The Power of Privilege – An excerpt from PIVOT

PIVOT: Empowering Students Today to Succeed in an Unpredictable Tomorrow

Excerpt from Chapter 7, "When Privilege & Poverty Unite"

The unveiling of Krishna Nehru Hutheesing House at Shanti Bhavan in India.

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Chapter seven begins with the section below, and then goes on to explain, in detail, the model of Shanti Bhavan Children's Project in India. This is then juxtaposed with the "free market" education system in Chile. Chilean public education was redesigned under the dictator, Pinochet, by the "Chicago Boys"—the Chilean econnomists who studied at the University of Chicago under American economists Milton Friedman and Arnold Harberger, and privitazed the Chilean economy following the military coup that removed the world's first democratically elected socialists president, Salvador Allende.

Soon after my 45th birthday, I gave the keynote address for a large education conference in California. I did not mention my family heritage or Greenwich-grown privilege, and in fact, I had never publicized either during my music and aviation careers. It just was not something I found relevant. On this occasion, my full biography was printed in the conference program, and during the “meet and greet” following my presentation, an elderly African-American woman approached me, put her hand on mine, and said, “Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King all came from privilege. Don’t be ashamed of your privilege; just use it for good.”

I realized, at that moment, privilege is indeed nothing to be ashamed of despite the general implication whenever racial or socioeconomic unrest erupts. Moreover, if schools motivate students who have this tool in their toolbox to use it for good, it is potentially the fastest way to defeat social injustice and change the world for the better. I believe the recognition of one’s own power is a stronger force of motivation than the awareness of one’s own guilt. Regularly engaging students in conversations that force them to acknowledge their resources and consider how they can use them for a benefit beyond themselves would be priceless.

Back in 1989, when I graduated high school, the Greenwich public school system ranked in the top twelve of the United States—I assume we were number eleven or twelve because otherwise, we would have celebrated being in the “Top Ten.” During my thirteen years of public education, I attended four different schools within the system. For most of my classmates and me, this elite foundation enables us to maintain our place in the privileged world. Growing up in such an environment comes with a degree of financial security, but it also establishes a high standard of achievement and promotes the pursuit of cultural capital.

Commonly defined as the value society places on non-financial assets that help one move up the social ladder, cultural capital includes quality education, resourceful social networks, and material possessions such as clothes. This, combined with a high value placed on ambition, greatly enhances the potential for financial success. However, happiness and fulfillment may be a different matter. What I failed to recognize in my own privilege as a student practically hit me over the head as an adult, and it was my personal growth during Marie’s illness and discontent with the lack of diversity within the aviation community that reconnected me with someone from my past.

The South Asian Journalism Association had invited me to speak on a panel of authors at Columbia University following the release of my book in 1999. At age 27, this was one of my first professional speaking engagements, and I was sharing the panel with some well-respected South Asian authors. I was clearly the “newbie”; however, since the topic was about being a South Asian published in the United States, I aimed to engage on an equal level since I fit that description.

While Dancin’ with Hanson did not broach the subject of racial identity, my reality as part of Hanson was as a brown person in a high profile all-white American band. At that time, I was also one of only two or three Indians in mainstream Western pop-music (Tony Kanal of the band No Doubt was another, and perhaps Norah Jones can also be pushed into this category). I was able to pivot my music industry experience into a book publishing-related conversation about ethnic and racial biases, and by doing so, garnered the respect of my fellow panelists and the audience.

An Indian gentleman introduced himself to me after my talk, mentioned he knew my father, and enthusiastically solicited me to come and visit his new school in India for the “poorest of the poor.” Abraham George is the founder of Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project, a residential (boarding) school on a mission to eradicate poverty. We exchanged contact information, but other than a systematic follow-up from me, I filed him and his school away as a friendly but relatively inconsequential encounter.

Even though initiative is part of my DNA, Abraham was more proactive than I. He added me to his email list, and for the next decade, sent pictures of each incoming kindergarten class. In 2010, he sent an additional picture: the first graduating class. While I enjoyed the cute 4-year-old faces year after year, I was now awakened to his incredible accomplishment and had to go to India to see it for myself...

(The chapter now dives into the details of India's poor and Shanti Bhavan's model.)

...While I am a Brahmin who grew up in the elite town of Greenwich, Connecticut, I never realized the scope of privilege until age 48. In October 2019, I found myself running from army tanks spraying tear gas on the streets of Santiago de Chile while protestors tossed Molotov cocktails at police. Social unrest was dismantling what had been revered as the most prosperous country in Latin America (following the collapse of Venezuela). Similar riots were simultaneously occurring in Hong Kong, Lebanon, Iraq, India, France, Bolivia, and other countries. For Chileans, they had not experienced this level of violence since the days of President Pinochet, thirty years earlier.

I had only wanted to be a curious observer of a peaceful protest, but everything unraveled so quickly. Without warning, I found myself engulfed in a stampede. My privilege yielded no benefit over those alongside me who were suffering from economic disparity, unaffordable healthcare and education, and few employment opportunities. We were equally blinded by tear gas, and we gagged together as we ran.

(The chapter now investigates how education has perpetuated disparity in Chile, and ways to reverse it.)

Here are the first three "suggested pivots" at the end of Chapter 7

  • Use privilege as a positive thing. Schools can motivate students who have privilege to use it for good. This is potentially the fastest way to defeat social injustices. Recognizing one’s own power is a stronger force of motivation than the awareness of one’s own guilt. Engage students in conversations that force them to identify their resources and also consider how they can use them for a benefit beyond themselves.
  • Teach the social contract. Students in public education need to recognize that their fellow citizens are investing in their future. They, too, have a responsibility to deliver a return on that investment.
  • Purposefully expose disparity. If more people with any degree of privilege obtain a greater level of social responsibility and direct resources toward reducing inequity, the potential for world peace would dramatically increase. Schools can and should foster critical thinking and classroom discussions around current and historical events that showcase such disparities.

 

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Ravi has finished his new book, PIVOT, due to be released before the end of the year.  Learn all about it here: https://raviunites.com/publications

Other News and Announcements

Ravi is currently available for both in-person and virtual online keynotes.  Click here to learn more about both of these (and see his video specifically on Virtual Keynotes).
https://raviunites.com/keynotes

A number of school districts have inquired about online convocations.  If you are interested in having Ravi deliver your 2020 or 2021 school convocation keynote, please send us a message through our contact page, https://raviunties.com/contact/.

Ravi Unites Schools Update

We had two Realtime Audio-Video Interactions scheduled with Shanti Bhavan in India: one with Bethel Elementary School in Virginia and another with Londonderry Middle School in New Hampshire.  All of these schools are currently closed due to COVID-19 and these interactions will be rescheduled for later in the year.

If you or your organization would like to learn more about becoming a strategic partner of Ravi Unites Schools, please send an email to connect@raviunitesschools.com.  Meanwhile, we will still be setting up interactions as we are able.

The Arts in Public Education – An excerpt from PIVOT

PIVOT: Empowering Students Today to Succeed in an Unpredictable Tomorrow

Excerpt from Chapter 3, "Life is Like a Game of Cards"

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Chapter three begins with Ravi's heritage and how his parents settled in the United States.  As his family unit began to crumble, he found his grounding in the arts, which is where this excerpt begins. 

While my parents were losing themselves in anger and sadness, I was finding myself in curiosity and creativity. I grew disenchanted with the corporate lifestyle my family represented and started to dream that one day, I would become a rock star. Pleased that I was showing an interest in something, my mother bought me an electric guitar for my eleventh birthday. I was not particularly interested in becoming a musician, but I enjoyed making lots of noise in my bedroom, pretending to be Angus Young of AC/DC on stage in New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Between the tensions at home and my new distraction with music, going to school became increasingly unrelatable and unenjoyable. I had friends, but being shorter and browner than average, not to mention having a name no one could easily pronounce, I felt like an outcast. I was bored with classes and probably harbored inner rage toward my family life, which made me increasingly insubordinate in school. Eventually, the principal grew tired of having me sent to his office, so he assigned me to the school psychologist.

This was my “happy place” in primary school—the more disturbed I claimed to be, the more “parole” I received. Playing card games and building battleship models with him was my preferred way to pass the school day. I cannot say he helped me sort out life, but the sessions certainly helped me tolerate it.

Unfortunately, dedicated school psychologists are rare today. School counselors (a title combining both guidance and psychological counseling) are being asked to perform both career/educational guidance and mental health evaluations—two separate specializations requiring different expertise.

As I discovered a few years ago while preparing to give the keynote for the All Ohio Counselors Conference (comprised of about two thousand school counselors and an equal number of clinical counselors), this combined job cannot serve students well enough given today’s high degree of social-emotional stress and a rapidly changing career landscape. Students who are facing challenges like I did are more likely to fall through the cracks.

My parents’ divorce was finalized three weeks before my 13th birthday, and that summer, my mother and I moved to a much smaller house fifteen minutes away in Old Greenwich. I had to attend a new school, make new friends, and embark on a new and frightening beginning. I quickly made a few new friends in middle school who shared a common interest in music, so we started a band. With this collaboration and camaraderie, my interest in music grew. By the time I reached high school, all I wanted to do was drop out and play music professionally.

I had a good group of school friends, but I was also often bullied by others for being a “headbanger” (I listened to AC/DC, Van Halen, Judas Priest, Kiss, etc.) and was called names like “ravioli” and “Gandhi”—yes, I was apparently already very international!  However, the bullying gave me grit, which helped prepare me for the world. While we should not encourage such behavior, we also should not shelter children from the “school of life.”

There were two reasons why I did not drop out of high school: Anne Modugno, who taught electronic music and music theory, and Carmel Signa, who was the jazz band director. I was lucky to have them in my life because drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol were often used and abused by my peers to get through the pressures of growing up in Greenwich. For me, music became my drug, and Anne and Carmel were my schoolyard dealers. They recognized, encouraged, and fostered my interest to the point where the escape the school psychologist provided for me in primary school was more than replaced by the music department in high school. I spent every free period and many after school hours with Anne and Carmel, and they always made time for me to learn as much as I could.

I reconnected with them thirty years later when I began giving keynotes for education conferences and reflecting on who influenced my life. They remembered me as a musically dedicated teenager and very much believed in me. Today, I can call them friends. It is remarkable how teacher-student relationships can pivot into adult friendships, and what gives me great satisfaction is that I not only realized how essential they were to my happiness and success, but I have personally been able to thank them. The music department is why I am not a high school dropout.

Parents should encourage their children to express gratitude toward teachers. Doing so teaches students to recognize the value of their education. Even if many years have passed, teachers will still appreciate acknowledgment from their students, especially since they will also then be able to witness the results. Since I taught music for many years, I know how much it means to witness the success of a student and be acknowledged for contributing to it. Teachers generally do not see the results of their hard work because the return on education is rarely evident before ten years have passed.

The chapter continues, demonstrating the importance of outside adult influences who open doors and provide insights and education that goes far beyond the classroom.  Each chatper also concludes with "suggested pivots."  Here are a few that are listed at the end of this chapter:

 

Suggested Pivots from Chapter 3

  • Encourage gratitude. Parents should encourage children to express gratitude toward teachers, even if many years have since passed. This is not only encouraging to teachers, but also teaches students to recognize the value of their education.
  • Provide many electives. Schools must provide something for everyone. There must be at least one subject that makes each student want to come to school every day.
  • Emphasize arts: STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) is critical because there is nothing else that teaches empathy, and there is nothing more important than empathy to create a peaceful world. Also consider STREAM (recess).
  • Create a family/school partnership. Families and schools must coordinate and collaborate in both ideology and schedules to best educate the “whole child.” Parents must not view school as a babysitter, and schools must not view family time as an opportunity to impose homework.
  • Promote efficiency over perfect. Perfectionism is a form of procrastination. Teach children to be efficient by setting the example in our own activities and taking every opportunity to show them the rewards of good time management.
  • Focus on less, not more. Today’s students have so much in terms of tools and devices that problem-solving and creativity are stifled. Educators can stimulate creativity by occasionally restricting the tools.
  • Use boredom as a catalyst for creativity. Allow kids to experience boredom and hardship to discover their passions early. Passion is infectious, and parents, teachers, and other adult influences are likely to support and invest in a child’s passion.
  • Teach how to discover opportunities. We only uncover opportunities if we are curious and confident enough to engage in conversations that may have no clear benefit. Curiosity and communication are critical skills. Then, one must feel prepared to seize an opportunity which is where talent and critical thinking come into the equation. Either one has the ability or concludes that one can rise to the occasion.

Preorder your autographed copy now, get it first, and save 20%!  Click here

Sign Up to Receive Monthly Newsletter & Blog

* indicates required

Ravi has finished his new book, PIVOT, due to be released before the end of the year.  Learn all about it here: https://raviunites.com/publications

Other News and Announcements

Ravi is currently available for both in-person and virtual online keynotes.  Click here to learn more about both of these (and see his video specifically on Virtual Keynotes).
https://raviunites.com/keynotes

A number of school districts have inquired about online convocations.  If you are interested in having Ravi deliver your 2020 or 2021 school convocation keynote, please send us a message through our contact page, https://raviunties.com/contact/.

Ravi Unites Schools Update

We had two Realtime Audio-Video Interactions scheduled with Shanti Bhavan in India: one with Bethel Elementary School in Virginia and another with Londonderry Middle School in New Hampshire.  All of these schools are currently closed due to COVID-19 and these interactions will be rescheduled for later in the year.

If you or your organization would like to learn more about becoming a strategic partner of Ravi Unites Schools, please send an email to connect@raviunitesschools.com.  Meanwhile, we will still be setting up interactions as we are able.

Educating for Peace – An excerpt from PIVOT

PIVOT: Empowering Students Today to Succeed in an Unpredictable Tomorrow

Excerpt from Chapter 2, "World Peace is Possible ... If We Make it Profitable"

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Chapter two begins in Iraq with Ravi working with four students from Mosul just released by ISIS days before. He then goes to teach in Beirut, Lebanon, and during a dangerous excursion to Baalbek on the border of Syria, he encounters Hezbollah while trying to avoid ISIS, which is where the excerpt below begins.

As we crossed from the Christian to the Muslim side of the Beqaa Valley, we were stopped by an armed soldier standing on the side of the street. He spoke briefly to my driver in Arabic and then got into the front seat of our car. No one acknowledged me in the back, but I was quickly becoming very aware of the Mother Mary pendant hanging from the rearview mirror as we drove away. These two would not even agree on the same God! My heart pounded rapidly.

They spoke animatedly in Arabic, and I wondered what the conversation was about. Did they realize I was an American? Were they negotiating a deal for my being taken as a hostage? Twenty minutes later, we pulled over to a little hut on the side of the street, and the soldier got out. He tapped on my window. I reluctantly rolled it down and attempted to crack an innocent and friendly smile when he asked, “Café?”

While I was trying to determine the best answer, another man approached the car, waving what appeared to be the Hezbollah flag. It turned out to be a Hezbollah T-shirt, which he was hoping to sell me. Who knew these “terrorists” were so enterprising? I gently shook my head, keeping my mouth shut to hide my American accent. By doing so, I politely declined the coffee and T-shirt (which would have been a fantastic souvenir except for the stress of trying to pass it through US customs!), so my driver restarted the car, and the two of us resumed the journey. Sensing my great relief, he made eye contact with me in his rearview mirror and said,  “Don’t worry. He is Muslim, and I am a Christian. But first, we are both Lebanese.”

In retrospect, I believe the solider was just getting a ride from one checkpoint to the next, but this simple yet profound statement of unity encapsulated many life lessons. My own implicit bias, to begin with, had me wondering if I was the subject of a negotiation. Had I been more open-minded, I might have saved my heart from skipping a few beats. Fear can cause irrational behavior, and when the fear is unjustified (as is often the case in racial and cultural conflicts), the consequences can be unnecessarily harmful.

However, the more global lesson is that if such drastic differences can be overcome between Muslims and Christians, why can’t Democrats and Republicans remember we are all first Americans? Can we teach this to Hindus and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians, Iraqis and Kurds, Russians and Ukrainians, Straight and Gay, and Black and White? Yes, we can. Cultural competence can and must be taught, and this can be done by first exploring commonalities and then provoking curiosity and civil conversation about our differences.

We soon arrived in Baalbek, and I felt as if I had stepped into a time machine. This city of massive ruins was nothing short of awesome, yet it was also eerie and uncomfortable because no one else was there. Due to the warnings about ISIS and Hezbollah, Baalbek had pretty much become a ghost town. After two hours of walking and climbing through sweltering heat, I sat alone for almost an hour in the ancient and majestic Temple of Bacchus. Its beauty, size, history, and sheer peacefulness mesmerized me, though I was intellectually aware that I was also in one of the most dangerous parts of the world.

While contemplating the juxtaposition of these two realities, my serenity was interrupted by modern technology—breaking news buzzing on my cell phone. Violence had erupted, but it was domestic terrorism on the other side of the world. Ironically, it was happening in my hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, USA.

On August 12, 2017, white supremacists from Ohio traveled to Charlottesville to protest the removal of Confederate statues. One of General Robert E. Lee sits in our city’s center. The protestors were also gathering to unify the American white nationalist movement when one of them drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. A 32-year-old woman was killed, and two responding police officers also perished in a helicopter crash.

Best known for being the home of three American presidents (Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe), along with Jefferson’s University of Virginia, “Charlottesville” has now become a metaphor for white supremacy and racial tension. How ironic that I was having one of the most peaceful days of my life in what is thought to be the most radicalized part of the world when radicalism was unfolding on my doorstep at home.

I returned to Charlottesville from the Middle East with three strong beliefs:

  • Cultural competence is the most important skill for the future
  • Education is the solution to all the world’s problems
  • World peace is possible

As idealistic as “educating for peace” sounds, it is now pragmatic. I believe we will witness the unprecedented simultaneous rise of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and unemployment as technology replaces human workers, along with some type of Universal Basic Income (perhaps in the form of a zero or negative tax rate) to keep the consumer-driven economy afloat. If anticipated by education, the significant amount of human capital released from...

The chapter continues, explaining how technology will redefine society, exploring ways to teach peace, as well as how we can make peace profitable.

Preorder your autographed copy now, get it first, and save 20%!  Click here

Sign Up to Receive Monthly Newsletter & Blog

* indicates required

Ravi has finished his new book, PIVOT, due to be released before the end of the year.  Learn all about it here: https://raviunites.com/publications

Other News and Announcements

Ravi is currently available for both in-person and virtual online keynotes.  Click here to learn more about both of these (and see his video specifically on Virtual Keynotes).
https://raviunites.com/keynotes

A number of school districts have inquired about online convocations.  If you are interested in having Ravi deliver your 2020 or 2021 school convocation keynote, please send us a message through our contact page, https://raviunties.com/contact/.

Ravi Unites Schools Update

We had two Realtime Audio-Video Interactions scheduled with Shanti Bhavan in India: one with Bethel Elementary School in Virginia and another with Londonderry Middle School in New Hampshire.  All of these schools are currently closed due to COVID-19 and these interactions will be rescheduled for later in the year.

If you or your organization would like to learn more about becoming a strategic partner of Ravi Unites Schools, please send an email to connect@raviunitesschools.com.  Meanwhile, we will still be setting up interactions as we are able.

The Unseen Benefits of Education at Home

The Unseen Benefits of Education at Home

the unseen benefits of education at home

While we can lament the lack of "normality" of formal education during this COVID-19 pandemic, we might also be missing and overlooking some of the unseen benefits of education that are happening with learning at home. This unique setting provides an opportunity for parents to enhance their children's education at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Four Key Educational Opportunities

Balancing Chores with Schoolwork - A Lesson in Time Management

The easy excuse for most kids when it comes to family chores can be "no time, busy with school." However, this is the time to teach that having "no time" is a choice, and time management is a skill.  Domestic tasks like making beds and emptying the dishwasher are great opportunities to teach children time management skills while balancing these chores with schoolwork.

Some psychologists say that children are so stressed right now because of COVID (this article by Reuters says psychologists believe the pandemic to be traumatic to children), so now is not the time to add more to their plate.  I fear that following such advice may be a missed opportunity in the sense that it is not adding more to their plate, but teaching them how to manage their plate.  Balancing schoolwork with chores and other responsibilities is the perfect opportunity for children to learn the critical life skill of time management. One needs to be flexible, but one need not be an enabler of laziness and procrastination.

Family as a Team

It is important to recognize that kids are under greater stress and suffering from a lack of social interaction.  Parents can teach them that they are also not the only ones enduring stress.  Parents are also suffering, so it takes a team, and a family needs to work as a team.

One way to teach children this given that kids are not seeing their friends often, is by asking them, "What if your friend was scared of getting COVID?  What would you tell him or her?"  This is a way to use the current situation to generate and teach empathy by encouraging children to consider scenarios outside of their own feelings and activities.

The family must also utilize interpersonal communication skills to function and exist peacefully in the home while under stay-at-home orders.  Tight spaces and long hours under one roof can cause anxiety and disruption unless conflicts are met head-on and time is taken to learn to resolve these conflicts in a healthy way.

Family engagement in education has increased during this time and presents a great opportunity for students to also connect with family culture.  An article by Axios.com,  Coronavirus Reshapes American Families says, "Enduring hardships together builds stronger connections." The article goes on to say that several families surveyed claim the COVID-19 pandemic made them closer than ever. One family said, "We spend much less time on electronics and more time together.  I think it's a product of schooling the kids from home as well as home becoming the new all-in-one."

Families working together as a team has also given children a new creative edge.  From finding quiet space for study and Zoom meetings to finding ways to exercise at home and perhaps even stand in as a barber or nail technician, the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced creativity in children while at home.

Learning about Parents' Work Life and "The Real World"

Students are also learning vicariously through watching and experiencing what parents are doing and how they handle life and work.  In many cases, students might not have intimately known what a parent really does during the day, but now they listen in on team meetings, client problem-solving, as well as see parents juggle laundry, grocery ordering, and meal preparation.  

This article from the Washington Post addresses the impact parent's work-from-home experience during COVID-19 has had on children:  'Seeing a parent's professional identity — skillfully leading a Zoom meeting, getting treated respectfully by co-workers and being important in the corporate context — can have a profound impact. 'Children are getting glimpses into [their parents'] professional lives right now in a way that we've never seen before, and there's a huge opportunity here for learning, sharing, growth and connectedness — both for kids and for parents,' said Neha Chaudhary, psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, and co-founder of Brainstorm, the Stanford Lab for Mental Health Innovation.'

Cross-Generational Actions Increase

Parents should not barricade themselves in a home office all day, as the world has grown accustomed to the "new normal" of children interrupting the Zoom meeting…this is not only ok and acceptable, but it helps redefine corporate culture and cross-generational dialogue.  Kids see what mom and dad do and the boss sees what challenges the employee has at home.

It's a form of cultural competence, but there are also cross-generational interactions that tend not to happen as much in schoolIn school, kids spend most of the time with people their own age.  At home, they are spending most of their physical time with people of different ages.  There are great learning opportunities within this.  

In this article titled Children Interrupting Zoom Meetings Could Be the Reboot Corporate Culture Needed by the Guardian, they ask, "What if it took a virus to reboot our workplace cultures and humanize them?  To give our leaders and managers confidence that people can be trusted to deliver without having to put on suits and judged on what time they leave the office?  One of the things virtual meetings do is put us all in each other's homes. We try to look professional from the waist up. But when that two-year-old bursts in the boundaries between the workplace and the domestic space collapse."

RELATED POST: Has Coronavirus infected equity in education? Millennials may be the vaccine!

 

In Conclusion

While not being at school has limited some aspects of formal education, the bigger opportunity for the "school of life" has emerged during this time.  With challenges, changes, and limitations, there is the opportunity to grow in compassion, learn cross-generational skills, and develop greater capacity for empathy. Ultimately, might we look back and say that the chances of a student becoming a lifelong learner who adds value to the world was actually enhanced through this time?

Other News and Announcements

Ravi is currently available for both in-person and virtual online keynotes.  Click here to learn more about both of these (and see his video specifically on Virtual Keynotes).

https://raviunites.com/keynotes

Ravi is putting the finishing touches on his new book, PIVOT, due to be released before the end of the year.  Learn all about it here: https://raviunites.com/publications

A number of school districts have inquired about online convocations.  If you are interested in having Ravi deliver your 2020 or 2021 school convocation keynote, please send us a message through our contact page, https://raviunties.com/contact/.

Ravi Unites Schools Update

We had two Realtime Audio-Video Interactions scheduled with Shanti Bhavan in India: one with Bethel Elementary School in Virginia and another with Londonderry Middle School in New Hampshire.  All of these schools are currently closed due to COVID-19 and these interactions will be rescheduled for later in the year.

If you or your organization would like to learn more about becoming a strategic partner of Ravi Unites Schools, please send an email to connect@raviunitesschools.com.  Meanwhile, we will still be setting up interactions as we are able.

How to Pivot Privilege into Racial Justice

How to Pivot Privilege into Racial Justice

How to Pivot Privilege into Racial Justice

Mainstream media broadcasts, social media posts, and many voices advocating for racial equality often point to white privilege as being complicit in social injustice, especially racism.  In many cases, white privilege is spoken of only in the negative.  However, people are less likely to create real change from feelings of guilt or shame than they are from a place of empowerment.  Privilege does not have to be a bad thing when it is used to empower people to educate themselves and others.  In fact, I think it needs to be seen as a potential power for good.

Pivoting from Guilt and Shame to Bold and Empowered

In the fight against racism, many of those with privilege (be it white or any other form of privilege) are made to feel guilty for having it. This can lead to defensiveness in the form of backlash, or silence and complacency which is equally negative in the fight for social justice.  They may feel powerless and perhaps even disincentivized to say or do anything to make positive change. When one operates from a place of guilt, the potential for embarrassment may weigh more than the risk of failing from a place of power.

According to this article on prospect.org, “Dismantling structural racism does require white people to become more than a little uncomfortable as they both acknowledge and relinquish their power in order to achieve racial progress. But that enlightenment needs to lead to action, not just deeper reflection. Otherwise, it becomes part of the problem.”

I believe that operating from guilt is often analogous to treating an infection with an antibiotic: if you take only enough to make the symptoms subside, the infection will likely come back even stronger. The Blackout Tuesday movement could possibly be viewed as an example of operating out of guilt or shame.  Blackout Tuesday took place June 2nd, 2020 in which participants posted a black box on their social accounts with the hashtag #BlackoutTuesday.  A scroll through your social feeds on this day showcased a sea of black boxes and a quick search of the hashtag #BlackoutTuesday returns more of the same.  But does this show of solidarity do anything to help rectify racial injustice in America? According to Forbes, it does not:

“Before you participate in Blackout Tuesday, keep this in mind: It’s not working.  The images and hashtags are causing communication issues between peaceful protesters and activists, according to social media experts.  A recent report noted how the disruption could actually cause more harm than good.”

The article goes on to say, “The real answer is to inform and educate-to keep the channels open wide and sound the alarms as clearly as possible.”

As I tell my audiences, privilege is a tool in the toolbox of a percentage of any population.  Rather than instill guilt and shame, why not motivate and mobilize those with this tool to use it for good--to pivot privilege into social responsibility? It is not enough to post a black box with the appropriate hashtag, nor is it enough to march in protest. We must pivot our privilege and stand up for anti-racism which entails taking real actions and educating ourselves and others on social injustice. I believe that we should all begin with some self introspection including implicit bias training.

Anti-racism activist Peggy McIntosh famously wrote White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack in 1988, defining the “invisible” privileges of White America.  How can we use this privilege and its associated power in the good fight of racial inequality?

As the Forbes article mentioned, education is key.

Education as Centerpiece of Potential

The best place to foster this is in public schools, as there is no stronger force than education to defeat social injustice and solve the world’s most significant problems.

In this article published by educationpost.org titled, “Here’s What I Wish White Teachers Knew When Teaching My Black Children,” writer and educator Afrika Afeni Mills addresses the gaps in text books and classroom conversations regarding Black history.

She says, “In high school, college and your teacher prep program, you no doubt were taught something about race in America, but it is highly unlikely that you learned the truth about the Black experience. It is likely, for instance, that you’ve been taught little to nothing about the pre-enslavement contributions of Black people to the world, the horrors and impact of centuries of enslavement, post ‘Emancipation’ Jim Crow laws and practices and the many ongoing racially based systemic injustices such as mass incarceration, housing discrimination, wealth disparities and lack of equal access to quality education, health care and more.”

Public schools would serve their students well to incorporate learning materials that provide a full spectrum education on Black history and the Black experience.  Education is the key to the social injustice crisis.

The Use of Privilege by Icons of Social Justice

I often tell my audiences, “True leadership is elevating those below you to rise above you.” This is true now as much as it ever has been, but history gives us some great examples. 

Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi’s prophecy of peace and non-violence continues to impact our world today, over 150 years after his birth.  According to this article by the Huffington Post, “Above all, Mahatma believed in the power of dialogue.”

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”  According to this article by Global Citizen, “Not only did Mandela liberate an entire country from the grips of the racist apartheid system, but he also continued the fight for the world’s most vulnerable people until the very end of his life.”

Mother Theresa
In 1946, Mother Theresa received the call on her life to take to the slums of Calcutta India to tend to the sick and poor.  She is often referred to as “the nun who became a saint,” as she was canonized as Saint Theresa.  She founded the Missionaries of Charity, an organization devoted to her cause of tending the sick and poor around the world.

Martin Luther King Jr.
Known for leading the civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. advanced the movement through non-violence and civil disobedience, inspired by the non-violent actions of Mahatma Gandhi.  This article by the Washington Post discusses the similarities between protest tactics used after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the recent death of George Floyd and what has-and hasn’t-changed in that 52-year timespan.

The Need for Cultural Competency

RELATED POST: Has Coronavirus infected equity in education? Millennials may be the vaccine!

In this previous post, I explain how educators can teach cultural competency.  Educators can help those with privilege understand it and encourage them to think about how they can use it for the good of social justice. The arts and music can be a key way of building bridges between cultures.  In my article The Power of the Arts in School to Foster Peace, I explain how the arts can also be instrumental in helping students find unity and cultivating empathy for other cultures.

As the fight for social justice wages forth, let us actualize the power of our privilege and use that power to educate ourselves and our children to bring forth a better tomorrow.

 

Ravi Unites Schools Update

We had two Realtime Audio-Video Interactions scheduled with Shanti Bhavan in India: one with Bethel Elementary School in Virginia and another with Londonderry Middle School in New Hampshire.  All of these schools are currently closed due to COVID-19 and these interactions will be rescheduled for later in the year.

If you or your organization would like to learn more about becoming a strategic partner of Ravi Unites Schools, please send an email to connect@raviunitesschools.com.  Meanwhile, we will still be setting up interactions as we are able.

Other News and Announcements

Be sure to check out Ravi's daily "Minute to Pivot" video series. You can subscribe to it on his YouTube channel by clicking here, or visit any one of his social media pages @RaviUnites.

Ravi recently gave a keynote to the Virginia ASCD association at their annual conference.  It was very well received and he followed that up with a school convocation at Gloucester Virginia public schools.

A number of school districts have inquired about online convocations.  If you are interested in having Ravi deliver your 2020 or 2021 school convocation keynote, please send us a message through our contact page, https://raviunties.com/contact/.

Six Challenges for Schools Once Students Return

Six Challenges for Schools Once Students Return

Will you be ready this fall when students return (hopefully)?  Schools have been in crisis mode for the past 6-8 weeks due to COVID-19 Coronavirus and consequential closings.  While educators have been focused on transitioning to online learning to save the semester, it may be time to accept that the gaps probably cannot be narrowed enough while students are still learning from home.  Pivoting the focus from this school year to next might be the best chance to level the field.  

There are many challenges that schools will have to overcome, but I’d like to focus on six... Each will be critical and solutions must be ready to implement--the virus gave educators no time to pivot, but there is now time to plan for recovery.  

1. Supporting Educational Staff 

In this USA Today article, a picture of what life in the classroom will look like when schools reopen comes into focus.  It includes many things that you might imagine such as hand-washing, routine sanitizing of surfaces, social distancing, and more. 

The ramifications of social distancing, however, extend beyond simply greater distance and spacing in the classroom (not to mention cafeterias and school buses).  This could mean smaller class sizes but with the same number of students to educate.  Due to this, schools will need more teachers and staff in order to be able to teach smaller groups of students together.  

The article quotes Jake Bryant, a former teacher and associate partner at the global consultancy firm McKinsey & Company.  He says, “I don’t believe reopening will be a linear path to normalcy.”  McKinsey & Company released a report with ideas for schools to consider as they plan to reopen:

“U.S. schools could consider bringing back vulnerable students first for more one-on-one help, or scheduling more days of in-person instruction for them.  Students with disabilities, or those whose families rely on schools for food or other assistance, could attend in-person three days a week, while more highly resourced students with access to technology at home could attend two days a week.”  

Bryant goes on to say schools will have to get better at remote learning, whether because of another virus outbreak, a need to quarantine infected students, or because school days need to be split up to create more space in the classrooms. 

All of this means that administrators will need to prepare their staff more than ever by investing in their schools’ team to help prepare, supporting them throughout, and empowering them in the post-Coronavirus classroom.  This means an investment in new teacher orientation, continuing education, technology education and practice, as well as in self-care and student care with the newly added stresses of health safety. All these together will demand new and greater skills from the education team and schools must prepare to resource and support their staff in this new environment.  Moreover, it might have to occur as teacher turnover rises and budgets fall.

2. Remedial Education 

In an effort to continue delivering education to students at home while “sheltering in place,” one unintended consequence has been the obvious gap widening into a chasm between socioeconomic sectors of the student body.  

In essence, technology has widened the learning gap due to issues including access to high-speed internet and in some cases a lack of computers and tech devices, or technical inexperience of parents and students at home (not to mention many teachers who are educating online for the first time).  This has resulted in a segment of students who will have failed to progress at the same rate as their peers.   

In this article by Brookings Institution, they note that, “The worst kind of learning is to sit passively and listen, and this may be the form that most students will receive during school closures.  It serves no one well, especially those who are the furthest behind.”  A student struggling with the material being taught and then also struggling with eLearning methods has an additional barrier that ultimately results in less mastery of material while others move forward.

School leaders must plan for new levels of remedial education that will be needed.  Early assessments will be important to identify where to place students.  

3. Technology Buy-in

While the technology has not only been challenging for parents in terms of helping children access the necessary materials and content, students have also had different experiences with technology during these months at home.  For example, time spent on games like Fortnite increased (CNET.com) and if students had less than invigorating online classroom experiences, there can be a disinterest and lack of buy-in for school technology from students.  It’s difficult for elearning to compete with games like Fortnite, but the reality is it does.

 

RELATED POST: Can Time Spent Playing Online Games Help Teens Develop Cultural Competency?

 

In a post-Coronavirus world, the partnership between parents and teachers will need to increase, making family engagement a key task and opportunity for administrators and educators to ensure that elearning is respected.

Teachers may also need to “up their game” with the digital side of teaching and find helpful technology that deeply engages students and stimulates their interest much like games do.

But make no mistake, increased technology should not result in decreased confidence-building human interaction, such as simple positive reinforcement. Teachers who voluntarily reinforce positive learning with their students will get greater results when the work is turned in digitally.

4. Remediation for ESL Students

Along with what was already mentioned in point #2 above, remediation for ESL students (English as a Second Language) is an important and unique item to address within schools.  This may also prove to be especially challenging.  

A large percentage of K-12 students in the US do not speak English at home and now having lacked daily exposure to classes and friends in an English context, they may be especially far behind. 

This article by ednc.org interviews Joan Lachance, associate professor of education and program director for UNC Charlotte’s Teaching English as a Second Language Programs.  She says, “From a language development perspective and even from a brain development perspective, we know that language development is a social construct and kids need to sit with each other and have lots and lots of peer interaction.”

The article also mentions the reliance ESL students have on body language in the classroom to communicate with their teacher and other students, something non-transmissible over the internet.

This gap means that these students will need special attention and instruction with a focus on English language learning (or relearning) and potentially the need to repeat material that was assigned during the stay-at-home period in order to ensure mastery of it.

While some ESL students need to go back and focus on English basics and the material that was taught previously, other students have moved on.  This will require special attention by school staff and a plan to tackle this important issue of remediation for ESL students.

5. Data Gap

The lack of data from test results due to the cancelling of assessments makes the task of teachers and administrators even harder in the new school year.  With the areas noted above having an impact on learning that was accomplished, a new plan for testing and retesting may need to happen to monitor progress. 

In fact, our whole approach to placement in a particular grade level and personalized education in general may have shifted dramatically, or will need to.

This article by the National Conference of State Legislatures states several schools have altered their admissions policies, making the ACT and SAT optional for college admission in lieu of cancelled testing. While this may be helpful in some cases for students wanting to enroll in college, at the K-12 level the data gap is a significant concern as teachers relied on this to assess student readiness to move on to other material and to ensure a baseline mastery of core material.  Without assessment data, will the subjective assessment of teachers be accurate enough to ensure students are ready to proceed?  Or, will more and more frequent testing need to be done to evaluate progress and fill the data gap? 

How a school system decides to work at this data gap issue needs to be determined soon so that a plan can begin to be put in place this summer prior to the start of the new school year.

6. Experiential Learning Pivot

As I wrote about in last month’s blog post, the primary pivot schools will need to make is to create experiential learning opportunities to ensure the most complete education and best prepare students for today’s work environment.  Much of this must happen through arts programs because the arts directly impacts the social-emotional well-being of every child.  This cannot be understated, and even though I am a strong music education advocate, we should revisit the important elements of home economics including the culinary arts.  For so many reasons (five, to be exact...read linked-post below), the culinary arts contributes to social skills, social-emotional learning, cultural competence, and so much more.

RELATED POST: Increasing Cultural Competency through Multi-sensory Culinary Experiences

 

Knowledge delivery can and should continue to have significant digital elements to it even once students are all back in school, but in a hybrid context that also involves creating experiences in and through school (including extra-curricular) to deepen that knowledge.  There must be a focus on equity in terms of access to technology, and if this cannot be guaranteed in the home, it has to be primarily offered in the classroom.

The big question is, how will educators best implement experiential and collaborative learning if we are still social distancing?  Technology can have a positive role in that too, as social media has proven. 

A Final Note

We must focus on four of the many c’s discussed in education: curiosity, communication, compassion, and critical thinking in new and creative ways.  The challenge for schools will be to not overlook these key items while dealing with the front-burner issues that the COVID-19 pandemic created.

Click below for a specialty curated checklist for teachers, administrators, and parents (extrapolating the most important parts of this post on how to prepare for back to school in a post covid world. 

 

Ravi Unites Schools Update

We had two Realtime Audio-Video Interactions scheduled with Shanti Bhavan in India: one with Bethel Elementary School in Virginia and another with Londonderry Middle School in New Hampshire.  All of these schools are currently closed due to COVID-19 and these interactions will be rescheduled for later in the year.

If you or your organization would like to learn more about becoming a strategic partner of Ravi Unites Schools, please send an email to connect@raviunitesschools.com.  Meanwhile, we will still be setting up interactions as we are able.

Other News and Announcements

Be sure to check out Ravi's daily "Minute to Pivot" video series. You can subscribe to it on his YouTube channel by clicking here, or visit any one of his social media pages @RaviUnites.

Ravi recently gave a keynote to the Virginia ASCD association at their annual conference.  It was very well received and he followed that up with a school convocation at Gloucester Virginia public schools.

A number of school districts have inquired about online convocations.  If you are interested in having Ravi deliver your 2020 or 2021 school convocation keynote, please send us a message through our contact page, https://raviunties.com/contact/.

Has Coronavirus Infected Equity in Education? Millennials May Be the Vaccine?

Has Coronavirus Infected Equity in Education? Millennials May Be the Vaccine?

equity in education

The need to move education online without notice due to COVID-19 has made the distance between the haves and have nots more apparent.  Online access, network neutrality, and the ability to natively navigate the Internet are increasing socioeconomic disparity when it could, and ought to, be doing the exact opposite. 

As we look ahead to transitioning back into classrooms, a hybrid system of education incorporating digital and experiential learning is more critical than ever--not to mention that for many, “back to school” also means being able to have nutritious meals daily.  

I believe that the nation that does the above most successfully will emerge as a global superpower. Perhaps not immediately, but almost certainly once today’s students become tomorrow’s leaders. 

Incoming teachers and administrators are millennials who today excel over previous generations in two critical areas: integration of technology and advocacy for social justice.  Could they be the key to designing a truly 21st century education system with equity in education?

Millennials’ Transparency (and Dependency) with Technology

According to this article by Forbes, technology empowers millennials to change the world. The workforce is transforming fast and so are the needs of today’s high-potential employees. In this era of quickly changing technology, it is important to understand how technology has become an integral part of millennials’ goals to impact and change the world.”

While millennials are often depicted as lazy and non-committal, a Gallup poll mentioned in this Forbes article reveals that 87 percent value personal and professional growth, and they believe technology helps them achieve that.  The article goes on to say that millennials who feel their company offers an outlet to achieve personal and professional growth tend to remain loyal to their employer. 

It also notes that millennials crave feedback and communication and therefore request tech tools like instant messaging and group chat platforms from their employers.  This is another way they believe technology helps them shine in their careers. 

Their Proclivity for Social Justice

A recent article by Fast Company states, “Millennials are also optimistic, with 86% believing their actions can impact the world.” Platforms such as Facebook, Change.org, and Crowdfunding.com make it easy for millennials to feel like they can ignite change. Simple, everyday habits such as sharing viral Facebook posts, voting, signing online petitions, and using their dollars to support socially-conscious brands all add up to significant change across the global landscape over time. 

In the article, Fast Company mentions that one of the areas of concern most affecting millennials and inspiring them to invoke change is educational access.   This makes them a likely party to the solution of closing the digital gap in the educational space. 

The Need for Education to be a Hybrid System

According to the World Economic Forum, the shutdown of schools caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way students are educated around the globe, for better or worse. The article goes on to say that while the shutdown of schools has been “a catalyst for educational systems worldwide to search for innovative solutions in a relatively short period of time,” it will also widen the digital divide and equality gap.   

As we look forward into the future of education, traditional in-person lectures in the classroom will be complemented by digital learning tools such as live broadcasts and virtual reality experiences, allowing learning to be an “anytime anywhere” experience. 

But with digital innovations improving the educational system, what is to become of those left behind?  According to The World Economic Forum, 60% of the globe’s population is offline.  “Moreover, the less affluent and digitally savvy individual families are, the further their students are left behind. When classes transition online, these children lose out because of the cost of digital devices and data plans. “

Capacity must be built into our educational systems in order to shrink the digital gap.  If there’s anything we can learn about education during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is this.  The World Economic Forum article goes on to say, "Unless access costs decrease and quality of access increase in all countries, the gap in education quality, and thus socioeconomic equality will be further exacerbated. The digital divide could become more extreme if educational access is dictated by access to the latest technologies."

Final Note

With millennials attuned to technology and current social issues, will they be the "vaccine" needed to create a hybrid format in the wake of the COVID-19 education system "infection?"  They have the natural inclination for technology, the belief in their capacity to make a difference, and a leaning toward helping others. With that, will we let them invoke change to make digital learning more accessible to the less fortunate so that all students have the advantage of a hybrid education? Perhaps it is time to give them more space and room to lead.

We may find out sooner than later.

Let Me Help You Pivot Now

As a futurist who specializes in education, I can help you and your organization make the transition.  I have two keynotes that specifically address the above issues, each with a different emphasis but can also be combined: 

  • Reimagining Education to Create the Future We Need
  • Millennial Mojo, Building Tomorrow with Today’s Most Influential Generation.

Please learn more about my Keynotes by clicking below and let’s get the conversations started...your students deserve it!

 

Ravi Unites Schools Update

We had two Realtime Audio-Video Interactions scheduled with Shanti Bhavan in India: one with Bethel Elementary School in Virginia and another with Londonderry Middle School in New Hampshire.  All of these schools are currently closed due to COVID-19 and these interactions will be rescheduled for later in the year.

If you or your organization would like to learn more about becoming a strategic partner of Ravi Unites Schools, please send an email to connect@raviunitesschools.com.  Meanwhile, we will still be setting up interactions as we are able.

Other News and Announcements

Be sure to check out Ravi's daily "Minute to Pivot" video series. You can subscribe to it on his YouTube channel by clicking here, or visit any one of his social media pages @RaviUnites.

Ravi recently gave a keynote to the Virginia ASCD association at their annual conference.  It was very well received and he followed that up with a school convocation at Gloucester Virginia public schools.

A number of school districts have inquired about online convocations.  If you are interested in having Ravi deliver your 2020 or 2021 school convocation keynote, please send us a message through our contact page, https://raviunties.com/contact/.

Coronavirus & Global Economy: Time for a Global Pivot?

Coronavirus & Global Economy: Time for a Global Pivot?

Coronavirus & Global Economy: Time for a Global Pivot?

The novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is rapid and the non-unified response is obliterating economies worldwide.  In the past we have had economic crises that spawned emotional reactions, however, this time we had an emotional reaction that has spawned an economic crisis. The lack of clear information and global leadership fueled a panic and even today we lack clarity on the best way to prevail.  With so many countries testing different strategies, perhaps we, as a global society (if such a thing still exists after this), will be better prepared next time.  

I write this today while stranded in Chile where the borders are now closed, a curfew is in effect, schools and restaurants are closed until at least May, social distancing is being advised and largely followed, and full lockdown seems imminent.  My friends in Italy tell me that their crisis is largely spreading within hospitals and hospice centers among patients with other comorbid diseases, and that healthcare workers are largely the carriers spreading it from one patient to another. France is in total lockdown indefinitely, declaring war on the invisible enemy.  And in the world’s two greatest democracies, India--which has a much smaller total number and growth rate of virus cases compared to the USA--has banned its 1.3 billion citizens from leaving their homes for 21 days to contain the spread, while the USA seems to be heading toward lifting restrictions and letting the virus run its natural course through the population. Even if our lives may not be at stake, our livelihoods most certainly are.

At the time of the writing of this article, over 459,000 people worldwide have been infected with the Coronavirus, with at least 20,000 confirmed fatalities according to Worldometers on 03/25/2020.  Nearly all States in the U.S. have now declared a State of Emergency as well (Business Insider). Businesses have had no choice but to cancel or, at a minimum, postpone many of their conferences and conventions, as well as other business travel and ventures. South by Southwest (SXSW), one of the largest conferences in the US with an attendance of over 400,000 last year, announced the cancellation of their March 2020 event (New York Times). Several of my keynote events have been postponed and my flights from Chile have been cancelled, leaving me stranded for an undetermined amount of time due to the closed borders and airline cutbacks (see New York Times). As a result, just about everyone will have to pivot.

Decentralization and democratization of knowledge is the future

I frequently lecture on the future of work, how technology and AI influences the job market, and why and how education must pivot in order to prepare youth for a global tomorrow.  Is such a message still relevant? Do I need to pivot as well?

I believe that technology will play an even larger role in our lives going forward as we are less likely to catch a communicable disease from a robot than from a human.  Today, private music teachers (my former profession) are forced to give lessons to students online and despite their resistance previously, students and teachers are discovering the benefits and shortcomings of this. The same is true with school students and teachers who are desperately trying to navigate best practices and are surely bound to discover them (see below where I have created a Think Tank for educators to share best practices).  Universities under fire for exorbitant tuition that has created an epidemic of outstanding student loans may soon realize that future applicants will opt to learn online at a proportional cost. As I always tell my audiences, decentralization and democratization of knowledge is the future. However, I may have miscalculated on the timing, as it has just become the present, globally.

I am a proponent of globalization as I believe in the modern age we are most resourceful as a global community--culturally, educationally,  economically, and environmentally. But the rapid spread of COVID-19 and worldwide discrepancies on how to manage it may suggest that we are safer and more prosperous within borders and preserving the right to choose within whose borders each of us wants to be in. The world travel that I have enjoyed, benefited from immensely, and still believe is the single greatest form of education may no longer be so accessible going forward.

United Airlines was the first U.S. carrier to cut domestic flight service amid fear the virus would cause ticket sales to dwindle, according to this article from the New York Times.  The latest is that American Airlines plans to cut domestic flights by 30% and global flights by 75% for April, with more cuts expected for May. They are also on a hiring freeze through June.  Since fear over the virus took root, United and American Airlines shares have lost a third of their value, with Delta Airlines also experiencing a tumultuous downward trend.  Italy has a complete ban on travel imposed through April 3rd, 2020 on its 60 million citizens. According to the South China Morning Post, two thirds of domestic China flights have been cancelled, with remaining flights selling for as little as $4.00 USD per ticket. The ripple effect on travel means that hotel bookings and restaurant dining are going to suffer significant losses.

Any possible resurrection will ultimately be driven by demand and not curtailed by restriction (hopefully), but emotions and fear are often harder to overturn than regulations.  As a result of the Coronavirus, airlines have taken the biggest hit seen since the attacks on September 11th, 2001 (New York Times). However, as we saw in the travel rebound since 9/11, time will likely be healing and business will return to normal if the impact of COVID-19 can be quickly contained.

Environmentally, the closure of borders appears to be revealing positive results thanks to the containment of many things economic and viral that impact a nation’s citizens.  We may be falling forward into a previous time--one in which we are more aware of our footprint, opportunity, and responsibility to the planet. With Venice canals hosting fish for the first time in ages (BBC) and smog over China vanishing, it makes one ask if actually humans are the virus and COVID-19 is the vaccine. How ironic would it be if we close borders in the name of nationalism but become more environmentally conscious globally?

Steps We can Take to Help

Educators (which today includes parents in more proactive roles) are at a key place of influence at this time. Through education, preparation and action, educators can have a positive impact.  With many school districts considering partial closures or moving to online delivery, educators need to prepare for alternative education methods. One example of innovation in this area is “PE with Joe”, recently developed and launched by YouTube Fitness Instructor Joe Wicks.  He’s taken it upon himself to create and deliver weekday PE routines for students to do at home. The 9 am daily routine has already attained millions of views from families in the US and UK (CNN).

Taking the classroom online is something educators need to be prepared to do, and something I have tried to facilitate through Ravi Unites Schools.  Our interactive “field trips” show how powerful technology is in creating cultural competence when travel is not always an option. This week I have taken it a step further and created a  Think Tank to help share best practices. All educators and administrators from around the world are not only welcome, but encouraged to join. The world is in this together, and education is the engine that drives us toward a solution...not just for times of COVID-19 quarantine, but for the impact today will have on tomorrow. The more questions all of us ask and more solutions all of us share, more students will benefit.

If you are an educator or administrator, please join TEACHING UNDER COVID-19, A RAVI UNITES SCHOOLS THINK TANK:  LinkedIn Group.

(if you have any issues with that link, copy and paste this URL in your browser to access the Group: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13843536/ )

 

Ravi is available for keynote speaking how education must pivot for cultural competence & equity

Ravi Unites Schools Update

We had two Realtime Audio-Video Interactions scheduled with Shanti Bhavan in India: one with Bethel Elementary School in Virginia and another with Londonderry Middle School in New Hampshire.  All of these schools are currently closed due to COVID-19 and these interactions will be rescheduled for later in the year.

If you or your organization would like to learn more about becoming a strategic partner of Ravi Unites Schools, please send an email to connect@raviunitesschools.com.  Meanwhile, we will still be setting up interactions as we are able.

Other News and Announcements

Be sure to check out Ravi's daily "Minute to Pivot" video series. You can subscribe to it on his YouTube channel by clicking here, or visit any one of his social media pages @RaviUnites.

Ravi recently gave a keynote to the Virginia ASCD association at their annual conference.  It was very well received and he followed that up with a school convocation at Gloucester Virginia public schools.

A number of school districts have inquired about online convocations.  If you are interested in having Ravi deliver your 2020 or 2021 school convocation keynote, please send us a message through our contact page, https://raviunties.com/contact/.

Why Travel is the Best Educational Investment

Why Travel is the Best Educational Investment

Why Travel is the Best Educational Investment

Traveling to other nations is ultimately the best education money can buy.  Whether through internships, a semester abroad, taking a gap year, or class trips, getting out of the classroom is key to learning essential life skills that only exist in the real world.  Travel is the type of learning that comes only by getting up and going because it’s not contained in the pages of textbooks or within the walls of a classroom. It offers skill development and learned competencies in a number of important areas.  

An article by the WYSE Travel Confederation published results from a survey conducted by The Wagner Group entitled, “Travel Improves Educational Attainment and Future Success.”  Four hundred adults who had taken an educational trip between the ages of 12-18 were surveyed, and the results conclude that:

  • 80% of participants said their educational travel experience sparked greater interest in what they were learning in school.
  • Over half of the participants received better grades as a result of their travel experience.
  • Adults who took education trips in their youth earned 12% more than their non-trip-going counterparts.
  • 57% of those who traveled as children went away to college.

The proof that educational travel is beneficial to children and young adults is evident. Therefore, let’s talk about the skills obtained through travel education that make it so vital to setting up our younger generations for success.

5 Key Skills Acquired through Travel Education

Travel education helps people grow, evolve, and mature in a number of areas including:

  • Experiential learning - In this article I explain that learning through experience is vital to equip our children for the real world.  This is something our schools are currently lacking. 
  • Problem-solving skills - Being in a foreign country forces one to be creative and resourceful when in a pinch. There will be new situations forcing one to solve problems and find solutions which helps develop critical life skills. 
  • Cross-cultural competence - The ability to effectively communicate with other cultures without bias, confusion, or fear is a vital skill needed in today’s real world, especially in a melting pot like the United States.  By traveling, we are placed in settings that enable us to broaden our capacity to relate well with people of different backgrounds and experiences. 
  • Empathy - Visiting other nations helps one understand that their way of looking at the world is not the only way, and there is space to include each individual’s perspective on life. 
  • Adapting to change - Overcoming culture shock is a lesson in adapting to an environment. Whether you know the native language, find yourself lost in a strange place, or don’t know a single soul, time spent in another nation teaches a major life lesson one cannot learn in books or school: the capacity to adapt to change. 

Tips and Tales of Education Ventures Abroad

For many US citizens, simply getting into Canada can be a harrowing experience.  I’m not joking, as that is possibly the border that I fear most (other than perhaps coming home to the USA which often feels more like an interrogation).  The intense questioning and scrutiny is an educational experience for sure. An American colleague in Iraq once told me not to worry about getting into Kurdistan. He said it was like walking into Canada.  From my experience, Kurdistan was much easier than Canada, and so was China, India, and even Russia.  Granted, many of these countries require you to get a visa which can be an ordeal, but once through the red tape, the world truly is your oyster.

But taking Kurdistan as an example, if you are a woman tourist where only 10% of the people seen in public are women (and most of them are veiled), it can be a very intimidating experience.  Just by entering this context as an outsider, potentially aggressive or at least uncomfortable situations for a woman could arise.   This is a good example of the importance of doing one’s homework in advance so that one can be culturally competent upon entering.  The situation can be very daunting if you don't understand it, but it can be a greatest experience if you are open to it and aware of the context. The point is to always take common sense precautions and do your research, but not be overly cautious and forego a once-in-a-lifetime cultural learning opportunity.

Mumbai, Moscow, and Tokyo

I recall walking down the streets of Mumbai, Moscow, and Tokyo.  In all of these places, I could barely communicate in the local languages but at least India has the benefit of English being the official language (leftover from the days of British colonization). It is widely spoken until you get off the beaten track, and getting off the beaten track is exactly the point.  In these cities and others, I always leave my hotel without a map, pick a direction, and walk. I not only don’t mind getting lost, but that is actually my objective.  Without fail, someone always notices when I am lost before I have gained the courage to ask for help. A stranger with whom I cannot communicate using words finds another way to express compassion, such as through intonation of the voice, a smile in the eyes, and other elements of humanity that leads me back to my hotel.  It never fails, and each time restores my faith in humanity.

Safety Precautions

One must be aware of risks and the potential to be taken advantage of as a tourist.  Be careful with money and do your research on local customs and known schemes (such as the Turkish woman on the streets of Paris asking if you speak english and wanting you to sign a petition...all while someone else picks your pocket!). This preparation can help you navigate in that context and is a good learning process that can help you evaluate other environments and different contexts, including entering a new employment situation. It just heightens your awareness and evaluation abilities.  In most parts of the world, you are only an Uber ride away from being saved if you do get too far off track.  So, make sure you are connected via mobile device and then forget you have that lifeline unless in danger.

When Traveling Abroad isn’t an Option

Not every family can afford to send their child on the semester abroad program or take an extended family vacation to Europe.  However, a family’s financial status need not stop someone from receiving the benefits and learning opportunities associated with different cultures. That is why I created Ravi Unites Schools --a program I host that enables classrooms around the world to connect to cultivate cultural competence through peer-to-peer learning.  These virtual field trips are viable alternatives to traveling overseas when leaving home simply is not an option.

The Best Education Money Can Buy


Traditional education does not have the full capacity to teach our younger generations the five paramount life skills needed to succeed in the real world: Experiential learning, problem-solving, cross-cultural competence, empathy, and adaptation to change.  But travel does. These skills are learned in-depth through experiences of travel education. If you want to give your child (or yourself) the gift that keeps on giving, get them enrolled in a semester abroad program and start planning your family’s next summer vacation to a foreign land.  

Ravi is available for keynote speaking how education must pivot for cultural competence & equity

Ravi Unites Schools Update

We have had an overwhelming number of new members join the Ravi Unites Schools network the past quarter.  It has come to the point where the model needs to pivot in order to best serve all members and enable more students worldwide to interact.  So, we are now looking into corporate sponsorships to help us elevate the platform to become self sufficient with a support team that can manage it.

If you or your organization would like to learn more about becoming a strategic partner of Ravi Unites Schools, please send an email to connect@raviunitesschools.com.  Meanwhile, we will still be setting up interactions in the capacity in which we are able.

Other News and Announcements

Be sure to check out Ravi's daily "Minute to Pivot" video series. You can subscribe to it on his YouTube channel by clicking here, or visit any one of his social media pages @RaviUnites.

Ravi recently gave a keynote to the Virginia ASCD association at their annual conference.  It was very well received and he followed that up with a school convocation at Gloucester Virginia public schools. Next month he will be giving the opening keynote for the North Carolina Association of School Administrators annual conference,

A large number of school districts have inquired about convocations.  If you are interested in having Ravi deliver your 2020 or 2021 school convocation keynote, please send us a message through our contact page, https://raviunties.com/contact.

Pivot

Find Your Pivot Point & Change Becomes Exciting

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Find Your Pivot Point & Change Becomes Exciting

It is now 2020 and the start of the year is a great time to make changes that you or your organization desires to make.  Some will be small and clear-cut (changing to healthy eating patterns, for instance) while larger changes can be daunting and hard to implement.  

Change is frightening and unsettling for most, but it doesn’t have to be.  If you pivot instead, your confidence, willingness, and potential for success increase exponentially.

What does it mean to pivot?

To pivot means to change fundamental aspects of what you’re doing but maintaining a common thread between where you are and where you are going.  In business, it means changing your product, target audience, or style of execution as explained in this article from Entrepreneur.  It highlights five companies who went from relatively unknown and on the brink of failure to household names and massive success by pivoting.

One example is YouTube.  It began as a dating site where singles could upload short videos of themselves and search for potential mates. As the popularity of video-streaming escalated, YouTube’s founders saw profit potential by pivoting into the video-streaming empire it is today. 

pivot by youtube

In education, to pivot may mean making significant shifts in how we educate.  I’ve written about the need for education to go from cultivating specialists to cultivating “jacks-of-all-trades.”  It will take purposeful change to make this happen and “pivots” can be a great way of framing and defining the axis point from which a positive shift can flourish.

How do you know when to pivot?

In an article from Forbes, 14 Famous Business Pivots, contributor Jason Nazar states, “The most critical decision for an entrepreneur is to know when to stay the course vs. change direction.”  For the founders of YouTube, the rising popularity of video-streaming led them to pivot from their dating site roots and position themselves to become the multi-billion-dollar empire eventually acquired by Google.

As a pilot, I compare pivoting to charting a plane’s course to its destination and constantly making adjustments in the air as needed.  When the environment changes, you change course and may need to land at an alternate airport. The same can be said for pivoting. As information, technology, and trends change, and as our wealth of experiences continue to grow, our plan of action must also change which may lead us to an alternate destination. Where would the music industry be had they not (eventually!) embraced digital downloads and online streaming?  Those who did not pivot or waited too long lost market share while new companies that adjusted grew and succeeded.

Recently, I did an interview for John Tesh’s iHeart Media podcast, Intelligence for Your Life.  I typically do mainstream radio interviews so a podcast was a bit of a departure.  However, this more relaxed and extended opportunity to explore ideas in a conversational manner was very liberating for me.  

The theme is, of course, PIVOT.  However, we drilled it down in so many directions that it organically produced something that I haven’t thought much about in the past: the importance of finding your “Pivot Point”—the common thread or primary strength and experiences that one has that can be redirected in the most unpredictable of ways.  My pivot point has always been my passion, experience and skills in music. I implement them in different ways by combining it with a business mindset and social skills. This “pivot point” has united every project and industry in which I have worked even though to others they may appear very disconnected.

In this interview, I discuss the two scenarios when one should pivot: out of necessity and out of opportunity. You can listen to it here

How to find your Pivot Point(s)?

It is important to go further to help you pivot.  The success of finding one’s pivot point can and must be implemented regardless of whether you are an individual, brand, or industry.  

For example: 

  • Individual: Richard Branson has long been one of my role models as we share passion for music, aviation, and philanthropy.  His sense of adventure and willingness to take risks is his pivot point which allows for a broad range of opportunities. Even his brand name, “Virgin,” expresses his quest to always be the first to do something.
  • Brand: Apple’s pivot point is being cool and trendsetting. From a brand recognition perspective, their usage of the lower-case “i”, for example, is also a pivot point that unites products even though they are sometimes independent of other products (though more often they can “talk” to each other).  For example, the iPod, iPhone, iWatch, iTunes, etc.
  • Industry: The music industry pivoted from selling durable goods (records, CD’s, cassette tapes, etc.) to consumable goods (streaming, subscription services).  The pivot point is the distribution of audio and video content (not necessarily the creation of it, as we see so much independent music now being distributed).  It is also not pivoting (or circling) back to physical product such as vinyl records for a more “premium” experience and nostalgic market.

As you brainstorm and plan your 2020 strategy, whether as an individual, brand, or industry, don’t try to change.  Instead, find your pivot point and PIVOT. 

Please feel free to share your thoughts below and together we will find solutions.

Ravi can help you and your organization pivot and reach the next level

Ravi Unites Schools Update

We have had an overwhelming number of new members join the Ravi Unites Schools network the past quarter.  It has come to the point where the model needs to pivot in order to best serve all members and enable more students worldwide to interact.  So, we are now looking into corporate sponsorships to help us elevate the platform to become self sufficient with a support team that can manage it.

If you or your organization would like to learn more about becoming a strategic partner of Ravi Unites Schools, please send an email to connect@raviunitesschools.com.  Meanwhile, we will still be setting up interactions in the capacity in which we are able.

Other News and Announcements

Ravi recently gave a keynote to the Virginia ASCD association at their annual conference.  It was very well received, with a large number of school districts inquiring about convocations.  Since Ravi is a Virginia resident and he has both a vested interest and smaller travel costs in-state, he is offering steep discounts to Virginia schools.  Of course, he will also do what he can for those outside of the state as well because education matters and we must put students first.  If you are interested in having Ravi deliver your 2020 school convocation keynote, please send us a message through our contact page, https://raviunties.com/contact.

 

To learn where Ravi will be speaking next or to view current special offers, please visit the lower portion of the website home page here.