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You Are Golden!

Posted by on in Social Emotional Learning
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I always say that you can find inspiration anywhere in this world, provided your ears, eyes, and heart are open. I had my brain sparked today while at church with my family. We go to church fairly regularly, even though I do not consider myself a Christian, as I identify most with the tenants of Buddhism. I could tune out what the Pastor says during the sermon, but I always make a concerted attempt at maintaining openness. This is a good thing because today he delivered absolute gold!

Today our Pastor talked about Kintsukuroi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed or dusted with gold, silver, or platinum. The major philosophy of this practice is the breakage and subsequent repair are part of the history of the object instead of something to disguise (more info here). Typically when we repair an object, we want to hide the initial damage to make it look "good as new". Kintsukuroi places the emphasis on embracing and celebrating the damage because it is part of what makes the object unique and special. Go ahead and think about that for a second before reading any more!

So you've thought about this practice. Now I want you to think about how this practice can work if we apply it to ourselves, our students, and our schools. Is this how you approach your breaks and damage? Do our schools and students see it like this? Of course not! Society doesn't want us to focus on our previous cracks. We want to get past those issues as soon as we can and forget about them. Those are weaknesses and the quicker we forget about them, the better, right? WRONG!

Let's look at this from two different perspectives, the physical and emotional side of us.

From an aesthetic approach, we do everything we can to cover up the cracks that appear in us over time. Think about make-up, plastic surgery, beautification treatments, and everything else that we do to hide our breaks from the outside world. We don't want people to see these scars. We don't want people to see or think that there is anything wrong with us. We want to look as "normal" as we can. We will go to sometimes inane heights to make this a reality. Kintsukuroi uses gold lacquer to repair breaks because the mishaps should stand out and be celebrated. These fractures are what make the item unique. Every crack involves a rich story. Are you willing to share your stories or are you trying to hide them?

From an emotional perspective, we are deathly afraid to talk about the issues that we experience in the depths of our soul. From a young age, we become programmed. It becomes engrained in us that crying is a sign of weakness, especially for boys. We learn that sharing our feelings and showing vulnerability is a flaw that should be avoided at all costs. So what we do when we break on the inside? Most of us deal with it in real-time however we can, but we typically address the symptoms and not the problems. We may indulge in mood-altering substances, have an intense workout, yell, scream, curse, fight, punch things, cry in isolation, or some other method. When we finish with the remedy, we bury the problem inside for it to fester without treatment. This lack of attention to our internal struggles that focuses on hiding these breaks instead of embracing them is dangerous.

Last week, I published a post about getting real (read it here) because I was tired of hiding myself and my struggles. I have cracks and breaks, both physically and emotionally. They are what has made me who I am today. I used to want them kept a secret because I didn't want to seem weak. I have learned that hiding them makes me weak. I am not weak. I am not a victim. I am strong. I am a survivor. I will put my breaks and cracks on display. I am fixing these problems with gold lacquer because I acknowledge that they are a rich part of my story that must be displayed and not hidden.

I have to close this by challenging every one of you reading this piece. Take a deep look at yourself, both inside and outside. How do you display your breaks? Do you prefer to hide them from others or do you celebrate them? Are they scars or badges of courage and honor? How do you model this for your students, your own children, or any others that you interact with regularly? I want my mistakes and cracks to serve as learning tools for myself and others. This is why I repair myself with bright, precious lacquer when I break. Believe me, it happens much more than I would like to admit. We are all gold, regardless of how many breaks and cracks we have endured in our lifetimes. Shine with pride for the whole world to see!

Your power and strength are heightened by embracing and sharing your weaknesses!

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Born and raised in Cumberland County, New Jersey, Sean has grown his career and family from his native district. Sean again resides in the same county with his wife and their two young sons. He recently concluded his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for United States House of Representatives in New Jersey's 2nd Congressional District. Sean currently serves as an administrator at a school in Camden, NJ, where he focuses on the growth & development of teachers and building social & emotional skills with students. A Rutgers University graduate, Sean studied Communications. He later completed a graduate degree at the University of Scranton in Educational Administration and has spent almost a decade working in education.

As a result of connecting with people of all ages, ethnicities, cultures, and beliefs, Sean has learned how to listen and represent the interests of everyone. In order to help unite parents and educators, Sean is adept at innovating to solve problems.

Sean is an unwavering advocate for positive youth development and education. Growing up, Sean faced challenges financially and emotionally. The product of an unstable household and battling a significant learning disability, Sean has overcome many obstacles. School became both a place of refuge and a source of trouble for Sean. If not for certain extraordinary teachers and school faculty encouraging him, Sean would not have pursued higher education and would not have been able to impact his students the way he does today.

Throughout his career as an educator in New Jersey, Sean has based every decision solely on what is best for his students’ future. He has worked to create new, effective programs as well as supports for students and parents addressing social issues. Sean has demonstrated his student-first approach by never being afraid to privately and publicly question decisions that impact teachers, students, and the educational process. As a result, he has been able to create strong, lasting relationships across our state with the students, families, and communities that he has served.

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Guest Thursday, 18 October 2018