Learning and the holidays
The holiday season provides us with many opportunities to celebrate and reflect on our good fortunes. Of course, it also provides us with opportunities to empathize with and care for others less fortunate. Indeed, the Toys for Tots campaigns at both middle schools, the coat drive at Springman, and Attea’s Builders Club visit with Veterans, are just a few examples of the way that our students show compassion toward others.
This effort to cultivate empathy in children is consistent with specific standards related to social and emotional learning that schools are required to target. However, raising awareness of others’ needs also serves the purpose of helping our students keep their own lives and their own struggles in perspective - critical components in developing perseverance.
Perseverance refers to one’s ability to stick with something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. This is a quality embedded in the 21st Century Skills Framework (see http://www.p21.org/), which the state of Illinois also has embraced as a part of its adoption of Common Core Standards (see http://www.isbe.net/common_core/). In the school context the notion of perseverance applies to students’ ability to work through obstacles and challenges, applying both convergent and divergent thinking in order to solve more complex problems. But it also has to do with being emotionally resilient, to overcome the stressors, frustrations, or disappointments that they – as we all do – encounter in school and in life.
When students encounter challenging or complex academic work, they have an opportunity to develop new proficiencies in critical thinking and problem-solving. When they encounter emotionally challenging situations – an argument with a friend, the disappointment of a grade, the consequences for making a poor choice – they have an opportunity to overcome them and gain strength and perspective. Of course, as parents and educators we work to promote success for all of our students at all times. Yet, learning is at the heart of the District’s mission, as well as the development of the capacity to be responsible decision-makers, which itself requires awareness of others.
Thus, the holidays provides a welcome opportunity for “taking stock” as the saying goes, for counting our blessings and finding patience for all that we may yet hope to achieve. Hopefully, we are also succeeding in helping our students have such clarity of vision about their own lives and futures, and thus develop the perseverance to pursue them.
Happy Holidays to all District 34 Families.
Ms. Allyson Thorne, Acting Principal, Springman Middle School
Mr. Mark Richter, Principal, Attea Middle School