Empowering our children to take action - Mid-Pacific Institute

Elementary School Principal's Blog

Empowering our children to take action

Posted on February 7, 2010

by Dr. Edna Hussey on February 7, 2010

As much as we try to protect our children from the ills of the world, it's inevitable that these prevailing conditions seep into the invisible walls that we build to protect our children's innocence. The barrage of media has become part of the environment. You've seen it. The TV monitors in fast-food restaurants tuned to CNN where the good, bad, and ugly of news is reported daily. Listening to a radio station on your commute to and from school, where the news is not reported but editorialized. Even here at MPI, the teachers order a copy of the daily newspaper for their classrooms so that students can understand current events. Some people mistakenly believe that since young children aren't capable of comprehending the complexity of these local and global issues, there's no harm done if children are exposed to a media-infused environment. The point is that children are impressionable and much smarter than we think, and as parents and teachers in their lives, one of our most important responsibilities is to help them make sense of the world in which they live. Allowing children to take action in some way -- by providing aid, raising awareness, or becoming advocates -- helps them experience some control over the conditions that simply are in the world and part of the human condition. An illustration:

When the Haiti tragedy exploded in the news, there was no escaping the heart-wrenching images and hearing about the challenge of getting help to thousands injured and without homes. Evan, one of our students, would pass me as I greeted him each morning, then stop and ask, "Mrs. Hussey, you know this trouble in Haiti, what if we tried to do something to help?" And I responded, "That's an excellent idea. Come up with a plan and we'll talk about." The next few days, Evan asked, "What if we raised money?" to which I replied, "Yes -- how shall we do this?" Unbeknownst to me, Evan and his friends had been having discussions in class with the teacher. I wondered if Evan had become the self-designated spokesperson for his class, or if he had been assigned the task. I learned later that he was so moved by the tragedy that he had indeed taken it upon himself to ask me directly if some action could be taken schoolwide.  

Early last week, I found a letter on my desk, composed with the help of Ms. Montes, and signed by every student in Evan's class. The letter began -- "We have been reading about the earthquake in Haiti. We are concerned about the children who have lost their homes, and food, and everything. Evan R. suggested that we should do something for them. We would like to raise funds to help the people in Haiti. We would like to have a bake sale and a money drive next Thursday.  We will ask our parents to help us with the baked goods. We promise, NO candy or nuts. We would like to hold our bake sale during morning recess so all the kids can come. . . . . We would also like to have a money drive the same day. We would hold posters and buckets during HUGSS and KKIDS to collect money from our parents as they come to school. we will have kids at both autolines in the morning and the afternoon. We have done this for UNICEF and it works . . . ."

You know the rest of the story. Many of you sent your child to school with dollars to purchase a morning snack, or you donated some money in the autoline.  Through your generosity, the children collected a total of $1,483.89 in one day for the people of Haiti. The children will be going directly to the American Red Cross headquarters this week to proudly present the check and to learn more about how the American Red Cross is a critical center for providing national and international assistance.

While this anecdote serves to illustrate many ideas -- viewing children as highly capable of making good decisions and having strong cognitive abilities, empowering children to take action, helping children develop skills to plan, organize, and implement a plan, raising awareness about agencies that meet people's needs in the event of an emergency or crisis, etc. -- I'm reminded by the fact that it takes just one to inspire others to take action.

Thanks, Evan, and thanks to everyone who believes that working together does make a difference.

For our children,

Edna L. Hussey