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Mr. L's School Blog
June 18, 2021Posted by Kert Lenseigne on 6/15/2021
June 18, 2021!
And that is that. Right? The end of the school year and the start of summer vacation.
To think we can or should end this school year like others would be a mistake. The moment calls us to consider and reflect in a deeply meaningful manner so that the lessons embedded within the past 16 months can be surfaced and learned. And learned well. Let the following not surprise you:
I, Kert Lenseigne, proud principal of Cascade View elementary, am deeply grateful for the past 16 months of the Covid 19 pandemic. And I am grateful for the lessons yet to be learned from the way we had to do school, and cultivate new connections and relationships. I am grateful for the way we, you as parents, we as educators, had to partner differently to better serve our children to meet them where they were. I am grateful because all we’ve gone through CAN serve us well, CAN make us stronger, CAN be of profound benefit to all of us—but especially our children.
In a way, and maybe this is the healthiest way to look back at what just happened, and from which we are still emerging, we need to look upon the last 16 months as an initiation. We no longer have meaningful initiations in our dominant culture—at lease ones that we ritualize and count upon. In a larger sense, events happen to us all the time that, with the right mindset, can be authentically considered as important initiations in our developing and evolving lives.
Initiation is a transition—from a death to a new life. From something that must be left to the past in order to more fully embody the future. Initiations also go by the phrase “rites of passage.” Initiations always intend to be of benefit not only to the individual going through the initiation, but also to their clan, or village, or tribe, or family. Initiations strengthen us all. And sadly, though this is the hardest fact to acknowledge, lack of initiation causes harm, and mostly in ways we cannot see but know to be real with a proper reflection.
So, the invitation extended is to look upon the last 16 months of the Covid 19 pandemic as just this—an initiation. This takes effort and will but the outcome of this perspective will be immense, powerful, empowering, and incredibly positive—to say nothing of being in the best interest of our children. In doing so, we no longer fall into victimhood—the “woe is me and our kids” mentality that they have somehow been harmed (some think irreparably), or broken, or worse, have fallen so far behind and need now to be fixed or “caught up to what was lost;” that somehow the pandemic shut down irrevocably effected our children’s mental health; that we need to save them from future damage by insisting on special treatment—to treat them as forever babies.
Ancestral initiations were passage rites from childhood to adulthood. Metaphorically, the intention is (well, was) to “kill off the child” in order to birth the adult. It was believed (and maybe still, I would argue, a truism) that this needed to happen to create an empowered and resilient human--thus strengthening the tribe/village.
Seeing the pandemic—with the resulting impact upon the shutdown of schools, forcing all to experience connection in new and different ways, and in some sad cases not at all—as an initiation, calls us to honor the soul within ourselves and the world to become more resilient, and empowered, and self-confident. Surviving through initiation with the learning intact, means we all come out the other side having stepped closer to realizing our innate and extraordinary human potential (and important component of our WHY). Look, we did this. We are now about on the other side of the pandemic as we plan for a full return to school next year. But we find ourselves right here, and right now, on the edge of decision: do we create a narrative of victimhood and panic and start the new school year rushed to test, test, test in order to heroically save our kids, fix them, and close the gaps from what they’ve lost; OR, as I would argue, do we celebrate our kids for having come through the pandemic, having done this hard thing (and done it well), honor their own unique narratives that they created within themselves through art and music and storytelling and renewed friendship and relationship, do we look upon this time as the end of initiation so that we can look at our kids, and each other, as soulful and resilient humans ready to continue on our own unique journeys of realizing our own innate and extraordinary human potential? And then do we, as their caring parents and teachers, join together, in strong partnership, as their village, to best serve each child in this realization? May THIS be so—THIS is how we at Cascade View will serve our school community upon our return in the Fall.
To pull this off, however, needs mindful and skillful adults who are willing to step into the lost roles of village sages and elders—those who used to walk among us as keepers of wisdom and guides through initiations. I invite you to join US as village elders--no matter your age. (Elderhood in this sense is not age-dependent!). If you need mentoring, simply watch us perform this magic over the coming school year. Or better, actively engage with us on this level—for now, more then ever in our past, we know with certainty: It Takes A Village To Raise Our Children.
May you all take great pride for having come to this point in time and may you all use, create, and experience a summer vacation that manifests health, wellness, happiness, and joy. We did this…and we did this together. And we did it well. Thank you for that! Our kids are the better for it—I promise.
Oh, and our children remain incredible, awesome, inspiring, and Thunderific. I honestly could not be more proud of each one of them. Thank you for sharing them with us.Comments (-1)
Five things I've learned...Posted by Kert Lenseigne on 3/18/2021
Five Things I've LearnedNow that we’ve passed the one year mark since it changed our lives, it’s becoming somewhat of a thing among certain bloggers and sites—“what are the five things you learned about [X] during the pandemic.” I’ve read many articles whose “X’s” have been things like health care, work, family, death and dying, and relationships. All interesting, all true from the author’s perspective, and all poignant given the awesome fact that every single human on this planet was touched in some way by the Covid 19 pandemic. I thought this concept was interesting enough to have a go of it myself. So, here goes and thank you for reading:Here are Five Things I learned about Teaching, Learning, School, and Community during the pandemic (well, I knew each of these before but I’m keeping with the spirit of the concept—if anything, the pandemic made each of these shine with greater vibrancy and importance):5. Good teachers are good teachers no matter how they have to teach. Remote, long distance, short distance, in person, hybrid, live streaming, asynchronous videos, SeeSaw and/or Canvas platforms...and name anything else you can think of. Good to Great teachers are worth their weight in gold and have shown you how they can adapt to any environment in order to provide learning experiences for children that are meaningful, engaging, and fun.And this, in my opinion, should be why communities everywhere should, right now and for the future evermore, celebrate, respect, and honor teachers like they have never before out of appreciation, and from the new understanding most others now have, of just how much it takes to sustain the meaningful attention of 5 to 12 year olds for 7 hours a day (let alone 2 hours of zooming from home!). Teaching has ALWAYS been among the most difficult things to do—more people have seen this to be true now. It’s time to place educators in the proper position of respect and appreciation as the professionals they are. They are caring for our kids after all and they do so every day with full hearts.4. Teaching and learning is HARD work. And I mean WORK! Both teaching AND learning! That so many teachers make it look easy (see #5 above), should NEVER prompt us to forget just how complex the formal teaching and learning process is. None of it happens by accident—most every good to great learning lesson is the result of careful and intentional planning, research, and collaboration. And the learner has to meet the teacher “in the middle of the unknown,” as well—which, no matter the age, is hard work and challenging too. And all of this happened during the pandemic—and continues to happen to this day.Learning needs to be difficult and challenging to begin with—that’s why and how we learn. Ask yourself: how much do you learn from things that are super easy? Answer: most likely, not much, if anything. Reason: you’re not being challenged which also means your brain isn’t growing—literally! New synapses in the brain are not forming when challenge, novelty, and full-on active engagement are not present. Parents now have a new understanding of the learning process from the school-side of things. It isn’t glamorous, it isn’t always rainbows and sprinkles, but even though it is hard work, it can also be, and should be, fun at the same time. Things that are challenging don’t have to be unenjoyable—again, see #5 above! Getting into the Flow experience of teaching and learning is one of the creative art forms that teachers, as artists, bring to the dynamic.3. Kids are more resilient than we think or give them credit for. I’ve written about this elsewhere, as it has been one of my guiding principles of being a principal, but everyone should now realize the opportunity this pandemic gave us to reframe how we use language and view concepts like victimhood, empowerment, mindset, choice, enabling, and the role adults play, many times without their realizing, in cultivating thoughts, feelings, and emotions in our kids.Our kids are not victims of the pandemic or school shutdown. Placing them there is the fault of adults and a lack of imagination, creativity, and understanding that even though our collective environments changed, the narrative could have, should have, and needs to be different to celebrate the fact that our kids (we even!) did this hard thing—are still doing this hard thing. A lot of the times we fail to see how our children’s behavior and response to an environment is often caused by the adults’ own energy, language, perspective, and behavior.We do hard things because we do hard things. Period. Growing up, learning, teaching, adapting, evolving, working, earning, parenting, aging are all hard things. We can shutter in to become Eyores and therefore paint a big “V” on our chests for “victim,” OR, we can adopt a growth mindset in order to turn post-traumatic stress into post-traumatic growth! Choosing to be Poohs and Kangas is the better choice. And yes, it’s an active choice! Always.2. The Village needs to step up and understand its place when it comes to the old African proverb: It Takes a Village to Raise a Child. It still takes a village to raise a child. Sadly, even before the pandemic but certainly more than ever during, “the village” hid itself from our kids because it didn’t know how to adapt to the changed environment to keep its influence healthy, loving, and persistent. So in its place, our kids will seek out their own village, their own place of refuge and collegiality wherever they can in search of others who will notice them, listen to them, and engage them. Not all villages are healthy—kids will stick with even the most viscious village (aka clique, tribe, gamer compatriots, gang) if there is even a small dose of attention and connection they can gleam from other villagers.Kids need villages and fellow villagers in their lives, always. If ever our Village needed a wake up call, it’s had one this past year. There can be no greater superpower than a community strongly bonded by the shared value of the importance of raising healthy, kind, compassionate, and responsible kids. We’ve lost this some—but we can get it back. Even before the pandemic, we’ve been losing our sense of Community Village to the false village of social media. Any time a child has their nose in a screen, is time taken away from a close, physical, and full-presence bonding with another soul—a warm, living, full-bodied human BEING and fellow villager that can touch and be touched. There are consequences to this—very real and significant consequences to this that were even being felt before March of 2020. Evidence of this points to the mental health issues that were being talked about on behalf of our kids.Our kids NEED us to come together, as a community, to raise them well—not enable them, not coddle them, not keep them from discomfort or failure or loss or grief, not baby-sit them by giving them our iPads to play Fortnite with, but to raise them well by leaning into all of life’s joys, pleasures, challenges, and sadness (and even the rare global pandemic). This takes moral courage, community leaders, and wise parents, sages and elders in the Village. In THIS community, our Village, who and where are our leaders, sages, and elders? Question: Are YOU being called to serve in this manner? Answer: yes you are!1. Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned—so much so that every thing else above pales in comparison even though this last one is the thread that weaves all of the above together: basic human connection is essential.This is why we’ve worried about our kids, our community, our country, and, if we are courageous enough, our planet during the pandemic. We were forced to mask our faces and physically distance ourselves—even to the point of adopting language that we must be careful does not become a mindless part of our lexicon. Phrases like “social distancing,” “physically distanced,” “stay six feet apart,” all in order to “keep us well,” (hmm...just think about that for a moment), have planted potentially poisonous seeds in our minds about the true nature of safety, wellness, health, and relationship. It’s not such a small thing that we at school use the phrase “stay six feet close, not forever, just for now.” Of course in practice these things no doubt did curb the spread of the virus but I’m talking about something deeper here.From my perspective, those students and families who ended up thriving this past year, and yes, this happened: MANY have thrived (let’s remember and learn from them!), mainly because they found ways to stay connected with others. This took nimble flexibility, creativity, imagination, a sense of adventure and fun, and choice. But it happened (just like it always will, by the way). Those kids and families who tended not to do as well found it more challenging and difficult to navigate the new environment to create new forms of connection that could have been made to be just as meaningful—albeit in different ways. There’s no blame or judgment here for a lot of this: we’ve seen very real examples of trauma, inequity, lack of access to technology, community disconnection, and even deliberate separatism and tribalism; but there are ways to find our way through. Connection takes wise effort and is likely always available—but it takes a courageous act of vulnerability if you, or your family, aren’t sure how to find your way through.If you are reading this, and maybe sense someone (me, a teacher, a staff member) at our school (YOUR school!!!), might be able to serve you or your child more effectively to cultivate greater connection, never, ever, hesitate to reach out. We’re a significant part of the Village too—and we want to serve our Village to our greatest capacity.Five things I’ve learned about teaching, learning, school, and community—I’ve learned so much more, but these have been things that felt important to share at this moment from my heart. What an amazing, awe-inspiring, profound, and meaningful year it has been—and our kids continue to be our greatest teachers and inspiration. May we never stop learning.In deep gratitude,Mr. L(know just how much an honor it is to serve our school community as your proud principal)PS: I urge you to engage in this same reflection choosing your own “X.” It’s inspiring, heart-healing, and even surprising if you thoughtfully reflect upon the last year. What five things did YOU learn about something during the pandemic?Comments (-1)
Lesson One--the moral of the storyPosted by Kert Lenseigne on 2/9/2021
Lesson One--continued (if you haven't been to this space recently, be sure to read the post just previous to this one for part one--it will make more sense!)
Now the moral of the story.
We don’t do that. In teacher school, we really aren’t taught how to do that. As parents, it doesn’t come naturally because it is so counterintuitive. Yet, it is THE most important teaching we could possibly gift to our children.
This is what learning is all about. This is what LIFE is all about. No one leads a life of perfection such that everything falls perfectly into place, and on schedule, each and every time. There is no growth there. If there is one guarantee in life, in addition to the fact it ends, it is that life presents challenges and opportunities to both succeed and fail. Every opportunity comes with the potential for both outcomes.
A famous coach a while ago quipped that he learned so much more from his failures than from his successes, from the losses than the wins. The wise coach or athlete studies NOT the successful plays or the games won, but the failed plays and games lost to learn, and grow, and “do better next time.”
As teachers here at school, we, without intention, sometimes set our kids up for bigger failures in their future if we don’t also teach them how to be when they fail. But we aren’t the only ones who do this.
We see this embodied in even our youngest children; even among some of our newest kindergarteners. You see...
...kids don’t come by this naturally. They don’t inherit perfectionism. They are taught this. They are taught it every time an adult in their lives steps in and says “You should have done this.” Or “Next time do it this way.” Or “I told you so, you should have listened to me.” Oh the pressure we add to the shoulders of our children in the interest of success and perfection. Again, all of this is mostly unintentional with the aim to reduce pain and suffering of loss, of failure, of being wrong.
It’s just that, it doesn’t have to be this way and it shouldn't be this way. Believe it or not, at school, we spend quite a bit of time helping children emotionally deal with, manage, and cope with failure. We get the BIGGEST meltdowns, by far, when children fail. And the biggest of all meltdowns come from the expectations of the child themselves. When they know they have failed, when the answer was wrong, or the word pronounced incorrectly, or the letter not written the way the teacher wanted or the way the book said it should be written, THAT is often the times we get the most dramatic anger, and tears, and shutdowns. Sadly, if we don’t understand what is happening and teach through these important moments well enough, a child potentially learns that the best way to cope, is to simply not try in the first place. And there can be no greater tragedy in life than a person who has given up because the risk of learning is too great, too painful—so they no longer even try. Or worse, even sabotage themselves to prove to others “see, I knew I couldn’t do that...I failed anyway.”
Learning demands failure. Period.
The wisest teachers know that mistakes are ALWAYS opportunities to learn and grow. Every time we admonish, correct, or sometimes even call attention to a child’s mistakes, we rob them of an opportunity to grow self-confidence, resiliency, and self-agency. We prevent all this when best we serve to teach how to manage failure. When we teach them how to fall.
“Now, my kids, as you learn this new thing, here is what you will do when you fail at this because you will fail, you will pick yourself up, you will wonder anew, and you will grow. And, you can even laugh when you do it.” Life is challenging, but it doesn’t have to be hard.
If you live by this creed, if you think deeply about it, there can be no such thing as failure. Any thing we do that doesn’t quite meet the mark, is not a failure; it’s just one more great and awesome teaching to add to our personal narratives, the stories we author in our lives, that move us along with just a bit more wisdom. If anyone should judge us to evaluate success (or failure), then, well, that’s on them. The only person whose weight of judgment matters most in our lives, is the one we talk to the most every day. It’s the person who stares back at us when we look in the mirror.
Teaching kids early and often how to fail gives them the most important gift of all—the gift of accepting themselves no matter any outcome. If done well, there will be no obstacle too large for growing their extraordinary minds, hearts, and lives.