What is Human Potential?

It's easy, so easy, to see our children's potential in terms of doing well in the world as it is now. We naturally want them to master the challenges in front of them, and so we might think "I want my child to like school more," or "How can I help them really master math?" These are the natural impulses of a parent or teacher wanting to help a young person navigate the world. They're beautiful and important. And, there's something problematic as well. The problem is that we are always shaping the child to the world's needs now, versus excavating the deeper potential of that child, which may be vastly greater than we think.

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Inner & Outer Doors

One of my most vivid childhood dreams began with me wandering down the hallway at home, going toward the living room. Suddenly I realized that just next to the living room was another room I had never noticed before. I peeked in and there was, with that air of magical obviousness that dreams provide, a fully functioning McDonald's. Yes, inside my own house there was a McDonald's complete with the beeping fryers and the clerk waiting behind the register. I remember the response of pure joy mixed with astonishment - how could I have missed this!? 

While McDonald's is no longer my fantasy of a restaurant, this dream has stuck with me, bringing with it the theme of doors we don't notice. What inspires me most, and sends a little shiver of fear down my spine as well, is this question: Is it possible there are rooms in my own house that I've never been to?

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Can Kids "Get" Meditation?

I was standing on the front stoop of our school, chatting with students as they arrived for the day in various states of sleepiness or excitement. A visitor was going to attend our Morning Meeting, which includes a student-led, 3-minute meditation, and so she asked the students for any tips on the meditation. One of the kids replied, with a tone so casual that she might have been giving directions to the bathroom. She recommended that the visitor start by just following her breath, maybe counting breaths, and then notice any thoughts that come up. If they do, then just accept them and then go back to the breath. That's it. What else? 

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The Having of Impossible Conversations

Sometimes we get to have an impossible conversation. They emerge without warning - a parent opening up about their inner life, say, or a child revealing an understanding that seems beyond their years. These moments are little clues about what is always possible yet only sometimes happens; a tantalizing category if ever there was one. Yesterday, I got to have two impossible conversations with middle school students. My sense of what is possible for them is once again shifting…

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10 Ways to Make Middle School Awesome

Middle school is one of life's great forks in the road. For some students, it's the time they begin to find their voice, their social identity, their sense of self in a bigger world. For most, unfortunately, it's the opposite of that - the time when students lose engagement in school, forgot their authentic sense of self for the "false self" of whatever passes for cool in school, and begin orienting themselves to do whatever it takes to win social status. I've spent a good part of my career so far wondering about this puzzle and trying to access what I know is the greater potential of this age. Here are 10 lessons so far.

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The Dog Days of January

At the beginning of the year, we had a seemingly simple proposal from a student: could she bring her dog in for a day? From this request, we plunged into a storm of community process, ultimately learning a bit about the pros and cons of having dogs at school, and a lot about decision making in community. Ultimately it became an opportunity to teach our students about the advice process, one of the most useful decision making tools I've come across and perhaps a fundamental skill for living in community.

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Parenthood as Waiting

My second child was born a week ago today, and the awe generated by that experience is still pouring out of me. Awe from seeing my wife transform during a heroic 27 hour labor. From holding my daughter in the very first seconds of her life. From watching her these past days and nights as she begins to reveal herself to a curious world. Yet as I reflect on the birth, and perhaps seek new insights for parenting now that I have two children, something that was only in the corner of my eye during the labor keeps coming to mind.

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Be a Ritual Maker

We all create and follow rituals, but we don't all see ourselves as conscious ritual creators. I believe this is one of the hallmarks of great teachers and great parents, perhaps of successful leaders in general. I learned this, as usual, by making mistakes, forgetting to create a ritual and then reckoning with the chaos that followed. It all began with a chaotic morning at a new school...

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The Oldest Play in the Book

It was when I watched a 12-year old boy come in for landing in his Cessna, proud mentor next to him in the cockpit, that I really felt the awe of apprenticeships. Here is, I think, one of the greatest opportunities in education: to create apprenticeships which tap into our deep desire to be mentored and coached, to be seen and helped by someone whose skills we admire, to learn through relationship how to do the awe-inspiring things they can do. 

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How Do We Give More Meaningful Gifts?

I've become a very predictable gift-giver, with nearly all of my gifts to kids and adults alike coming in the form of books. I love books and I love sharing them, but as the holidays approached this year, I began to wonder about more experiential, meaning-generating gift ideas. Of the infinite number of ways to do that, here are two intriguing ones I came across this season.

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