Celebrating Our Differences


Celebrating Our Differences

If you had the opportunity to be a lion, an eagle, a turtle or a chameleon for a day, what would be your choice? Would you rule the jungle, or blend in to the background? Would you soar through the skies, or lounge next to sea? I posed this question to the students in my PSHE class, as well as to a group of colleagues, and things got very interesting!

Students were put into groups based on the animals they chose. Once in the groups, they were instructed to write down all the reasons they thought it would be great to be their chosen animal for a day, as well as all the reasons why they did NOT want to be the other animals. Their responses were fascinating! Students were asked to present their reasons to the rest of the class, and heated debates ensued. The students noticed that what some groups listed as positive qualities, others listed as negative. When I asked them who was right, some muttered “no one” while others whispered “everyone”. They were all right.
This activity is meant to teach the importance of respecting differences. In an international setting, I find this lesson to be incredibly valuable. We have all been shaped by our cultures, faiths, families, communities and life experiences, and it is easy to believe that the lessons and values that we have learned are “right”. The reality is, there are many ways to be “right”.

Too often, differences can be used as reasons to judge, isolate and exclude others. We talked about the opportunity of using our differences as ways to build, learn and bring out the best in each other. I asked my students to imagine they had a group project to complete, and whether or not they thought they would be successful in working together and completing their project if they were to stay in their chosen animal groups. They all said no. We joked about how the lions would all fight over who gets to be in charge, the turtles would never finish, the chameleons would just keep agreeing with each other and the eagles would all want to work alone. When asked what they thought would make the most successful group, they responded “One from each.”, because that would bring balance.

We all have assets and liabilities within our personalities. There is a reason the IB names “balance” as one of the ten attributes of the Learner Profile. Only when we are living in balance can we be our best selves, and most utilize the assets of our personalities. Being balanced means putting effort into school and our jobs, and also prioritizing quality time with our family and close friends, engaging in physical activity and hobbies, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle with proper nutrition and SLEEP!

Recent studies have shown a strong connection between sleep deprivation and mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as dementia and cancer! Think about it- when you have had only 4, 5 or even 6 hours of sleep, are you your best self? I know when I haven’t slept well, I am grumpy, impatient and have trouble concentrating. Lack of sleep invites the liabilities of my personality to dominate.

How do we sleep better?  Experts recommend developing a healthy sleep hygiene routine.  This includes: 

  • Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day
  • Turning off all screens at least one hour before bedtime
  • Keeping electronics out of the bedroom
  • Maintaining a cool and completely dark space for sleeping

Autumn is a great time to commit to creating a better sleep routine.  All around us, we see signs from nature encouraging us to slow down and take greater care of ourselves- the cooler air, the changing leaves, and the animals preparing for hibernation.  So whether we’re a lion, a turtle, a chameleon or an eagle, let us take our cues from nature and make sleep an integral part of our balanced lifestyle.

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