Both 5th grades together had a very hands on task as part of a spring Life Skills lesson. A teacher released colorful feathers from a third floor window, and the class was charged with retrieving every single one. While they quickly saw that the whole task was impossible, they tried their best to recapture all the feathers they could, and some used teamwork to reach high up the wall where feathers had lodged themselves. Others noticed that some feathers were disappearing into the parking lot, beyond the fence, and beyond our ability to retrieve them.
In the classroom, we followed up by hearing a story about a woman who regretted hurting her best friend with her words. She went to a wise woman who responded by giving her a two-part task. In part one, she was to empty the feathers from her favorite pillow and place a single feather on the doorstep of every person in the town. She did this, working through the night and finally arriving back at the old woman's house at dawn. Part two of the task was to retrieve every single feather and refill her pillow. Despondent, the woman said:
"You know that's impossible! The wind blew away each feather as fast as I placed them on the doorsteps! You didn't say I had to get them back! If this is the second requirement...then things will never be the same."
"That's true," said the older woman. "Never forget. Each of your words is like a feather in the wind. Once spoken...no amount of effort...regardless how heartfelt or sincere...can ever return them to your mouth."
After the story, we talked together about the connection between the feathers in the wind and our words and actions in life, both in person and online. The students made many impressive connections and observations. We noted that the goal is really to apply this learning in real situations every day.
As a practical example, we spoke about the use of Google Hangouts, which we know some 5th grade students are using to interact outside of school (Not all students are using Google Hangouts. We emphasized that everyone chooses whether or not to participate, and we should all respect the choices of others). After generating a list of the benefits and challenges of interacting on Hangouts, we highlighted some guidelines, because navigating these group conversations in cyberspace can be very tricky. Here are some guidelines we discussed:
- Avoid talking about people who are not in the Hangout with you. This is like talking behind someone's back.
- Only say things you wouldn't mind your family members knowing about, or other kids at school (because like the feathers you don't know where the words may go).
- If you have small group chats outside of school, don't talk about them in school so that others don't feel excluded.
We explained that our 5th grade students have so much more to navigate than we did as kids, and this is the perfect time to be figuring out what to do in situations with the support of a trusted adult. Many shared that their parents know they use Hangouts, and some said their parents check in to see what's being said. We thought this lesson and discussion made a great launching pad for conversations at home and for occasional check-ins about how Google Hangouts is being used and affirm positive decisions. The real time decisions are where the learning comes to life.
We hope this glimpse into yesterday's Life Skills lesson is helpful!