Effecting Change: the Power of Free Will


Image: Stencil

# Edublogs Club Prompt 3

    While having always taught and tutored students in the realm of the traditional learning system, I, as well as so many colleagues, have been constantly worried about the central role our free will plays in the process of learning and the different ways to challenge it, to configure a valuable interpellation to students.

    Yesterday, I found this same concern in the deep reflection of David GuerinIs it possible to teach Grit?”:

“Kids with willpower habits do better.“

“Sometimes, I think we simply tell students to work harder or to persevere, but we aren’t giving them tools they need to learn these skills.

We aren’t teaching the behaviour we want to see.”

“Could we be doing more to explicitly train students how to have willpower?”

      Some of my older students are being introduced to the inspiring book “Make your Bed” by Admiral William Mc Raven – in Portuguese version – just hoping they will feel the power of the injunction to act by self-determination that goes through all the chapters as a burning fuse.

      Earlier, I had found this kind of vital inspiration in the approach of Team Couching proposed by the author Jeff Boss, ancient Navy Seal, in whose work the values instilled emanate from the power of free will as from a burning nucleus.   

    Many of my older students that struggle at school are deeply engaged in boxing, jujitsu, surfing, sailing, tennis… where they may be brilliant and feel empowered, thanks to their total dedication and relentless training.

    However, although these extra school activities allow them to win self-esteem and discover the deep joy of confronting obstacles, we don’t know how to help them to transfer these new competencies and skills to the inner – and only apparently more abstract – realm of academic subjects.

     Angela Duckworth – the author of “Grit, the power of passion and perseverance” – would say the gap between both is due to the fact that the former have been freely chosen, while the latter have been imposed upon students.

     She gives us some strong hope to be able to help our students to  “effect change” by stressing that “there is a surprising parallelism between teaching and parenthood” [1] and she describes how the communication of genuine affection, respect and high expectancies may arouse, in students that struggle in school, a more refined motivation and a stronger resilience in the adventure of learning.

    Yet, the question raised by David Guerin remains actual and urgent as ever:

“Could we be doing more to explicitly train students how to have willpower?”


[1] – My translation from the Portuguese version.

“In their weakness, a saving power…”

https://www.ncronline.org/news/vatican/launching-world-day-poor-francis-says-no-christian-may-disregard-serving-themImagem: The Catholic Reporter


 On the 19th November, by the invitation of the chief of the Catholic Church, we are celebrating the “World Day of the Poor”.

      In Portugal, each parish chose to open a special space and time, for anyone who may wish, to come freely and spend some time together, all different groups of people, just having a light meal and talking to each other, just deepening human links.

     At the same time, on the backstage, intense campaigns are collecting offers in species or money to support vulnerable families and help them to live  Christmas and through the whole new year, at least until spring, where the campaigns start over again for Easter.

     According to the site “Our World in Data”, along the past two hundred years, extreme poverty has been progressively decreasing in intimate connexion with improvement in health and the expansion of global education.

     However, they are also aware that “living conditions well above the International Poverty Line can still be characterized by poverty and hardship.”

    That’s precisely the case in our country, striving with external debt, high unemployment rates, thousands of people living with minimal salaries, with 40 hours of labour per week, 2,6 million people on the risk of poverty and, only this summer, 418 thousands hectares burned mostly in criminal fires. 

http://www.paroquiadecascais.org/content/view/39808/1/Image Author: João Pinto

     What can we do? First, there’s a lot we are already doing all over the world. Not enough, though. Secondly, then, we must simply enlarge our common actions and multiply our solidarity initiatives.

    Today, the seventh week of the Students Blogging Challenge, Miss Sue W has published the awesome initiatives of young people like Mahica Halepete who created a foundation aiming at contributing to end extreme poverty as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Miss Sue herself gives us some precious and easy tips to contribute locally.

     Our small parish in – Cascais – is engaged in dialogue and support with the martyr town of Erbil, in Iraq, with whom we exchange visits and help to rebuild their clinic.

      The 29 November, our solidarity Foundation AJU will held its Christmas fair, at a central hotel, to gather funds for the 350 families it supports trough several projects on a daily basis.

https://www.facebook.com/fundacaoaju/photos/a.387710261282085.91831.387710131282098/1467202813332819/?type=1&theaterImagem: AJU Facebook

      In our school, all the campaigns, along this school year, will support three centres in Cape Vert (from where hurricanes are blown), mainly poor schools whose buildings are too old and have no adequate resources.

     Just a drop in the ocean, that makes a difference to our brothers, the Poor, and, according to Francis, it makes a difference also to each of us, as

“In their weakness, a “saving power” is present.”

     “What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes.

So we must seek what really matters, and the courage to love, not in words but in deeds”. (1)

     (1) Pope Francis on “the World Day of the Poor


On The concept of “Clarity”  by Greg McKeown

https://www.saent.com/2015/01/15/essentialism-greg-mckeown/Imagem: Saent.com

     In his book “Essentialism, the Disciplined Pursuit of Less”, the author aims  at deepening the understanding of such concepts that may help us to stick to our own genuine goals, and, at the same time to figure them out more clearly, by rejecting or avoiding everything that is non-essential to getting us closer to them.

     One of this concepts, in chapter 10, “Clarify”, is precisely Clarity, concerning both purposes and roles and may be perfectly applied to our teacher teams or to our personal work.

     Then, to attain this efficient “clarity”, the Author suggests we must take the crucial decision of choosing what he calls “an essential intention”. It must be, at the same time, deeply meaningful and totally concrete in order to detain enough power to inspire and the minimum objectivity to be measurable.

    Greg Mckeown gives an example of an essential intention “Everybody in the UK will have internet access until 2012” described by  Martha Lane Cox when she had been invited to a  mission in this realm . He said that it enabled all her team work to distinguish clearly what each of them should do (and not do) in order to get there.

    How to formulate the “Essential Intention”?

   The Author gives the advice we may ask ourselves the two core questions that will configure all the decisions to come:

  • “If we could excel in just one thing, what would it be?”
  • And “How do we know that we have arrived there?”

     When the author made that discovery he was comparing different ways non-profit organizations declared their missions; he found that the really powerful inspiring declarations were, actually, the most concrete and measurable of all.

     This school year, our global theme “to be +” may seem a too vague and immeasurable “essential vision”, but – as the light refracts in its seven hidden colours in the rainbow – each month, we work only one value like “to welcome” in September, or “to be commited” in October, so that the times chosen favour the achievement of concrete, “ready –to-live” occasions, and so, “step by step”, we may be approaching the goal.


Celebrating Teacher’s Day

#EdublogsClub Prompt 38

Image: Kindness of the Author, Kate

     Two years ago, two dear colleagues, Kate and Teresa, teachers of Physical Education and of Natural Sciences, went, as volunteers, to spend a couple of months  in Mozambique, in a small farming school, in a place called Milevane, near to the Molucué river, on the base of the mountains of Gurué, in the province of Zambezia.

     Milevane can’t be found on google maps because it isn’t even a small village, but just a location, a vast extension of red land and striking green landscapes.

     Image: Kindness of the Author, Kate

     There, the “Farming Family School of Milevane” is run by six sisters of the same congregation of our school; they have built – some with their own hands – this farming and boarding school for 6th, 7th, 8th grades – by the demand of the population itself, about 25 years ago; the school property occupies about 50 hectares of red land and 100 more lent to be used for different plantations, mainly yukka and “mapira”.

    On the last trimester of last year, Kate went there all by herself, as a volunteer, earning no wages, travelling at her own expenses, with just a bag pack full of empty balls for the kids in the forest to play soccer, volley, basketball and to help with Portuguese and Math lessons; all through her adventure she has been supported by our students  campaigns to help her get all the balls and by their joyful messages during her stay.

Image: Kindness of the Author, Kate

    As two years ago, all the welcoming community of students and teachers had a great time with her, in the midst of a “never ending work” and all sort of challenging obstacles: the day begins at 5 in the morning, students sleep over thin mattresses on the floor, there is no hot water, they must walk about 1 km to school, everybody must clean and cook, by teams…

    This year, as a bridge had fallen, many teachers couldn’t come; the playground that had been bravely conquered to the lush vegetation was now recovered by the force of greenery and the balls were useless for a good time. White ants in the library had half eaten the study books brought last year, so that a fierce battle to get rid of them and save parts of the books took several weeks. And all was achieved in a cheerful mood and invincible hope.

Image: Kindness of the Author, Kate

     I chose to share this brave and true story to celebrate our day, because in some way, it represents something that touches the essence of the teacher’s mission: just walk away from comfort, participate in depth, enjoy heartily and love deeply.

“To Be +” : Welcoming The New School Year

Imagem: CAD

       Each new school year brings to our School – and to the people who gives it life and soul – a challenge, a dream and a surprise.

      What is at stake is always the effort to move further away towards a so vast horizon that we will never reach it, but from where blows the refreshing winds of an irresistible freedom.

      This time the challenge invites us to look more deeply into the foundation of our living relationships: values that structure our school community, the exquisite reticulum of friendships that she carefully nurtures, and also the inner and intimate quest of each of us.

    For each one of the ten months of the school year – and echoing to the rhythm of our Feasts accorded with the liturgical calendar – 10 Values are disposed as a blazon of honour, facing us with their sphinx-like gaze, their hidden force of questioning.

     “Are you alive? Are you someone who may be questioned?” – Thus Shakespeare expressed the transforming sense of a reflection that can’t be articulate without a vivid commitment both to oneself and to others.

      The program for the whole year lays upon that inventive and unavoidable contribution of each of us, by deepening the living links among the different groups that we constitute  due to the variety of our roles: students, employees, teachers, sisters.

     In such common space of human presences that share themselves, giving the best of their differences, the sense of a living community may  be nourished and strengthened:  a human space of freedom, where each one exists so that others may be more.