By teaching our students to think, care, and act, we empower them to build a peaceful future.


Welcome to Think, Care, Act, where teachers and students can find rationales and resources to infuse required curricula with peace, character, global, and multicultural concepts throughout the year.

To act in a world whose problems seem overwhelming requires being able to use the powers of critical and creative thinking and compassionate and inclusive care. Employing these tools, adults and youth alike can work effectively and conscientiously to solve problems big and small, global and local.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

THE ART OF POSSIBILITY: TRANSFORMING OUR CLASSROOMS

 The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life,
by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander, Penguin Books, 2002

“So the practices presented in this book are not about making incremental changes that lead to new ways of doing things based on old beliefs, and they are not about self-improvement.  
They are geared instead toward causing a total shift of posture, perceptions, beliefs, and thought processes.  They are about transforming your entire world.
(Rosamund and Benjamin Zander)


The Art of Possibility is a book that has been on my shelf for years, but this was the summer it spoke to me.  In it, Rosamund Zander, a family therapist, and her husband Benjamin Zander, an orchestra conductor, offer twelve practices for transforming professional and personal life.  They suggest ways to revise the perceived expectations of the world and rewrite one’s life narrative to one of purpose and possibility.  Four of their practices struck me as imminently transformative as we approach the new school year.  The others are valuable also, and can be found in the book and in the summary links below.

“Giving an A”

Let’s first consider this question the Zanders ask, “What were to happen if one were to hand an A to every student from the start?”

To combat students’ anxiety over grades and performance, Ben Zander made this announcement to his Conservatory students on the first day of class: “Each student in this class will get an A for the course.”  There was one requirement.  Students had to write him a detailed letter, dated in the spring—months away—in which they detailed “the story of what will have happened to you by next May that is in line with this extraordinary grade….”

I can already hear naysayers offering downsides to this optimistic plan.  Yet, I see the wisdom of this transformative offer.  Might it allow students and teachers to discover how to work as teammates, rather than perceived adversaries?  Could teachers brainstorm with students collectively and individually, inviting them to share strategies for success from past classes?  Did they study for assessments?  How? Did they do their homework?  Where? Did they care about their classes?  Why? How did they motivate themselves if they did not find the material interesting?  Did they proofread?  Did they do more work than was expected?  Did they see the teacher for extra help?  Did they ask questions?  Did they overcome problems at home to succeed at school? How?

Can we teachers start the year by inviting our students to recognize and employ their signature strengths to earn that “A?”  Can we help them assess whether they see themselves as being loyal, honest, generous, friendly, determined, creative, detail-oriented, big-picture-oriented, out-going, or introverted?  Can we help them see how their perseverance, honesty, loyalty, love of learning, love of people, and other qualities can help them succeed in their school lives?

Is offering the “A” an idea we should try this September?

“Leading from Any Chair”


 Here is another practice from the Zanders.  “A leader does not need a podium.  She can be sitting quietly on the edge of any chair, listening passionately and with commitment, fully prepared to take up the baton….”  Ben Zander reflects on members of an orchestra as he wonders, “Who am I being that they are not shining?”

As teachers, we might well ask the same question about our students.  Who can we be so that our children are shining?  This practice reminds me to pay careful attention to each student in my care—not only the shining academic “stars,” but also the quiet, gritty, “perseverers” and the seemingly disengaged.  What are they really engaged in?  How can that transform our class experience together?  What does each student have to teach their peers and teacher about leadership?

Over the course of the year, I frequently ask my students for feedback in various forms.  They know I mean it when I tell them I need their feedback to be a better teacher.  In quick classroom discussions, in private conversations, on anonymous 3x5 cards, and via electronic programs, I seek and take to heart their suggestions.  Students appreciate being part of the evaluation and learning process and being recognized for the various ways in which they lead. 

“It’s all Invented”


 The Zanders begin with this premise: Let’s realize “It’s all invented.” Ask yourself this question, the Zanders suggest:
“What assumption am I making,
That I’m not aware I’m making,
That gives me what I see?”

And the next question is:
“What might I now invent,
That I haven’t yet invented,
That would give me other choices?”

Our school worlds and lives are riddled with assumptions about “the way we’ve always done things,” or “the way those students behave,” and on and on.  How can we approach this year with new eyes, ready to see the possibility in beginning our classes more mindfully than we have done in the past?  Can we invent ways to overcome our biases towards and against students of various backgrounds?  See resources below to help in this lifelong process.

“Being a Contribution”


“Throw yourself into life as someone who makes a difference, accepting that you may not understand how or why.”  Ben and Roz Zander offer this practice to help us overcome self-judgement and the judgement of others.  Rather, they suggest we can see ourselves as contributors who make a difference in the lives of those around us.  No matter how small the difference—or how large or long-lasting—we make an impact, and this purposefulness is healthy and growth oriented. 

One of my peace education mentors, Irwin Abrams, recharged my batteries when I doubted my ability to make a difference. “What do I answer those who criticize peace education as being too slow to be effective?” I asked. “What do I tell myself?” is what I really wondered.
Swinging his ninety-plus frame swiftly around, Irwin didn't miss a beat, “We work for the unseen harvest. There are consequences” of the work we do.   
There are consequences of our every interaction with our students and colleagues.  We can make a positive difference for each one of them.  September is coming.  Let it be a time of transformation and possibility!
Susan Gelber Cannon, August 2017

RESOURCES
Read more about the authors:
·      Rosamund Zander: http://www.rosamundzander.com/about-roz.php
·      Benjamin Zander: http://benjaminzander.com  

Good summaries of the book are available at the links below: 
·      James Clear’s short summary: http://jamesclear.com/book-summaries/the-art-of-possibility
·      Vishnu’s Virtue’s longer summary, with quotes: http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/the-art-of-possibility/

For more on growth mindset, read
·      Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (https://mindsetonline.com/index.html)

For more on quiet people as leaders, read
·      Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking (http://www.quietrev.com/quiet-the-book/)

For more on developing purpose, read
·      William Damon’s The Path to Purpose: How Young People Can Find Their Calling in Life (http://www.williamdamon.com/the-path-to-purpose/)  
·      and Martin Seligman’s Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being (http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Flourish/Martin-E-P-Seligman/9781439190760)

For more on bias and anti-bias strategies, read
·      Mazarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald’s Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People (http://blindspot.fas.harvard.edu)
·      and my blog summary with classroom strategies: http://thinkcareact.blogspot.com/2017/02/

For more on inviting student evaluation of your teaching, read
·      Susan Gelber Cannon’s Think, Care, Act: Teaching for a Peaceful Future (http://www.teachforpeace.org/book)

For more on transforming perceptions, read
·      Pema Chodron’s Practicing Peace in Times of War (http://pemachodronfoundation.org/product/practicing-peace-book/)
·      and Thich Nhat Hanh’s Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life (https://plumvillage.org/books/peace-is-every-step/)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE: TEACH FOR PEACE ON MOTHERS DAY AND EVERY DAY

“This kid. He is going to make the world a better place. He came into the world wide-eyed and curious. He has never met a stranger. He doles out smiles without reserve. He is resilient and unafraid.
He is completely full of joy and pure potential.”
–Jen Cannon, Mothers Day 2017

"Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have taught them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs…."
Julia Ward Howe, 1870


Years ago, with other visitors to Colonial Williamsburg, I participated in a historical re-enactment of a militia training session.  As we stood shoulder to shoulder, harangued by “officers,” “shot” by musket, and rushed by bayonets, a shudder went through the line of adults and children.  We were to be turned into killing machines.  

I thought of my father, a World War II infantryman, and the trauma, fear, and injury he suffered as he endured basic training to turn him from a loving son, brother, husband and neighbor to a weapon of war.  For decades, my mother was also a survivor of war, holding my father as he screamed in the night.  She brought him back to a loving life, and she refocused his thousand-mile stare.  As their daughter, I work for a peaceful future for our children and ourselves. 

Remember the Origin of Mothers Day: A Call for Peace

As mother and grandmother, I love the Mothers Day video chats, cards, and calls, and I smile reading the loving posts of friends and family.  Yet I also encourage all mothers—and teachers—to remember the original sentiments of the Mothers Day holiday. 


Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910) was an abolitionist, suffragist, and peace activist, often remembered as the author of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in 1861.  Her 1870 proclamation of peace to the women of the world led to the creation of Mothers Day. 

Anna Jarvis carried on the initiative, and eventually fought the ensuing commercialization.  Unfortunately, card companies don’t reference the sentiments for global peace at the heart of the holiday.

The Proclamation


In her proclamation, Howe called for an international congress of women to gather together to work for peace.  She decried the militarization of society and the carnage she had observed first hand as she visited Civil War battlefields.  Read her words:

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or tears!

Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have taught them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the bosom of the devastated earth, a voice goes up with our own. It says, "Disarm, Disarm!"

The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail & commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesars but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.


Rock the World: Teach for Peace

William Ross Wallace’s 1861 poem inspired the saying, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”  Mothers, fathers, guardians, grandparents, friends, and teachers: let’s rock the world for peace! 

Today my daughter-in-law offered a heart-felt salutation to our beautiful grandson.  I offer the resources below to help us make her words true for every child in the world:  

“This kid. He is going to make the world a better place. He came into the world wide-eyed and curious. He has never met a stranger. He doles out smiles without reserve. He is resilient and unafraid. He is completely full of joy and pure potential.”


Happy Mothers Day.
--Susan Gelber Cannon, May 2017


RESOURCES:



  • Learn about Crista Tinari’s PeacePraxis work teaching peace and kindness.  Great classroom and home resources are here and in her book: Create a Culture of Kindness: http://www.peacepraxis.com/



  • Learn about the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom [WILPF] and its ongoing work for disarmament, peace, and the advancement of civil society: http://wilpfus.org/story/history