Life Lessons

Today I came across this post. I love it so much that I wanted to reproduce it here – mostly so that I know where to go to find it next time I want to remind myself of these wonderful words of wisdom:-). Thanks @dcannell for posting this on Twitter. You can find the original post here.

Quoted directly from Teaching & Developing Online

Written By Regina Brett, 90 years old, of The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio

“To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most-requested column I’ve ever written.
My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:
1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone…
4. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.
8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first pay cheque.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.
12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.
16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
17. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.
18. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.
19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion,
Today is special.
22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words ‘In five years, will this matter?’
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.
35. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
36. Growing old beats the alternative — dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood.
38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.
41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
42. The best is yet to come.
43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
44. Yield.
45. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.”


Teaching the future leaders

I was honoured this afternoon to speak to, in my opinion, a potential future world leader. This person is one of the most compassionate, level headed, empathetic, responsible and confident people I have met. This person is, of course, one of my students – an 11 year old boy.

We are currently working on a unit of inquiry that has focussed on leadership and in particular what it takes to be an effective leader. The summative assessment task for this unit gives the students the choice to take leadership over something that they are passionate about – essentially to put the knowledge of leadership skills in to practice.

This particular student is of Cambodian origin and he has decided that he wants to learn more about the lives of kids in his home country. Our school is heavily involved in supporting an organisation called the People’s Improvement Organisation which has set up a school located on a rubbish tip. It’s purpose is to provide free education to kids who otherwise would be sorting rubbish for anything that can be salvaged, recycled or sold. So with some guidance this boy has decided that he wants to go and visit the school and work with the kids there. What courage from an 11 year old!

I suggested that he needs to send an email to PIO to sort out some details. This afternoon I was helping him to explain a little bit about why he wants to do this and this is when I was almost brought to tears with the thoughtful, genuine responses he gave to the simple question of ‘Why do you want to do this?’. Here are the notes I took as he spoke with me:

  • I am Cambodian
  • I want to learn more about Cambodia
  • I want to take responsibility to help my country and it’s people
  • I respect Cambodia
  • Just because I study overseas doesn’t mean I only care about myself – I do care about the education of others too
  • I want to experience how others live – how others fight to live
  • I want to try new things

I sincerely hope this action is followed through, because if it does, I think it will be one of the most important, life-changing events that this boy will ever go through.

This is why I teach!

Developing genuine empathy in students

True action can only stem from genuine empathy. While this is not a groundbreaking idea, the thought of how to create this genuine empathy isone I have been thinking about since a recent workshop that I attended (discussed here). For example, we can’t have students experience the poverty within Indian slums by dumping students in the middle of the slum and saying, “Survive. I’ll see you in a week”. The workshop mentioned in my previous blog post develops the idea that teachers need to involve students in simulations as a way to develop empathy beyond a surface level.

At the moment, my students are undertaking a unit of inquiry focussed on fresh water andrelated issues. I wanted students to really appreciate the value of water and respect the fact that, while water comes as easily as turning on the tap for us, it isn’t this easy for many millions around the world. To do this, I lead my class and another grade 5 class through the simulation that I called ‘water balloon farmers’.The idea is that students take on the role of farming families in remote India. They need to fetch water from a distant source, farm their crop (which is represented by filling water balloons using a water bottle with a small hole in the cap), keep themselves clean, go to school, etc. At the end of each month (represented in blocks of 10 minutes) the students need to pay their rent, have some drinking and cooking water set aside, etc. If they didn’t meet their needs, consequences applied.

The first month (10 mins) of the simulation went well, but the kids were still in make believe mode. There were no real connection being made, no real empathy. This was expected. By the second month however, students were stealing, pushing, shoving, kicking over buckets of water… their behaviour had changed significantly! They had taken on the role of farmers fighting for survival. The third month continued on this path with some families having been kicked off their farm for not paying rent.

The most important, and eye opening stage of this lesson for me was the debriefing that followed. Reflections from students were amazing!

I think we did this activity to help us understand that:

“Water is important to every living thing”

“Farming is very hard and that water has to be there to live”

“We are very lucky to have what we have now and we should appreciate it.”

The thing that made me think or surprised me the most was:

“That everything started to be real…”

“Seeing how much water we need to live because in here you don’t notice because it’s easy-peasy to get water”

“During this activity the people got really involved they all wanted money not to live but to survive. They did everything they can do, even steal.”

“It was that it felt weirdly real for the rush to get money. It also felt like we weren’t in school anymore.”

Workshop: How Poor Are We?

During a recent PD day with our entire CIS school community I attended a workshop called ‘How Poor Are We?’ The purpose of the workshop was to highlight the plight of poverty that many million people are in around the world. In this workshop, the focus was on India.

The key point in bringing this workshop back to our students is that before we can expect action, students must make a connection through empathy and this is exactly what the activity did. The activity we undertook was called the paper bag game and was originally developed by Cross Roads Global Village.

This simple game gives an amazing insight into human behaviour when put in desperate situations. While I tried my hardest to keep my morals and dignity in check (refusing to dance like an elephant for the shop keeper to give me some food for example) it was amazing how quickly others resorted to theft and trickery to simply live. What we also realised at the end of the ‘game’ was how quickly you lose sight of education as a way out of the slum because all you end up doing is fighting an endless battle to eat, remain healthy and clean. Life beyond the slum quickly becomes unrealistic.

The message of this workshop, again, is to really understand the importance of empathy when working with students around global issues. Students must be able to make some sort of connection with the issue in order for learning and potential action to take place.


Appreciate what we have

Here are some wonderful websites to help us really appreciate what we have…

  • Shows statistics of the earth if there were 100 people on earth and all proportions of the current world existed (in percentages basically)

  • Discover how rich you really are.