You may be familiar with the educational catchphrase intentional learning. By definition, it is learning with purpose and goals. Educators believe that the most accomplished learners are intentional learners; they set goals, monitor progress, seek out optimal learning conditions, and actively make connections and meaning.
So what is it that we want our children to be intentionally learning? And better yet, what should we be intentionally teaching, both in schools and in society?
As a school counselor, I have the opportunity to share in the emotional growth of young people. I am lucky. I also, sadly, have a front row view of the endless bullying and harassment that young people are subjected to on a regular basis. We are raising bullies, victims and bystanders they are the products of our own parenting.
A student recently shared her senior speech with me the final assignment of her high school experience. Her conclusions offered hope, but only after alluding to the one big truth that I fear we are forgetting to intentionally teach our children how to treat each other.
She talked about labels. She stated how school is often the place where each child walks around with a set of labels attached to his/her forehead. She mentioned how these labels often determine how we see the world as well as how the world views us. A single label can become some-ones primary identity poor, stupid, fat, black or gay. While these labels can bring a sense of belonging as part of a smaller community, they almost always separate us from others, confining us to less than who we really are. While some labels are chosen, most often they are assigned by others who do not know us.
Its distressing to think that our youth encounter so many stereotypes in their daily lives that they take for granted their validity in assessing others. How inexcusable that our youth are not intentionally learning that we are all so much more alike than we realize, more than the labels that are assigned.
With conviction and hope, this insightful senior concluded that these labels really dont matter. She recognized that the most important thing that unites me and you and everyone else in the world is merely being human. She concluded that everyone can learn to tear down stereotypes, to see past the differences and to embrace what makes us all the same: our humanity.
Bullying is at the national forefront and studies show that one-shot interventions are not the solution to stopping it. The ability to see the humanity in others must be intentionally learned. Parents must plant these seeds and then each child can carry this good will into their schools and everyday lives. Schools can piggyback on these budding notions and intentionally teach children how to be kind to one another.
This year, lets all intentionally focus on our compassion for one another. Lets look past the stereotypes and the labels and learn to see each other through our hearts.
Susan Marshall Brindle is the State College Area High School head counselor. This weekly column is a collaboration of Centre County Communities that Care serving Bald Eagle, Bellefonte, Penns Valley and Philipsburg- Osceola area school districts, and Care Partnership: Centre Region Communities that Care serving the State College Area School District.