I have always loved fall and the Thanksgiving season as a time to spend with family and to practice gratitude. Today, as I write this, people are texting me photos of our CAST teachers planning big projects, and our CAST Teach students doing their “teacher takeovers” and I am extraordinarily grateful for the people in this network who make it magical, because they not only love young people, but they are committed to collaborating with each other, and leading from wherever they are.
On a personal note, my son, a senior in high school, is completing his college essays, and I am thinking about my father, who is 85 and experiencing some health challenges. My aunt, who I am close to, has just released a memoir on Amazon.
Related to that, I have been listening to a book “Being Mortal” on audio, which is about allowing people, as they age, to make choices about what is important to them as they near the end of their life. I am struck by how this approach to aging has so many parallels to how we at CAST Schools think about young people. One of our 4 core pillars is Youth Voice and Agency. Here is how the author of that book, Dr. Atul Gawande, describes it: “This is what it means to have autonomy – you may not control life’s circumstances, but getting to be the author of your life means getting to control what you do with them.”
We speak more frequently about Youth Voice, perhaps because the concept of giving young people a voice and choice in what they do makes intuitive sense. This word “agency” is a bit more academic, but I am reminded how it is the most powerful idea we hold about young people, that they should be the ones to write their own story. Or as Being Mortal author Dr. Atul Gawande puts it: “This is what it means to have autonomy – you may not control life’s circumstances, but getting to be the author of your life means getting to control what you do with them.”
We introduce this idea to all of our 9th graders with the play Three Years of Fear, co-written with local author Lorenzo Gomez III by our students. As we present that work, we emphasize the importance of claiming your story as an act of taking control of your life, but also a form of self love, acceptance, and healing. If you are the parent of a student in our schools, my biggest hope is that this message of writing your own story is constantly reinforced, beginning in Pre-K and continuing through high school and beyond.
I want this opportunity for our CAST students, just like I want it for my own children who are entering adulthood, and for my dad who is in his twilight. As we celebrate Thanksgiving, I am grateful to the entire CAST network of educators who work so hard to make this true for all young people.