Invitation to be a beta tester

Invitation to be a beta tester

Dear readers,

This summer I've been working on a big writing project, something that might turn into a book, around the idea of Essential Experiences. My aim is to boil down the most consistently powerful, formative, awareness-building experiences of adolescence. The ones that we as parents and educators hope to give our kids, but might forget about in the rush of all the other things we're trying to accomplish. Each "Essential Experience" is a short chapter in this book, with research, stories, and rationale as to why an experience could be so formative. They start off simple, for example with the experience of keeping a journal (a simple but transformative practice in my own life, starting at age 10!). They get much more complex and challenging, like mediating a conflict between peers, learning how to deconstruct an advertisement, or taking the challenge of camping by yourself for a night.

Long story short: I'm looking for beta testers, people willing to give these ideas a test. That means you're either a teenager willing to try one of these, or if you're an adult, there are adolescents in your life who you could offer one of these to as a challenge. If you're interested, I'll send you the pre-publication, version 1.0 Essential Experiences list. For the first 20 people who respond, I’ll also send a hard-copy deck of Essential Experiences cards, as a fun way to play with these ideas. My only request in return is that you tell me how it goes! I'd love your feedback on the experiences, and to hear stories of how they resonate with a young person in your life.

Send me an email or leave a comment if you're interested and I'll send the Essential Experiences your way!

Chris

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It's About Time...

We have a strange and stressful relationship with time in our culture. Could it be in part because of how we're schooled? At most schools our days are broken up into odd little fragments. Classes start at times like 1:42, continue for arbitrary "blocks" of 48 or 55 minutes, and end abruptly with a bell which tells us to shift, machine-like, to the next task. The result is — oh wait, did I just hear a text come in? — the result is that our attention is fragmented, and we barely notice. What if we could shift to a more generous spirit around time? Could we find less fragmented ways to work? To do our "Deep Work", as Cal Newport describes in his book of the same name, and show students the same? How could we change the school day and even our use of time at home?

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Freedom of Identity

Like actors testing out different types of roles, adolescents have to perform on many stages, as many characters, before discovering and choosing which roles feel right to them. This is essential work, at the core of what it means to be an adolescent – to develop your identity in a social world. Schools can help or hinder. The more fluid a student’s identity can be – the more easily, and with few repercussions, they can try on different roles and ways of being, provided they aren’t harming anyone – the faster and more healthily that student will develop, and the more vibrant that school’s culture will be.

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Conflict Resolution for Adolescents

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In nearly all cases, kids' ability to perceive their social world races ahead of their ability to interpret what is going on and why…

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Can School Be Home?

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Essential Experiences

If we could go beyond the usual curriculum checklist, what do we really want our kids to experience as they go through adolescence? What are the essential experiences that would help them grow? Here is a rough, brainstormed list of “Essential Experiences” with middle and high schoolers in mind. What would you add or remove?

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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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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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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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