I wrote this blog a few years ago, right at the start of a multi-year engagement with an elementary school to work with the students. It describes the beginnings of our Power Circles for Youth program, and I thought you might enjoy reading about how it all started. Enjoy!
Recently I was graced with the opportunity to work with elementary school-aged children. What began as a simple idea to take some leadership development into a school is proving to be one of the most unexpected gifts I ever could have hoped to receive. Indulge me if you will, as I share a little about what happened and the teaching these children offered me.
The plan was to co-convene four-35 minute sessions with each grade, separately, from Grade 1 to Grade 8 over the course of a week. My partner in this work was the Physical Education teacher at the school, who graciously and courageously invited me to design something to help build confidence and leadership qualities in the kids. We began on Day 1 with setting confidentiality agreements, setting the context and having a brief discussion. That was about all we planned, trusting that the remainder of the week would be co-created with the kids.
After playing a rap song and video about Gandhi, we asked the kids to think about this: If there were one thing you could change, what would it be? The words were no sooner out of my mouth when hands shot up. I was surprised that they had answers so soon…the question was intended to be homework between the first and second day! One young man of the age of 8 or 9 seemed particularly eager to share so we called upon him. He said, “I’d like to be who I really am. Not who others expect me to be, but who I really am.”
Wow. Stopped me in my tracks and hit me right in my heart. Yes...right there...that feeling that you’re feeling right now as you read this.
He was not the only one to express this yearning. As the day continued, three themes emerged:
1. Who I Really Am
2. The Change I’d Like to See and Be
3. The Difference I Can Make or Would Like to Make
And our week was launched! The kids spent the bulk of the next two classes creating a tangible representation related to whichever theme they wanted to work on. We completed the week with each child choosing whether to present their creation to the rest of their class, and then doing so.
Now, at the start of our week of Power Circles (that’s what I’ve been calling these sessions), we agreed only to share what we learned about ourselves, not what we learned about anyone else, so I won’t be sharing the details of their creations with you. Suffice it to say, each and every one was incredible, and that final day is one I shall remember forever.
Here’s what these children taught me:
- Children are very wise, very porous (they soak up our stuff whether we think they do or not) and very sensitive.
- They might be smaller in size than adults, but their concerns are as great, and grave, as any of ours.
- They want to make a difference on many levels: personal, local, national and global.
- Some feel powerless to make a difference because they are young.
- Others are very clear about what they will do and seem already empowered to move forward.
- The safe container we co-created allowed them to explore and talk about things the regular school curriculum and program doesn't contain much space/time/conditions for.
- Many shared their deepest thoughts and concerns with each other and/or us...more so than I ever expected would happen.
- Some of them struggled with the ambiguity of the “assignment”. This became easier once we assured them there was no mark or grade associated with their creations. Everyone would get an “A” if they participated in the process!
- They generally loved it and asked when I could come back and "teach" them again (I put quotes around the word teach because they were MY teachers in this experience!)
- I left feeling it was essential to offer similar programming to the parent community, which I was honored to do earlier this week. It was a short taste…definitely a great start, and there’s more to do with this circle.
The week was so rich, the kids so generous and willing to share, my co-lead was amazing and I really believe I'm a better woman, mother, professional and human being as a result of this experience. I left with a strong sense of the expansion of my life purpose and know that these children will forever be part of my extended family. It is a joy to greet and chat with them every morning when I drop my boys off to school. What a blessing they continue to be to me!
It strikes me that these wise souls illuminated three themes that constitute the heart and essence of our life’s purpose:
To come home to who we really are, to be the change we wish for the world and to leave a legacy for future generations.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. If you’re inspired to be the change YOU want to see and be, send me an email and let me know how it's going.