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MY GRATITUDE GIFT TO YOU: 10 WAYS TO HAVE A BETTER CONVERSATION

MY GRATITUDE GIFT TO YOU: 10 WAYS TO HAVE A BETTER CONVERSATION

Laura Sandefer

November 26, 2019

Iam thankful for you, readers. Your curiosity, encouragement and growth mindset make the world better. I wish for you a cornucopia of meaningful conversations around your dinner table this season and always. It may be the only thing that really matters when we gather with others. My gratitude gift for you is sharing Celeste Headley’s “10 ways to have a better conversation.” Her Ted Talk is here if you want to listen in more detail. Enjoy your feast of learning, sharing, supporting and laughing with others.

  1. Don’t multitask. Don’t be half in it. Be fully present.
  2. Don’t pontificate. That’s boring. Enter into every conversation assuming you have something to learn.
  3. Use open-ended questions. Who, what, when, where, why, how. Great examples: What was that like? How did that feel?
  4. Go with the flow. Your mind will get distracted. Thoughts and ideas will enter. Just let them go. Don’t stress. Let them pass.
  5. If you don’t know something, don’t fake it. Just say you don’t know.
  6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs. It’s not about you. No two experiences are ever the same.
  7. Don’t repeat yourself.
  8. Stay out of the weeds. You don’t need to share every detail. That’s boring, too.
  9. Listen. Receive. Appreciate. Ask for more. Listen.
  10. Be brief. (See #2 and #8.)

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Independent Learning Parent Resources

A BEAR, A BIRTHDAY CAKE AND A CUP OF HOT CHOCOLATE – YOUR TICKET TO INNER PEACE?

A BEAR, A BIRTHDAY CAKE AND A CUP OF HOT CHOCOLATE – YOUR TICKET TO INNER PEACE?

Laura Sandefer

November 12, 2019

As we enter the season of busy-ness, I crave the inner calm I so easily access on summer mornings when the clock doesn’t tick so fast. And not just for myself. I yearn for my children to handily retrieve their own sense of peace and with it, the ability to focus.

It was desperation that drove me to appreciate Mindful Breathing. My son started suffering from anxiety at age eleven. We used deep breathing exercises during the dark months when he would claw at his blankets and grind his teeth with a stress that seemed to swallow him whole.

His anxiety subsided, thankfully, and he is now equipped to use his breathing to slow down his heart rate and get his mind focused whenever the need arises – maybe before a speech at an Exhibition or when he’s at the free-throw line in a basketball game.

As part of our Learning to Do at Acton Academy, we’ve incorporated these simple breathing exercises into studio life. They equip young people to calm themselves and find focus – two skills that will serve them for life. One of my favorite memories comes from a quiet thirteen year old boy. After a week of leading Mindful Breathing exercises, he came to me and said, “Thank you. I’ve started doing that breathing when I’m stuck in my Khan Academy work. I used to panic. Now I breathe.”

The following three exercises are ones you can practice and share with your children:

Imagine a beautifully big birthday cake in front of you, filled with burning candles. Now breathe in deeply and blow them all out. Do this a few times.

Imagine you are a bear in a cave getting ready for hibernation. It’s time to start slowing down to get your body for the winter. Bears do this by breathing deeply and more slowly in and out of their noses. Try it. Breathe deeply in through your nose. Now let it out slowly and deeply through your nose. Do this six or so times.

Imagine you are wearing mittens and holding a cup of very hot chocolate between your hands. It’s too hot to sip right now so you have to blow on it – back and forth. Breathe in through your nose, now blow across the top of your hot chocolate. It will take five or six times to get it cool enough to drink.

As I breathe more deeply, I remember once again that Learning to Do most often leads to Learning to Be.

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Hero’s Journey Independent Learning Parent Resources Socratic Method

WHAT DO YOU WANT?

WHAT DO YOU WANT?

Laura Sandefer

November 2, 2019

“You don’t have to be smart to go to Acton. You have to want to be smart.”
– Matteo, an Acton Academy middle school Eagle

Though merely two sentences within a long, heated Socratic discussion, Matteo’s words were flashes of gold. Everyone agreed with them. With clarity and ease, he’d pointed us to the essence of why Acton exists in a way I had never pondered.

It is about wanting. It is about desire.

Desire is longing for something not yet attained and includes a sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo. It is the fuel for curiosity – the most powerful intrinsic motivator.

But I wasn’t satisfied with my analysis of Matteo’s words. Was he really talking about just the desire to be smart?

I decided to pursue his idea further. I asked a small group of Eagles to help me out:

Why do you want to be smart?

So I can feel confident in the world.
So I can understand how things work.
So I can make hard decisions and tough choices.
So I can do the right thing.
So I can do something important with my life.
So I can solve problems that aren’t being solved yet.
So I can find my calling.

Their wanting to be smart was not about having an academic credential. It was not about pleasing parents and teachers.

These young people desire doing intelligent work that matters for this big, wonderful world.

Shakespeare wrote: “Joy’s soul lies in the doing.”

Acton Academy exists for the “doing” not just the “knowing.” Ultimately, there will be joy even if the journey includes suffering and sacrifice because the learning and work are purposeful. They are driven by the heart – where desire and character reside.

As a parent, this shifts my stance on talking with my sons about their work at school. My natural tendency at the end of the week is to ask them: How many points did you earn? How many Eagle Bucks do you have?

These extrinsic, academic questions are easy and okay. But, frankly, they miss the target.

There is a much more important question: What do you want?

I often forget to consider the desire in their hearts. When I focus merely on the external evidence of their daily learning, I snuff out the force that will drive them for the rest of their lives: the desire that lies in their hearts to do work that matters.

These young people exude profound confidence and inner freedom because they carry a mindset of growth. They know they can learn absolutely anything if they work at it. There is no slumped-over pessimism that comes from the burden of being labeled “smart” or “not smart.”

It’s as if they are already saying, “Open wide your doors, world. We are excited to meet you.”

Thank you, Matteo.

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