Birds on a Wire: Connections and Interconnections

I often ask my students to make connections.  Connections between books we read.  Connections between things that happen at school and at home.  Connections between our math lessons and our social studies lessons.  And I find myself constantly making connections.

A couple of weeks ago our garden teacher introduced the word interconnected along with the word ecosystem.  His emphasis was that the garden is an ecosystem where the plants and animals…all the living things are interconnected.  When something happens to one, there is an impact on the others.

This morning in the New York Times Magazine I read an article about emotional intelligence and its impact on student learning and success.  While the article debated methods of providing instruction in emotional intelligence, it had me thinking about the microcosm of the classroom and other communities of practice in my life.  Our actions and attitudes impact those around us–whether we intend it or not.

When I arrived at the beach this afternoon for a short walk, I noticed a whole line of birds on a power wire.  I felt compelled to capture this image with my camera–even knowing that my iPhone is not the best tool for capturing images at a distance.  I walked as close as I could get and snapped the birds from a few different angles.

birds on a wire

In some ways these birds remind me of the idea of interconnections. Some fly into an open space on the wire, others fly off.  They are all sharing the same space, with the movement of one impacting all the birds in some way.

Like the birds on the wire, each student in the classroom has an impact on the others.  We are both interconnected and interdependent.  As a result, as teachers it is important to consider students’ emotional well-being and help them learn to handle conflict, stress, frustration, and disappointment.  These skills are not in our Common Core Standards and are not tested on annual standardized testing measures.  But they matter…to all of us.

I don’t have convincing data-based evidence that attention to students’ emotional needs will result in successful, well-adjusted adults–but I know it can’t hurt.  Students who learn to build consensus in group work can carry that skill beyond the classroom.  When conflicts can be resolved with words and compromise rather than fists and tears, we all benefit.  Students who have strategies and tools to manage difficult situations will be better equipped to deal with the obstacles that life deals them.

In the garden, in my classroom…and on the wire, interconnectedness means our actions and decisions impact those around us.  And in our increasingly connected global society, we are all birds on a wire.

What do you do to support your own emotional well-being?  How do you help build the interpersonal skills of the young people in your life?

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