Umbrella Project 2017

The community at Sabot adopts a big idea every school year. Called the umbrella project, it's part of my job to shepherd it through. Teachers agree to set up encounters with the idea to provoke thinking and discussion. To start with, we spend time thinking about questions and provocations that will help children to shake hands with the idea and bring it into our community. This year’s idea is LISTENING. As social constructivists, we believe that learning is based on dialog and collaboration, and sharing each other's theories is the way we build new understandings. Listening is already part of our school life, but maybe we don't know it as well as we think we do.

My intention is to broaden my relationship with listening, to think about it in new ways. I'm wondering if I can get better at listening with empathy and without judgement. This seems especially urgent right now, here in the former capital of the confederacy, with our friends in Charlottesville just down the road. Confederate Generals are everywhere in this city; on street names, schools and sculptures. Whether they are monuments to heritage or a heritage of hate is an argument we have been having for a long time around here. It seems to me that so much of it comes down to listening- to groups refusing to hear one another and building cultures around that. I feel the burden of these times and want to help give children the habits of mind that can create a more respectful, fair world.

“If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you`ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”   -Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird

“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” -e. e. cummings