Brendtro, Larry K., Brokenleg, Martin, & Van Bockern, Steve. (2005). The Circle of Courage and positive psychology. Reclaiming children and youth: The Journal of Strength Based Interventions 14(3), 130-136.
Looking back over the students I work with, I can understand Dr. Brokenleg’s metaphor about students who are missing parts of The Circle of Courage. I began to think and wonder how many kids today live and survive in broken circles (Brendtro, Brokenleg, & Van Bockern 2005). The term broken circles resonated with me, I was able to take a step back and look into my students lives to maybe gain a better outlook into where they are coming from.
Many of the students I work with struggle with independence. Some are coddled and not given an opportunity to struggle and gain confidence in themselves, while others are given too much independence and are parentified. Some of our families, expect the eleven and twelve years old to pick up their younger siblings and to care for them as their guardian is working long into the evening. When I try to encourage independence with my students many feel helpless and unsure of themselves. I see it is a struggle for many of the students to trust themselves. I believe that is where they will gain motivation within themselves to persevere.
The sense of belonging is at the core of where I teach. My goal as a teacher has always been to create a safe environment, a sense of community and family, and place to feel safe to take risks to learn and understand. I see how the sense of belonging is getting lost amongst our schools. I see it in the length of our school hallways, adults and children passing each other without a look. I love to greet and speak to the students in the halls. When I see and speak their names, it is like a light bulb goes on for them. Our students need to feel seen, heard, appreciated, and cared for.
Mastery, this one I feel is a difficult to obtain in many schools. Educators need to let go of the expectations of grade levels, and focus on the strengths of each individual child. We need to focus on changing the mindsets of the students, to show them that the goal to any lesson isn’t the letter grade but it is the journey of understanding. More importantly, we need to change the mindset of the teachers, maybe we need to change how we teach teachers in order to teach our students.
Kindness and Generosity is the key to building a safe and caring classroom and school. Kind for kindness sake is something that I see in my classroom daily. I believe as a class community you help foster kindness and generosity. We spend a lot of time on gratitude in our room. I see how deep the lessons go for some of my students. They now look for the reaction in each others faces and they understand how it feels to give.
Programs like, Second Step and Kids in the Know build on The Circle of Courage. These programs help to guide educators into how we can foster, embrace, teach, live in The Circle of Courage. I believe the students and educators need to see and feel the importance of belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity. If we do not experience how will we understand what the students are missing, wanting, needing?
Reflection and refining keep coming into my head as I read this article. As educators we need to gain perspective around our students’ lives. Schools have the capacities to teach, recognize, believe in The Circle of Courage, and we have far too many students living within a broken circle. Students need; belonging where they feel safe and have a trusted adult in their lives. Mastery, to understand who they are and see their own strengths. Independence, trusting themselves and having choice. Generosity, a community and an opportunity to give back.