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Thoughts from Dr. Joe: All we can change is ourselves

October 03, 2013|By Joe Puglia

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “Not all who wander are lost.” He might well have been referring to me as I navigate the labyrinth of classrooms at LCHS back-to-school night looking for Mr. Lively's class, room 305. I'm about to throw in the towel and head to McDonald's for a chocolate shake when Principal Ian McFeat finds me bewildered. “Dr. Joe! I want to speak to you about something,” he says.

I get that uneasy feeling reminiscent of elementary and high school days. I start to wonder what I've done wrong this time.

“Would you be my guest tomorrow afternoon at Challenge Day? I would appreciate your thoughts,” he said.

I have no clue what he is talking about, so I ask.

“I can't explain it,” he said. “You have to experience it to get it.”

I showed up as planned and followed McFeat and Jarrett Gold to the gym, curious to understand the hoopla of Challenge Day. I was unsettled as to why neither McFeat nor Gold could intellectualize the experience. I am a proponent of cause and effect. Witnessing 100 high school kids euphorically connecting with each other would not be sufficient. I needed to know the cause of their euphoria. Situations happen to people, but they unfold from deeper causes.

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In E.M. Forster's novel “Howards End,” he discusses the imperative of making connections. Forster's epigraph, “Only Connect” became the mantra as the antidote for the complexities of contemporary societies. Connection is the essence of Challenge Day.

Challenge Day builds empathy and compassion within students and ignites the need for positive change. Addressing myriad problematic behaviors such as bullying, cliques and racism, students participate in workshops that demonstrate the possibility of love and connection through both collective and individualized expressions of acceptance and truth. Challenge Day fulfills a component of Maslow's “Hierarchy of Needs,” where children are immersed in a secure setting feeling safe, loved and celebrated. Ultimately, students are motivated to be change agents.

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