My friend Sam, was an ADHD student going through elementary school in the 60s. He had a miserable experience. The structure of a sit-down classroom was impossible for him, and soon he felt isolated and alone. He was sure that no one cared about him, that he belonged alone in the hall, and that school was a place to be hurt, embarrassed, and maligned. And he didn’t learn a thing. By 8th grade he was so lost and behind that there was no catching up.
Dropping out early impacted Sam’s entire life. He couldn’t hold a job and had terribly low confidence. His defensiveness resulted in explosive, even violent outbursts. Sam’s life was forever impacted by the adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) he encountered. After he succumbed to the lure of drugs, he couldn’t hold a job, and ultimately ended up incarcerated for larceny. Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology and How You Can Heal by Donna Jackson Nakazawa, provides extensive additional reading on this topic. We highly recommend it!
There are many classrooms and families where Sam would not thrive. If children’s learning styles are not the same as the teacher’s or the parents’ it can be difficult for all. And since Sam has some adverse early childhood experiences such as I describe here (this topic, including what constitutes an adverse childhood experience, will be addressed more thoroughly in subsequent blogs), it becomes even more challenging for him.
Honoring diverse approaches to learning is a critical ability of a parent and/or a teacher
Yes, ACE training is now being provided more often for educators. Instead of harsh discipline, we are learning we must draw in closer to our children and follow their lead. We need to demonstrate love and care for the unique person each child is. By honoring each child’s unique needs and diverse learning styles we can make those critical connections that provide a different outcome from what happened in Sam’s story. If Sam’s teachers had known his family story of neglect, and how vulnerable he was in 3rd grade, after numerous moves from town to town, and the murder of his father, how might Sam’s life and the lives of those he touched, have been changed?
This is where Smart Tools for Life comes in. We provide smart tools for classrooms and homes for today’s children!
Hi, my name is Julie Penshorn. I am the author of the Smart Tools for Life children’s books on this site, with content editor and co-author, Rebecca Janke, who blogs at Children’s Peace Education Company (coming soon!). We’ve been working together over the years since 1992 with the nonprofit organization, Growing Communities for Peace.
Developing as a Teacher or Parent Educator
Though I didn’t have any ACEs growing up, I was, and still am an active learner. I evolved into an intense, driven riding teacher, following in the footsteps of my own teachers. It took some time for me to evolve my teaching toward facilitating. Only after I gained some age and perspective did I figure out that the best way for learning to occur for many of my students was to help them feel, learn, and become aware of an experience, on a deep level. I couldn’t “teach” it or “explain” it. The student had to find it. So, it was the horse that did the teaching, and I found my role as a facilitator and a guide. The capability of the horse was important, since heavy, dull, or lame horses gave bad lessons.
Learning to be an effective facilitator drove me to become a children’s book author. I thought maybe here was an opportunity to engage with the Sams of the world in a different way.
Bumper sticker: Life is Short: Ride a Good Horse! or Life is Short, Read a Good Book!
With limited time for children’s stories in classrooms and in homes, adults need good tools. I felt we needed smart tools for children’s lives, specifically stories and music that could educate them that being a loving, caring, participating, peacemaking person, capable of dialogue when in conflict and working out problems, was “normal.” They needed to become “peace literate.”
I saw that children were inherently filled with compassion for others and the planet, and that when they were in close connection with their families and teachers they learned better. With the help of Rebecca Janke, I discovered that I could create a unique learning experience for children by using the illustrations and words to bring a “feel” to the children, much like the way I learned to ride.
Stories and music provide the learning in a memorable way, and we can empathize with the animals or other characters in the story, and share their experiences vicariously. When children read our stories, or are read to, they can feel the characters’ pain and angst, their satisfaction, and their successes. They can see that the story has a given outcome because of the choices that were made along the way. The teacher or parent only must facilitate, which is easily done by reading the children’s book!
Children as the leaders in co-creating a culture of peace.
All our current and upcoming children’s books provide some suggestions for extending the learning in the back of the book. They meet state standard curriculum needs, but each book will also stand alone. So, just read them. Again. And again. Read them until the children recite passages from memory. Then it’s deep in their hearts. Then they “feel” it and you know their lives will be changed as they become the leaders in co-creating a culture of peace.
We need each child. No one is a “throw-away.” We need each flower, each butterfly, each bee, each tree, each ocean. Caring for the most maligned, the lonely, the hurt, the sick and the poor, the displaced, and the miserable, is the only way to bring peace to the planet. The way we raise our children has huge consequences — not only for the children — but also for our society! The children need us, as adults, to facilitate their journey into adulthood.
Smart Tools for Life makes teaching peacemaking skills easy for you, even if you’ve not been focusing on this in the past. We need these skills for our children’s future! Worried that you’re not a Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Dorothy Day, or Mother Theresa? Don’t worry! We make the road by walking. Let’s journey together!
Read news about our books and music. Please investigate the gofundme campaign and support this work! Share with others!