February 11, 2020 Team Wonderful

 

Team Wonderful has divided themselves up into teams of two and is seated on throw pillows casually tossed across blankets and sheets I have toted from home. It is 8:00 AM, and with coffee in hand, they settle down on the floor for some old-fashioned interactive game-playing.

At the preschool director’s request, we are meeting in the parlor of the church. It is a significantly smaller space than the huge meeting room of the long banquet tables and chairs of yesteryear, where we gathered for our first 2-day, 16-hour Mind in the Making adventure. But by request, we are here again to share the science of Mind in the Making with the preschool staff. We will spend the day together in this more intimate, comfy space, with couches, coffee tables, and quite interestingly, a piano that we have no idea how we will use. Ultimately, we joyfully do.

For me, this is what makes Mind in the Making the remarkable gem that it is. With making connections being at the very foundation of its core, the curriculum itself allows for ingenuity and creativity within its simple and clear structure of content.

Every activity, every moment of sharing, or the experience of heightened awareness is supported and designed to bring people together, to foster connection and to experientially build upon the 7 essential life skills that every child needs, which hold the keys to authentic learning. Watching this unfold over and over again, no matter the varying cicumstances is always fascinating.

It is also a lot of fun!

Today’s focus is on bringing the 7 essential life skills to an even more tangible and interactive level that can be easily shared with parents, families, and caregivers who can then incorporate fun, easy learning moments into their normal daily activities. To this end, each group has been given a small deck of playing cards ( literally purchased from a ‘dollar store’ ) and one set of simple, verbal instructions:

Choose someone to shuffle the cards several times, then put the cards down and wait for the next set of instructions.

Now, pick the cards up and sort them.

Observing the groups as they watch the cards shuffle, and then again, after they receive the final set of instructions, is a delightful study in human nature. Many look up inquiringly at us, their expressions quietly perplexed and questioning. Others ponder aloud to themselves or one another. Finally, some simply must have clarity around the directions to move forward: ‘Surely, there are more instructions, right?’ ‘How do you want us to sort them?’ ‘What do you mean by sorting them?’ ‘Do you want us to sort them by suit?’ Do you want us to sort them by color? ‘

“I’m just not clear about the instructions!”

It is at this moment that they realize we are just smiling at them, not saying a word, and clearly not offering any more instructions. “Oh, I get it!” one of them announces, “you aren’t going to give us any more information, are you?!”

At this point, she shares her new understanding with the others, and they all seem to form a unified front of humorous exasperation. And so, with no other instructions, they boldly decided to push on and get back to dealing with the circumstances at hand. Instantly, the discussions become more intentional and focused. Choices are made, and conclusions are drawn.

Some complete the task in a matter of minutes. Others quietly and intensely debate as they choose a myriad of steps to complete their version, while others, having completed the task, begin to assess what’s happening around them. As a result, some are second-guessing their original decision. The process is truly fascinating. Finally, we call time.

An odd sense of concern and relief permeates the room. It is clear that they all want to have performed the task correctly. It matters to them that they understood the directions, and therefore made the appropriate decisions to accomplish the desired outcome. They are also glad it’s over and are anticipating knowing what it is they don’t know yet.

Jenifer and I both smile warmly and ask them about their experiences.

How did they sort them? What were the criteria they used to come to the conclusions they chose? Did one person lead or have more influence than the other? Does anyone feel incomplete with how the cards were sorted? How did it feel when we didn’t give you more instructions?
What was it like working with your teammates?

Interestingly, as we began to ask them why, what, where, and how questions, they began to elaborate, generating even more questions amongst themselves. Musing, talking, and laughing with each other, sharing their process and preferences, and recognizing the different ways they each interpreted the information, is when the Mind in the Making ‘magic’ happened. The simple yet profound intricacies and nuances of the 7 essential life skills simultaneously became apparent to all of them.

  • Focusing on their work and controlling their behavior.
  • Figuring out what others think and feel.
  • Explaining what they are thinking.
  • Using what they learn creatively.
  • Searching for reliable information.
  • Taking on challenges.
  • Engaging in learning.
  • These are the essential life skills every child needs.

It was clear to all of us that authentic learning was occurring. It was definitive and palpable. The looks of confounded awe and amusement on the faces of these brilliant, loving, compassionate, and dedicated educators is a moment I will cherish for a very long time.

And to think it all happened over a deck of cards.

***
Dedicated to Miss Joy, and on behalf of Team Wonderful:
Miss Joy, a preschool educator of 30+ years and a lover of our children, yours and mine, begins and ends each day with this anthem. It is the first thing her students learn when they join her class, the first thing they say (and then learn to shout it out!) as they start their day, and the last thing they express before they ever part ways, every single day. Thank you, Miss Joy, for your powerful contributions to our children:

I am braver than I believe!
I am stronger than I seem!
I am smarter than I think!
I am loved more than I know!

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