As I watch the group of survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School spark a movement across the nation, one that has been unsuccessfully attempted by adults, something inside me rejoices:
CHILDREN ARE CAPABLE.
I think about the much smaller children in my kindergarten class — the time we focus on developing social-emotional skills, nurturing healthy habits of mind, and reflecting on and strengthening our community. The time that I make time for, because these 5-year-olds may one day be leaders of a better world.
In watching the Parkland Town Hall meeting Wednesday night, I felt immensely proud and inspired by the example that the children set as the country watched:
Growth mindset: This group of children survived an unfathomable tragedy, resulting from mistakes from many people. Now they are relentlessly fighting to ensure those mistakes are never made again. Not yet must be their mantra, when faced with hurdles in the road, they see possibility for the change ahead as a result of their determination.
Listening with empathy: Children set political viewpoints aside to come together for a common good. Even when speaking to adults who have failed them, children offered respect and support in return for action. When the audience rallied in disagreement, children speakers calmed it, reminding their peers that all voices deserve to be heard.
The importance of telling stories: Before each child had an opportunity to ask a question, they shared a story from the shooting. They must know the power and importance of telling stories and I hope they never stop telling them.
Challenging authority: Citizens of a democracy, children spoke with the same power held by the politicians in front of them. They know that laws and policies aren’t set in stone, and no great change started without a voice of challenge.
I look at these children leaders and I am filled with hope. This is our next generation. Growing up in a time where silence is broken, justice and equality are demanded, and entire movements can begin from a single story.
CHILDREN ARE CAPABLE.
But we need to let them be.
Behind each child we witnessed is an adult who empowered them; teacher, a caregiver, a coach, a mentor. I imagine, because of the way they navigated through an emotionally charged debate, that they’ve had many opportunities to listen and share opposing viewpoints in their classrooms. I imagine, because of their courage in speaking to their leaders, that the leaders in their schools allowed student voices to be heard and have power in decision-making. I imagine, given the heart wrenching song written and sung so courageously, that the Parkside teachers provided an outlet for creative expression as a means for displaying learning. I imagine, when watching the march from Florida to the White House, that their education has been rich with the stories — the struggles, long roads, and pain felt when battling the injustices in our history.
I’m reminded of the Reggio philosophy:
Sometimes the educator is in front of the child, sometimes the educator is next to the child, and sometimes the educator is behind the child.
It is clear that the educators and families in Parkside have dedicated time to each role: leader, coach, supporter. I can only hope my 5-year-olds will carry on the power and voice they have now and grow into citizens fighting for democracy like the children of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Our belief that children are capable must be present in our actions. It guides each decision we make, especially those made in a stance of power. Our belief that children are capable lives in the way we speak with-not to-children, in our routines, in the curriculum we construct, and in the conflicts that arise.
To the Parkside community, and to the communities that are standing with them, thank you. Thank you for sharing your voices, your stories. Thank you for being the leaders our world needs. Thank you for setting an example for my kindergarteners of what children are capable of.