5 & 6 DFABW – Humility and Empathy – Slice of Life

6 September 2022 TwoWritingTeachers.org

Lately I’m working with my sister every day. We are making some changes to our cabin in the desert. A pass-through window into the kitchen with a breakfast bar, a tile floor and, in process right now: a new pantry and cabinet to extend our kitchen. It has been so interesting to work so closely with her in brand new areas. My sister is a builder, and I’m enjoying learning so much from her, as her assistant. Of course, my husband is part of the process too. Tools have always been his department, but now I’m learning the names of all of them and even how to use power tools–a variety of saws, belt sander, and drill.

My husband and I are both finding and exercising new strengths in this adventure. Some of my husband’s many strengths: Muscles–when something big or heavy needs lifting, he is there. Shopping–when we discover something missing, he makes yet another trip to Home Depot. Nurturing and caring–He keeps my sister filled with his own version of a frappuccino and both of us with ice tea, sparkling water, and other delicious hydration methods. He fixes lunch (yesterday: Impossible burgers and corn on the cob) and dinner (yesterday: tostadas).  He seems to always know when we need a break for homemade soft serve chocolate-peanut butter-banana ice cream. Availability–whenever and whatever we ask for, he comes and helps. Often he creates a new way, breaks the too-tight bolt, finds the right tool, etc.

These words are a sweet guide in this new work I find myself in–humility, empathy, and curiosity. Here is a found poem from an article I read today:

The Beautiful Triad
A found poem

Humility is the soil of knowledge.
I don’t know.
Humility is the soul.

Curiosity is the water that helps it grow.
I want to know.
Curiosity is the mind.

Empathy is the sunlight that shows us which way to bend.
I know how you feel.
Empathy is the heart.

Source: The Beautiful Triad — Curiosity, Humility, and Empathy

During each day in the months of August and September, I am responding to a different word from Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. Yesterday’s word was Humility. Today’s word is Empathy. A small group of people wanting to make the world a better place are reading and responding together. Join us! Visit Common Threads: Patchwork Prose and Verse by Kim Haynes Johnson for more information. Here is the word list I’ll be following for August and September.

Curiosity and Imagination are Survival Skills

I’m loving the new Iowa Future website. In the Overview section, it explains how we can’t teach to our past, but to our students’ future: “That is why Iowa Future is promoting the need for innovation in education, sharing ideas from across the state and nation, and highlighting the work underway to prepare for the future, to help all students realize success and possess the knowledge and skills to be ready for tomorrow, not yesterday.”

On a post yesterday at Iowafuture.org there was an interview with Tony Wagner, author of The Global Achievement Gap. On the video, addressing Iowan citizens, he explained that to be ready for college or the workforce, our students all need to be lifelong learners and active and informed citizens. The following are the “Seven Survival Skills” our students need, according to Tony Wagner:

1. Critical thinking
2. Collaboration across networks & leading by influence
3. Agility and adaptability
4. Initiative and entrepreneurialism
5. Ability to access and analyze information
6. Effective oral and written communication
7. Most importantly, curiosity and imagination

In addition to these intellectual survival skills, Wagner reminds his listeners that the habits of the heart have always, and will continue to be, important: The qualities of empathy, moral courage, and a strong work ethic are skills of the heart.

Wagner said we need to develop core competencies and work to teach and test them. Most countries leading the way in education have already been doing this. In Iowa, we are not. An example he used is that the Iowa Test of Basics Skills does not even attempt to test whether our students are critical thinkers.

His talk made me open the Iowa Core Curriculum website and take a look around. I quickly found evidence of the first six survival skills in the sections on Literacy, Employability Skills, and Technology Literacy.

I guess I wasn’t surprised that I did not find evidence of the seventh—curiosity and imagination—the skill he describes in the video as “most important.” Am I wrong? I hope so.

Is curiosity and imagination a standard—either explicitly or implied—in the Iowa Core Curriculum? Is curiosity and imagination in any state or country’s curriculum?