#Advocating for #Children by #Listening with #Compassion as the New Curriculum with Stephen Ritz

How can we teach and nourish children so that small changes have a significant impact on their transformation as well as helping our planet? And what do growing plants and listening have in common for this transformation to be possible?

Stephen Ritz is an internationally acclaimed, award-winning educator, author of best-selling book, The Power Of A Plant and Founder of Green Bronx Machine. Known as America’s favorite teacher and 2015 Top Ten Finalist for the Global Teacher Prize, Stephen is responsible for creating the first edible classroom in the world. He and his students have grown more than 130,000 pounds of vegetables in the South Bronx, were celebrated at the Obama White House three times, have been featured on the cover of TIME for KIDS, and are the subject of a new, full-feature documentary, Generation Growth. Stephen is now appearing in the new PBS educational series Let’s Learn with Mister Ritz, was named the 2020 Change-Maker Award by NYC Food Policy Center for his response to COVID, named a 2021 Food Hero by TMZ Live, and was awarded the 2021 Artemis CEA Disruptor Award for his work, advocacy, and impact in public schools across NYC and America.

In this episode, Stephen shares how farming and listening to the smallest of things are crucial in healing ourselves and our planet. Just like the plants, both need to be cultivated between planting the seed and growing them. As with our children — to realize their goals and aspirations, there has to be nurturing in between.

“The power of a soft, gentle voice really enables people to tune in. I always say, in this world of social media and so much negativity, we need to learn to separate the noise from the signal and really clue into what the universe is telling us. It’s a remarkable way of doing business and going forward and finding your little place and your little piece on the planet.” – Stephen Ritz

Listen IN Notes:

00:42 – Stephen being a big believer in meeting people where they’re at: by looking and by listening. 

02:26 – How the small things in life can bring peace and tranquility; listening to children being a critical piece — they’re making noise because they want to be heard. 

04:10 – All it takes is one good, succinct message.

08:05 – Compassion as the key to tuning in to the signal of the kids.

09:56 – There are always three sides to a story: one side, the other side, and the truth. 

11:07 – Why should the basic rules of life still apply despite changing technology?

12:30 – How do gardening and listening enable you to pause for a cause?

14:57 – What the beauty of farming teaches us how to nourish children.

16:35 – That one question that people are asking Stephen.

18:21 – Appreciation he receives from children that is worth life itself.

19:25 – Stephen shares what he wants people to hear.

 21:44 One thing Stephen wants us to think about and make a change in the way we treat children. 

22:23 – Stephen talks about the Green Bronx Machine and its purpose: We grow vegetables, our vegetables grow students, our students grow the schools, and our schools grow happy, healthy, resilient communities.

Key Takeaways:

“For me, compassion is the new curriculum. And compassion starts with hearing voices. I believe every child has a voice, and every child has a story. And our stories are our ladders to success. And if we listen, we learn, and if we learn, we share.” – Stephen Ritz

“In terms of tuning into the heart, into the emotion, including content, you want that content coming in a soft, gentle manner.” – Stephen Ritz

“Learning to be kinder, learning to be gentler, learning to slow down so that the wheels hit the ground enables you to go much faster.” – Stephen Ritz

“I say the key is compassion. You’ve got to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. There’s a reason that people communicate, whether it’s a need or a desire. And once you get to the essence of that, that’s where these relationships start.” – Stephen Ritz

“What humanity should be all about — elevating and respecting each other’s voice and how we can work together to grow something greater in listening that results in cooperation.” – Stephen Ritz

“When people understand where the other party is coming from, we’re all more likely to get to a place where we all feel somewhat satisfied. I always say, there’s always three sides to this story, one side, the other side, and the truth.” – Stephen Ritz

“You’ve got to get back to that compassion; we’ve got to get back to the fundamental basis that people like to be in relationships, that they want to feel good with each other. I mean, all of this social media, in some ways, is just a reflection of the ability for people to want to be heard. And for others to listen.” – Stephen Ritz

“The beauty of farming is that you can’t go from seed to harvest without cultivation in the middle. And that’s true of children. That’s true of relationships, of work. That’s true of personal goals.” – Stephen Ritz

Notes/Mentions:

Connect with Stephen Ritz:

Connect with Green Bronx Machine:

Connect with Raquel Ark: