What’s Behind a Dream?

While our dreams in life will change as we grow and our circumstances shift, when we align our evolving dreams to our values, they provide the ballast, the permanence, that’s critical for a steady course–now and in the future.

“The values and the dreams are in an alignment for a better tomorrow.”

–Gregory Mevs

On Friday I got my first tour of the school. I have been a teacher for 30 years, and I have an immediate sense when walking into a school if there’s respect and care. That was in the air at Ecole Nouvelle Zorange, and I could sense it the second I set foot out of the car with Christelle who brought me there.

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See on Google Maps

This school, situated on the edge of Cité Soleil, arguably one of the largest urban settlements of extreme poverty anywhere, serves 570 students from ages 5 to 17, and was established by the Prodev Foundation and the vision of its founder Maryse Pénette-Kedar. She formed the school in the wake of the devastating earthquake of 2010 to help rebuild Haiti by focusing on help that will last–education.

Christelle and I sat with the teachers from the 5th and 9th grades with whom we’d be working next week. The Talking Dream Line did its work just as it had in Jacmel, and with Christelle’s extremely able help, we collaborated on a plan for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the next week.

And on Monday we began–first with the 5th graders. We started with the present. Between my fractured French and Christelle’s ability to explain not just what I wanted to say but what I ought to say, we had a great time with a game I call Zip, Zap, Zop and they call Biff. Baff, Buff. If you hesitate and “loose” you had to tell me something you like–so we could get to know each other.

Biff, Baff, Buff, I explained, is about paying attention to right now. Our Dreamline program is about focusing on now AND on the future–what we dream of.

5th Haiti Talk Flags

5th Graders loved the talking Dreamline.

They got that the flags were the same size because we’re all equal. They got that they’re connected to a line because we need each other. And they got that kids everywhere, not just Haiti, not just Philadelphia, have dreams for the future. And that was it — until the next day.

Fast forward to the 9th graders, all 35 of them, and their teacher M. Donasson who, before I arrived, had already started working with the students. After a quick intro and look at a map showing places in the world where students have already declared and shared dreams on fabric, we moved right into what’s behind our dreams–values.

M. Donnasson had already worked with the group to brainstorm this list of values.

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9th graders have already been studying English for more than 2 years, so I added a language component by translating the French words into English.

Then Mr. Donasson gave a simple direction: “Choose three.” Choose three values from this list that mean a lot to you, that are values you live by, or want to live by. Write them on a flag. Decorate it. Hold it up.

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I have worked with students in the process of sharing dreams continuously since 2003, and my work had extended to more than 120,000 students across 36 countries, including 42 states of the USA. But I had never tried this.

It was, in fact, the brainchild of a non-teacher, Gregory Mevs, who is Co-Chair of the Haitian West Indies Group and General Honorary Consul to Haiti. He helped us come to Haiti, and it was he who suggested that we might try Value Flags as an addition to our program. He’s very interested in values and the power that comes from action aligned to those values.

It worked. The Value Flags were an easy but powerful first step in thinking about a dream–a VALUE BACKED dream!

When we completed the project, the Value Flags were stapled, literally back to back, with the Dreamline flags to remind the students and everyone who saw it that dreams backed by values create a lasting and powerful force. And when we align them around the world, a force that can cause cause change as we perhaps have never seen.

In the words of Gregory Mevs, “The values and the dreams are in an alignment for a better tomorrow.”

As we move through life, our dreams can and should change, but our values remain more constant. By giving students the tangible experience of creating a Value Backed Dream, we give them a tool for learning an important lesson. While our dreams in life will change as we grow and our circumstances shift, when we align our evolving dreams to our values, they provide the ballast, the permanence, that’s critical for a steady course–now and in the future.

So stepping up to dreams through values was pedagogically sound–verified by both 5th and 9th graders in Haiti–and a brand new development of our program, an articulation of what has always been there behind every flag declaring a dream–the values that shine through aspiration and action.

Here’s what 5th and 9th graders at Ecole Nouvelle Zorange value–what I’d call a value portrait of the classes. The larger the word, the more students chose it for the value behind their dream.

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