What Do the Chilean Miners Have in Common with Kids in a Classroom?

The inspiring rescue of the 33 trapped miners for almost 70 days has a lot to show all of us. The sociology of what went in with those men in the face of uncertainty, has a lot to show us about children who can excel in school especially in the poorest neighborhoods.

1)  They organized themselves so that many of the miners played specific roles. One of them was a scientific liaison, one was a spiritual leader, some were comedians, some offered other perspectives.

Within an advisory, students can become a small, close-knit community.  They can organize themselves around their strengths and learn collaborative skills which are essential to success in college, career and life.  They can get to know their classmates as people, not just as students in their geography class.

2)  They were busy—they had jobs to do.  Rescue workers and experts knew early on that they would need to keep the miners busy mentally so that their energy and their thoughts could be harnessed.

Students need to be busy. There is a lot of unbridled energy among most students, especially those who struggle. If they are working on projects and their minds and hearts are engaged, they will be more active in their own learning.

3)  They were hopeful. The miners interviewed never lost hope that they would be rescued. We know from Victor Frankel’s work on Holocaust survivors that the people who got out alive continued to have hope.  Is there a link to hopeful thinking and outcomes?   “Yes,” says John Darley, the Dorman T. Warren Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University.

Students need hope.  The Korean culture has something called the “indomitable spirit,” which means that your faith and your hope is strong no matter how challenging your circumstances. If students develop a hopeful and strong spirit at a young age, they will be ready for any setback.

The miners and their fortitude inspired the world this week.  Let’s learn from their courage and impart the same wisdom when parenting our kids and teaching our children.

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