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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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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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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The Three Jar Allowance

It seems paradoxical that kids are both very focused on themselves and quick to feel empathy for those in distress. Children as young as 3 may ask questions about the human distress they see, whether a sick family member or a homeless person on the street. We can help them develop habits that foster a healthy social conscience - aware of suffering, able to feel empathy, able to take thoughtful in action in response. One of the best pieces of advice I've heard on this concerns how to create allowances.

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Wise Companions

Next to my dining table I have a large photo of Waimea Canyon in Kaua'i, though no photo can really do it justice. When you're there and looking down into it, you see infinite layers of rich green life spread over uncountable canyons, gullies, and twisting hills. When I first looked into Waimea this richness and complexity made me feel that I was looking right into the human psyche. I imagined that each little canyon was one of our stories about ourselves; each twist in the land an engraved experience of some kind; each stream a habit. How do these canyons and gullies form within our own psyches?

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Teaching Kids How to Relate to Their Fears

I stood halfway down the steps into the bunker, feeling the cold underground air at my back meet the sunny, warm air in front of me. The difference was amazing - a beautiful coastal California hillside in front, and the dark, spooky World War II bunker underneath it, built for an attack that never came. On the steps in front of me was a line of brave but nervous looking students who had volunteered to explore the bunker. I knew this experience could be powerful for them and was trying to figure out how to prime them for it. 

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One Simple Thing: Evening Gratitude

Habits are amazing things - these deeply engrained patterns of thought and feeling which, for better or worse, steer us through life. It's exciting then to think about simple habits we can build which help bring us back to center when we may have drifted. These "One Simple Thing" entries are about such simple helper habits. A meal-time gratitude practice with kids is one of the easiest and most meaningful ones I've seen...

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The Atlantis Room

The challenge goes like this: As a teacher, I daily must attempt a near-impossible balance between the needs of individual children and the needs of the class. If a student is having a meltdown, whether because of something happening in class or from outside, I will address it as best I can, but at some point I can't stop the learning of the entire class to attend to one student. Educators have cooked up various solutions to this dilemma, but one of my favorites is the Atlantis Room...

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3 Ways to Build Children's Sensory Awareness

We have incredibly powerful senses and, ironically, a brain that's designed to turn most of them off. That's not an accident - if our brain didn't focus on just the most relevant info, we would be paralyzed by the amount of information coming in. But there's a problem with this: as kids grow up they constantly tweak their senses to match what the adults around them are sensing. In the very heady, visual world that our kids are growing up in, there's a real risk that they will turn off many of their physical senses and never notice they're gone.

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