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Let’s do some good!

So this is how my life works:

I am loved. I am supported. I care more than I can handle, about the world, about it’s people. And I wander to places without a plan. I show up. I do my best to listen. I try to learn from instead of do for and I think that very intention is the reason I have wound up with a network of good people I consider my soul-friends around the world.

And sometimes I feel that I’ve been connected to certain people long before we have met. Recently this very sentiment occurred when I met with George. We sat down for a coffee in Quito and within minutes realized we had mutual friends in both Peru and the United States. In fact, George’s godson is my friend’s nephew! (The term “serendipity” has started to lose poignancy in my life because of its consistent presence.)

As we talked, George’s eyes welled up, not because of our connection, but because of his connection with friends and fellow citizens of Ecuador who tragically lost their homes due to the 7.8 earthquake on April 16th, 2016. George described his dear friends who have decided to cut down their own bamboo to build houses for those suffering. To date, the Caemba Casitas project has constructed 122 houses and 3 children’s centers serving hundreds of Ecuadorians. George and his friends have spent hours, days and weeks constructing these homes.

Those of you who know me know I believe in accompaniment over service, in relationships before help. Yet in times in which basic needs aren’t being met, when families are struggling to survive due to circumstances beyond their control, our duty is most certainly to be of service. We are all one. We must serve our brothers and sisters in need.

Here are a few ways you can help:

May your journey be meaningful. May you connect in meaningful ways with those you know and those you don’t. May you recognize all of the good in the world.

Susan

Founder, Away 2 Be

A letter to disruptors.

Dear colleague, teacher, disruptor, innovator,

I love that you are a proponent of “relationships first”.  Yes, relationships can be built through formative assessments, which are, in my opinion, a constant presence in an effective classroom.  Formative assessments are as simple as using one’s intuition to read an expression on a student’s face or watching the demeanor as he or she walks in the room.  Formative assessments gauge understanding, sometimes in seconds.  Formative assessments include listening to students and allowing for them to give feedback to one another.  Formative assessments create space for the facilitator to change direction of said lesson to ensure that each student is appropriately challenged.  And that takes humility.

Here is where I think we often lack in education and in society in general:  We talk about “building relationships” and “effective communication”, but we are rarely taught the skills we need and for some, developing relationships isn’t intuitive.  “Radical candor” can only be established once the foundation of the relationship is present. The foundation takes time, effort, vulnerability and a toolbox for myriad circumstances.

Design thinking falls short in the same way.  The first step of the design thinking process is empathy, but facilitators don’t discuss checking in with our own stories first. Instruction doesn’t describe how to embody effective empathy, it only assumes such an experience will ensue.

Facilitators, (I stray from the word “teachers”), must be conscious of the feedback they are giving.  Certain types of feedback will, indeed enhance relationships and certain feedback is simply to appease technical standards.  Self-assessment and peer feedback are the most authentic assessments.  Students often challenge themselves and each other more effectively than facilitators do, probably because of the pre-established relationship they have with one another. They already have built-in empathy because they’ve had time to understand one another.  Candor ensues based on inherent trust.

So maybe that’s where we need to focus: On the tools to build effective relationships first, knowing that they take time and knowing that we cannot know the outcome.  From there, we can develop formative assessments that cater to each individual.  In fact, why don’t they create the assessments and we’ll guide them along the way?! That is, in essence, accompaniment.

Susan

 

Leadership. How to.

“Leadership” has become a word whose frequency buzzes to the point of not being able to hear the word at all. Close seconds in our world of oft-used, sometimes-fulfilled buzzwords in global education, travel and group facilitation are “design thinking”, “paradigm shifting” “innovation” and “sustainability”. Up and coming words like “accompaniment” and “meaningful” will soon take the place of “service” and “empowerment”. Words are simply that. They convey messages to make the non-tangible tangible. And as we attempt to discover the newest and greatest and most grandiloquent means of expression, it is important to instate action that can defend the words we try to embody.

On voyages to other lands and in classrooms, schools and businesses, I have done my best to “facilitate” as opposed to “teach”, to be humble enough to invite varying opinions and perspectives in order for our group or team to create the best possible experience or solution. It is only when we can “walk the talk” that we will be able to become true leaders, people that are willing to see our own strengths and be vulnerable enough to recognize when others can compensate for our limitations. We all have talents that deserve to shine and if we try to “go it alone”, our talents are easily masked by the minutiae of where we don’t excel.

Below is a leadership tool you are welcome to adopt. In the classroom and in the world, I have used this tool, or some variation of it, to elicit accountability and group buy-in to our process, to allow me to step back and others to step forward. Each day, there is an individual or team that is responsible for different aspects of our experience. The below list was created with student travel in mind, but can certainly be adapted to any team scenario. Use it in your classroom, your home, your office, or on your next global adventure to enhance empathy, collaboration and effective leadership.

Use this tool and avoid the urge to uphold the popular terminology that will forever change. Your actions are what will remain in-style. By facilitating true leadership, the positive results on our world will be permanent.

 

Leader(s) of the Day Responsibilities:

Daily Schedule

  • At the beginning of the day, display the daily schedule, goals and activities and review with the group

Group activity

  • (At the beginning of the day and when needed)

Choose a ‘word of the day’

  • This word can be intention-setting or something helpful in the host community or new setting

Choose a ‘question of the day’

  • Choose a question that will elicit thought and can be referred at any time, particularly when reflecting

Group check-in

  • How is everyone doing?
  • Hold up fingers 1-5. If you are 1-3, look to 4-5 to uplift you and vice versa
  • Thumbs-up scale for good, somewhere in the middle for not so good, down for not well

Prepare

  • Review daily activities, what could happen and how to be prepared for any potential situation
  • Make sure everyone has what they need for the day’s activities

Time keeper

  • Help to keep us on time and round up the group when its time to go

Thank and greet whomever is hosting us

  • We often have to “say words” when we arrive and depart any given place. This is a great chance to practice speaking in front of a group and speaking from the heart

Help to organize/clean

Make sure everyone in the group is present, on time and healthy!

Sweep

  • Check the premises of wherever we are to be sure we have everything/all trash is picked up, etc.

Write blog

Lead Closing activity

  • Choose next day’s leaders
  • Answer ‘Question of the Day’

 

Dreaming of Utopia

“We are not handing out gifts, but we are brining forth the gifts inside the people themselves.”

—Jacqueline Novogratz

A persistent conversation and conundrum in the international travel and education field is with regard to “service” and “helping”.  We are beginning to see shifts in our practices and our values, recognizing sustainable, global change depends our commitment to simultaneously learn from one another.  We dream of a utopia where poverty, malice and war cease to exist.  I wrote this in India recently, while pondering this great value transition I am witnessing around the world.

My utopia is to relinquish the word “help” under the pretext of superiority.  Can we change this word to “support,” “facilitate,” “learn from,” “be with”?  It is difficult to understand, especially as this paradigm of “service” (a word often utilized and brutalized to the precipice of our benevolent demise), gains popularity.  Intentions are pure, clean, just, positive and good.  Yet rarely are we privy to witnessing how often our good intentions are undone and redone only to one day cut the ribbon, exposing the facade of what wasn’t needed, but extremely well-intended.

Rarely do we know the whole story, the real story.  We can’t.  We never will.  What we have to do is continue to ask and listen.

Listen.

There is momentum in our shifting perspective, a shift of questioning who is served, who the desired recipients of “service” are. 

So let us absolve “help” and “service” and “doing for,” and embrace “join” and “togetherness” and “walking with” as we build relationships and sustainably innovate to allow communication and creativity to be the driving forces of impactful change.