CHURCH HILL — A dozen students at Church Hill Middle School are beginning to learn that their “true identity” is better than what they may have thought thanks to a program introduced by Principal Scott Jones based on the teaching of a longtime CIA agent.
The idea is to help eighth-graders overcome the lies they tell themselves about who they are, such as they're not loved or they’re “not enough” to be successful.
Former CIA agent Jamie Winship and his wife, Donna, operate a business in Seattle, Washington, called Identity Exchange, which is described as a training and consulting company “on mission to help transformed communities operating in health, wellness and peace, transform other communities as each individual learns to live fearlessly in their true identity.”
Jones participated in a 12-week Identity Exchange program this past spring and summer,
“The whole thrust of that was identity — knowing who you are,” Jones told the Times News last week. “Knowing who one is, you can do anything, is really the premise behind that.”
During the first of three scheduled weekend sessions in the region Jones had the idea of inviting Winship to visit CHMS and speak to students.
Winship's third visit to the region coincided with the beginning of the school year, and Winship agreed to address CHMS students.
Jones asked Winship to touch on some of the problems he encounters at CHMS, such as what he calls “the poverty mindset.”
“That mindset, in essence when you boil it down, is ‘I'm not enough,’ ” Jones said. “When one believes that, no matter what age, it affects your life. I've seen it at the tip of the spear dealing with individual students, dealing with families, dealing with the outcomes, and in a school setting it begins to feel like that's not fair. If we can do anything to even that playing field for students, and to help them develop, then we're doing the right work.”
During his presentation to students, Winship discussed chronos time, which is the chronological days of our lives, and kairos time, which is the opportunities or moments in life that unexpectedly intersect with chronos time and define us.
“He (Winship) said the only thing that can keep you from reaching that (kairos time) is walking in circles,” Jones said. “He refers to that as the fear loop, which is very prevalent when we're in a poverty mindset, or any mindset that's negative to us, that keeps us from moving forward.”
Jones added, “Worse yet, if others come along and say, ‘Let's go rob a bank, let's go do drugs’ — if there are people pointing you that way, they're not your friends. Your friends are going to be the ones who keep moving your forward to those unknown, unseen kairos moments that are destined to happen for you.”
Although Winship's presentation was well received by students, Jones didn't feel like a single 35-minute speech would have the lasting impact he was hoping for.
Through a Google survey to students, Jones asked how many would be interested in pursuing Winship's program further.
Of 382 responses, approximately 80% wanted to know more about their identity.
With the assistance of veteran teacher Ashley Guice, Jones started with a pilot program of 12 students who were interested and were selected based on a range of backgrounds.
The program includes a total of six sessions held every other week, with the goal of helping students to begin to know more about their identity.
So far they've had two meetings. Among the things they done are a personality assessment, which was followed up Friday with an exercise Jones calls “lies on the floor”
“We had a poster with different lies on the floor like 'I'm unworthy,' 'I'm unloved,' 'I'm abandoned,' — these type of things,” Jones said. “I asked the students to go stand next to the one that you identify with the most, and I did this with them. Then we asked them openly if they wanted to share anything. A couple of them did, and we let them debrief on those feelings about that.”
Jones added, “Then more important was what came next. We asked them to flip the poster over, and we had already pre-printed the truth on the other side. The truth was simply Webster's (dictionary) antonyms of what those lies were. The point of that exercise was, what are you listening to. Others may bombard you with negativity, but as you believe the truth and walk in it, you begin to think differently.”
Jones said if the program can affect one, two or 12 students who can go out and affect others, the program is well worth the effort.