In a memorable TED talk, scientist and researcher, Ted Benson asks the question, What is the spark that each child carries within and how can we as educators, parents and other influencers of youth, encourage and fan the flames of that spark?
Benson believes that every child has a unique spark, a personal superpower, a special light to shine in the world but by the time children are adults only a fourth of them are following on the path of their spark. The other three fourths are lost and discouraged. Not only is this detrimental to the child, but the world has also lost the benefit of their gifts and super power. How can we turn this around?
Listen and Observe
Often as the adults in a child’s life, our focus is on doing: we teach, we measure results, we inform, we engage and we interact. What if before we focused on doing, we first focused on learning and understanding?
Spend time observing the children in your life and notice their unique gifts. Too often we focus on the negative. John is failing math. Suzy can’t run fast and George’s handwriting is illegible. Instead take notice of the abilities they do have. Ask the question: What makes you happiest? What gives you energy? According to Benson, sparks or superpowers fall into one of three categories: a skill or talent, a commitment or a quality or characteristic. Maybe your student is exceptional in math. Maybe they are dedicated to caring for animals. Maybe they have empathy for others.
Reflect and Encourage
Once you have identified a child’s spark or super power, take the opportunity to reflect it to them. Point out what a natural they are at making music or playing baseball. Recognize how they always think of others and encourage them to continue to be kind to the new kid who doesn’t have friends yet. Notice their commitment to the environment or rescuing dogs in the local shelter.
As you recognize their superpower, provide them with opportunities to expand their gift and share it with others. Maybe you help them create an after school club about caring for the environment or visit shelters to help with caring for rescue dogs. Perhaps you enroll them in dance or art classes. Maybe it is as simple at taking them to the library so they can nurture their love of reading and writing stories. Not every child needs to be the All Star athlete or valedictorian to shine. There are many ways that educators and parents can provide opportunities for children to shine their light in the world and ignite the fire within.
Want to watch Ted Benson’s Ted Talk?
Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning
Wyatt the Wonder Dog didn’t make it on the All Star baseball team and he feels like a loser. All his friends will be playing baseball this summer, while he and his pesky sister, Callie, visit grandparents at the beach. How Wyatt learns to handle disappointment and failure will be an important lesson for the future. Will he give up trying new things? Will he have the confidence to try again? Are there some things that take more practice and persistence to learn than others?
Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning (Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books) (Volume 5)