch to – fantastic!

Fast-forward decades later, and I find myself thinking of ‘service’ as an Assistant Professor who is creating courses that are community-engaged. I am actually structuring one course as a critical service-learning course. Critical, in this case, means centering social justice at the core of pedagogy and its enactment or praxis (Mitchell, 2007; 2008; 2014). Service-learning refers to the structure through which a higher education course intentionally centers ‘service’ as “mutually identified and organized service activities that benefit the community and [assist students in] gain[ing] further understanding of course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of personal values and civic responsibility” (Bringle & Clayton, 2012, p. 105).

What strikes me in this reflection, is how similar I feel to how I did as a 17-year-old, when I ask myself and my critically-minded colleagues if we are actually BEING OF service to the communities we collaborate and work with through our community-engaged work or if we (my colleagues, our students, and I) are only DOING service. In higher education courses, where does merely doing service end and being of service begin? And in semester-long courses that are based on extrinsic motivators (grades, recognition), is it even possible to go beyond only doing service?

For me, the answer lies in the internal shifts that occur within each individual. As a whole,  most likely, the majority of my students – when engaging with community members – may only be doing service, regardless of what they write in their journal reflections or say in their final project presentations. Doing service means getting the good grade and being able to say that they ‘know about real issues.’ Being of service, for the few who truly get it, means that their experience and interaction with community members deeply shifts their understandings of who they are in relation to others with whom they are speaking, communicating, and interacting. Being of service means that the external ‘doing’ of service has translated to a knowing. This knowing is the realization that service is not an action divorced from the heart. Service, in its purest form, is being in, coming from, and sharing the heart for the purpose of caring for, listening to, and being there for another without conditions.

Service is akin to Rachel Naomi Remen’s (2000) discussion on ‘charity’ or “ways of giving to others” (p. 86). She tells the story of an Orthodox rabbi who provided her with clarity around these ‘ways’ through different levels of understanding unconditional giving:

  • At the eighth and most basic level of giving to others, a man begrudgingly buys a coat for a shivering man who has asked him for help, gives it to him in the presence of witnesses, and waits to be thanked.
  • At the seventh level, a man does this same thing without waiting to be asked for help.
  • At the sixth level, a man does this same thing openheartedly without waiting to be asked for help.
  • At the fifth level, a man openheartedly gives a coat that he has bought to another but does so in private.
  • At the fourth level, a man openheartedly and privately gives his own coat to another, rather than a coat that he has bought.
  • At the third level, a man openheartedly gives his own coat to another who does not know who has given him this gift. But the man himself knows the person who is indebted to him.
  • At the second level, he openheartedly gives his own coat to another and has no idea who has received it. But the man who receives it knows to whom he is indebted.
  • And finally, on the first and purest level of giving to others, a man openheartedly gives his own coat away without knowing who will receive it, and he who receives it does not know who has given it to him. Then giving becomes a natural expression of the goodness in us, and we give as simply as flowers breathe out their perfume (pp. 86 – 87).

In the final iteration of ‘ways of giving to another’ we become servants of humanity. We recognize the divinity each of us carries within, in spite of outward appearance or perceived difference.

As educators, I am interested in how we can use these understandings of service to inform our being-ness as we interact with our students, community members, and other stakeholders. To what degree are we willing to be of service and in what areas do we find ourselves only doing service either ‘begrudgingly’ or for the sake of being acknowledged or recognized? Where do we begin, in our own work, to help our students shift from merely doing service to becoming servants to society, to humanity?

These are questions I hope we all ponder seriously as we (re)imagine and (re)conceptualize a world in which we are committed to serving humanity – our children, our communities, and our planet.

With much love,

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References

Bringle, R. G., & Clayton, P. H. (2012). Civic education through service-learning: What, how, and why? In L. McIlrath, A. Lyons, & R. Munck (Eds.), Higher education and civic engagement: Comparative perspectives (pp. 101 – 124). New York: Palgrave.

Mitchell, T. D. (2007). Critical Service-Learning as social justice education: A case study of the citizen scholars program. Equity & Excellence in Education, 40(2), 101 – 112.

Mitchell, T. D. (2008). Traditional vs. Critical Service-Learning: Engaging the literature to differentiate two models. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 50 – 65.

Mitchell, T. D. (2014). How service-learning enacts social justice sensemaking. Journal of Critical Thought and Praxis, 2(2), Article 6, 1 – 26.

Remen, R. N. (2000). My Grandfather’s Blessings. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

Arms

By Cristina Santamaría Graff

Dedicated to those whose lives were taken in a moment of anguish, confusion, and rage at Parkland High School on February 14, 2018.

In honor of surviving students who have armed themselves with fierce love to speak out against gun legislation that has set the stage for immense violence against humanity.

With love,

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Arms

My arms,

outstretched,

she runs into my embrace.

Trembling, her fists pound my back,

more like raindrops than hail, they are

expressions rather than deliverers of pain.

 

My arms,

They bring comfort to her unsettled heart,

POUND, Pound, pound…

“Shhhhhhh, quiet now. The gunfire is over.”

Her arms,

they shield her face,

hands cover her ears.

“I can hear the screaming,” she mouths.

 

My arms,

they carry notebooks and pens,

extra paper for José, a calculator for Bella.

Dry erase marker etchings line my forearms and fingertips,

once again forgetting to cap the tops.

 

My arms,

They dole out high-fives,

handshakes at the classroom door, Kleenex, wipes, stickers, fist bumps, and hugs.

My arms,

always moving,

to show, to demonstrate, to examine, to analyze, to assess, to teach.

 

Your arms,

full of fire and misplaced rage.

You project your despair on the innocent,

You know no other way.

Your arms aim and shoot,

the more the better – this is your plan.

 

Their arms,

in the air, on the floor, under the desks,

begging, pleading.

They are just arms, another target to shoot at.

 

Your arms,

AR-15s – powerful, mighty, righteous.

They become God.

You are the messenger, the deliverer of pain.

 

Your arms,

now hang nonchalantly at your side.

They buy you a drink at Subway.

 

Our arms.

Our truth.

What arms do we bear?

What arms us?

What do we choose to be armed with?

Are we bearers of fear?

Do we arm ourselves with love?

Can we bear our own truths, our own fears?

Can we bear the reality we are creating?

 

Our arms,

our minds, our hearts, our consciousness.

We have the right to bear TRUTH,

to confront the lies,

to stand up for each other,

to live and choose LOVE.

 

Our arms,

They can write new beginnings.

 

Part 2 of 4 – Community Activism with Youth

Linda Maxwell and José Quintanar

In part 2, Linda and José elaborate upon the four pillars of appreciative inquiry and operationalize them. My paraphrased interpretation includes:

*Our lives are precious – love for self is essential.
*We must recognize the impermanence of life – value every moment.
*Every thought, word, and deed has a consequence – plant positively.
*(Re)discovering our humanity by connecting with others’ suffering – take compassionate action.

They also discuss the following components as being essential to engaging youth:
*The power of relationships
*No judgment
*Reciprocity
*Letting go of ego

Thank you for your continued enthusiasm in learning about their important work. Parts 3 and 4 will be combined in one blog and added to the interview page.

Thank you! Much love,

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Peace, love, and understanding: The real deal in action (Part 1 of 4)

December 3, 2017

Yesterday I had the enormous honor to engage in a second conversation with long-time community activists, Linda Maxwell and José Quintanar. We spoke for over an hour about ways in which to embody and enact lovingness, peaceful action, and compassionate understanding with youth in educational settings.

What I love about these discussions are Linda’s and José’s commitment and passion for living authentically; that is, being conscious of being in alignment with who they are, what they say, and what they do. I am also appreciative of their long-term dedication to social justice and discovering meaning in every interaction they have with historically minoritized and marginalized youth.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to Linda and José’s lived experiences. 

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Interview with Dr. Megan Farnsworth


In this interview, Dr. Megan Farnsworth explores authenticity in public spaces. What does it mean to be a teacher educator when you want to bring in your authentic self to your students, to the classroom, and to your teaching? How do we balance sharing who we are with what we are comfortable revealing?

Megan discusses her journey of (re)writing her own story in order to explore “wounds and vulnerability.” She describes the process of releasing emotions tied to grief that no longer serve her higher purpose.

Megan ends this conversation by providing us with specific tools to assist us in slowing down and remaining in the present moment. She demonstrates a breathing technique that she learned recently on her trip to Bali and Indonesia that has helped her bring awareness to the NOW.


BIOGRAPHY

Megan Farnsworth is an Associate Professor of Special Education at Southern Oregon University. She earned her PhD at the University of Arizona (2010) in Multicultural Special Education, and has taught in K-12 schools in California, Oregon, Arizona, and Hawai’i for 11 years, and Post-secondary institutions for nine years. Dr. Farnsworth possesses a strong commitment to teach, serve, and collaborate with Culturally Diverse families and students who experience Exceptionalities, and is currently exploring ways grief affects teaching and learning. Megan has recently begun using story in her teaching, which is a universal tool to build connection and trust. One premise that manifests through story is, Trusting in the connection between that which is seen and unseen transforms fear into love. As a holistic educator, Megan utilizes the tools of narrative and breath to explore the human condition. 

Reflections on Manchester

Today I find myself decentered and deeply shaken by the wanton violence that ripped through the Ariana Grande concert venue in Manchester, England. I am overcome by a sickening rawness in my gut when I consider each beautiful life that was taken and each living soul that will bear the burden of this destructive moment for years to come.

Flashbacks of the Orlando nightclub massacre and other senseless, brutal shootings zoom into mind like a swarm of wasps, each memory a penetrating sting. They cannot be shooed away. Running faster to escape won’t make the pain stop. As a mother, I am hurting for all the families whose babies will no longer come home, crawl into bed, and snuggle into their blankets. I want to go back in time and place an impenetrable golden bubble of protection around everyone who was there last night. I want to convert bullets to flower petals, bombs to fireworks. I want to shake the young man out of his blind hatred and remind him that our God, by whatever name we choose to call Her/Him/Them, makes us all in Her image. By killing another we are actually killing ourselves.

Why have we not learned this yet?

Why do we continue to NOT see the interconnectedness of our souls? Why do we not awaken to the God-created reality that we are not separate? Why do we remain so stubbornly set in our own constructed reality of separateness? Why do we continue believing that “different” appearance, language, religion, beliefs, traditions, values, and cultures are divisions? When will we wake up to the truth and realize we live in an illusion where people are not equal and where God is many paths all competing for power and sovereignty?

The Manchester bombing, an event that will undoubtedly be considered one of the worst acts of terrorism on British soil, is a reminder of our responsibility as human beings to resist existing systems and “leaders” who perpetuate any legislation or policy that creates division, inequality, and inequity among us. We are surrounded and inundated by polarizing agendas that aim to categorize us – all of us – through binaries: good/bad, rich/poor, educated/ignorant, progressive/backward, competent/incompetent, and an infinite number more. We are constantly judged by socially-constructed (not God-constructed) standards by which we are expected to live. When we don’t “live up” to these, we are “failures” not “successes.” Over time, these perceptions of “failure,” based in falsehoods of what has been deemed “normal,” “just,” or “right,”  eat away at our psyches. We lose our sense of Self (our God-Self) and give into the illusion that we are separate from others.

It is ironic that the young man who killed in the name of his God most likely was thinking he was closest to God in that fateful moment. But, consciously choosing to kill is the furthest expression from love. It’s the ultimate act of separating self (ego, human self) from God.

I cannot help to wonder if this young man felt like an outsider – within his country, city, school, neighborhood, community, and even family. I do not know his backstory, nor can I assume any of his motivations – other than the religious ones that have been presented. Even these, however, I must question, for how a person’s intentions and lived experiences are portrayed in the media are, many times, highly suspect. In these “wonderings,” I contemplate whether a single act of kindness or acceptance may have changed the trajectory of this young man’s life. I wonder if, as human beings, we are kind, loving, compassionate, understanding, and gentle enough to reach out to others, especially others we have deemed “different.” I wonder, as a collective, if we can demonstrate genuine care and action even if it means stepping out of our own knowings to understand another’s. I wonder if this young man’s anger and hatred could have been redirected in healthier ways if we, as human beings, had taken better stock of his pain.

As an educator, I am reflecting on this young man and about the ways in which we, as human beings, create – by our actions and inactions – situations in which people are made to feel “less than,” voiceless, and marginalized. In schools we focus our school day on meeting standards and achieving measurable outcomes. We concentrate much less time orienting our students’ minds and hearts toward loving compassion, honoring of one another’s knowings, active listening, mindful respect and interaction, and appreciating the unique qualities inherent in every person. We do not teach our students to resist systems and practices that view difference as deficit. We rarely ask students to critically examine the schools in which they spend the majority of their day. And we seldom consider how we, as educators, can become active changemakers committed to social justice and equitable practices to transform systems.

There are no answers or narratives that exist that can lessen the pain caused by the bombing. For me, this is a wake-up call to be better and resist more. To “be better” is to act in accordance with my heart, to show greater love and compassion to others, and to actively create spaces where people can recognize and honor each other. To “resist more” is to sharpen my awareness and become more critically conscious of the societal inequities that exist around me. Resistance is also action. Therefore, resisting more also means to speak up and take action when injustice is present.

But right now as I think of Saffie Rose Roussos, the eight-year-old girl who died last night and who is the same age as my daughter, Goya, I wonder if being better and resisting more is enough. I think these are only first steps on a very long path. But maybe as more of us step onto this path we will slowly realize the illusion of separation dissolving. And perhaps, one day, we can honor our differences while simultaneously recognize our interconnections.

With much love and heartache,

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