This third week in January is parenthesized by two days inviting deep consideration about what is important in life. Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, commemorated the years of civic and religious work and sacrifice of a man whose name is forever connected to the still ongoing fight for racial equality in the United States and around the globe. Then, Saturday is the Women’s March on Washington, which focuses upon the enduring fight for gender equality, worldwide. What should we reflect upon with regards to these two issues of social justice if we took the time right now?
“Let’s think about that for a minute…”
That’s what we should say and do when confronted with a question or situation we judge to be too important for quick answers or impulsive action. Reflection is required there when there might not be a single right answer or response, or when there may be multiple competing conclusions to draw, or when there is insufficient information or time for full consideration. Reflection also is something we should model for our children.
Our children have to learn what it means to think, something which they can generally only infer unless us grownups are willing to think aloud while we read or explain our thoughts as we jot things down. Learning to process information deeply takes dedicating time to it and providing good thinkers and good thinking as actions for kids to study and emulate.
If we want to teach students to fully understand what they read or experience in school and in life, we must teach them to reflect: to stop, to ponder and then to share. We also have to teach them to decide what’s worth spending energy on and what to let go of. Children need to be taught the power of speaking their minds and also being open to folks who have come to other conclusions. Kids must learn to step back from what they are engaged with, giving it a much closer mental look, applying their age-appropriate logic filters and values criteria to make age-appropriate sense of it.
To help them stand for their conclusions and convictions, they’ll need to know how to share, to go public with what they have surmised based upon what they already knew, what they encountered in their readings or lessons, and the restrictions and opportunities presented by the social context in which they find themselves.
This critical educational goal seems a tall order for any parent of one, two or maybe three children, taller still for a teacher standing before 25 or more students. But if models of reflection are present at some point during each day of a child’s life from birth to the end of a K-12 curriculum, if it is addressed uniquely by teachers and the herd of parents, older siblings, relatives and neighbors with whom they are likely to spend significant amounts of time within their first 18 or so years, the job is doable.
So, we’re back to getting the “village” involved in raising each of our kids to participate fully in their own lives in their community. The nature of our village is evolving as this week, thoughtful citizens carefully consider for what they are willing to take a stand.