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CRA Students Connect Literature to Life

At Compass Rose Academy, students in Creative Writing are approaching Shakespeare from a somewhat unique angle. In addition to discussing the usual literary aspects of plot, characterization, etc., we are also focusing on what lessons we can draw from a writer’s standpoint. As all writers more or less steal from other writers (Shakespeare himself stole all his plots from other sources), we’re looking to do the same. This time, from one of the best, in one of his best works, Othello.

Othello is a story that resonates with audiences because of the personal nature of the struggle between Othello, the tragic hero, and the horrid villain, Iago. Iago’s intense resentment and jealousy towards Othello spurs him to plot Othello’s downfall. Othello, who claims he is “not easily jealous” becomes “wrought in the extreme” by Iago’s lies. Eventually, the villain does get caught, but not before he exacts a terrible revenge against his supposed friend.

The students studying the play have grown to despise Iago, yet, in a strange way, admire his insight and quick thinking. In another situation, his skills would be commendable. Instead, Iago uses his strengths to achieve hideous goals. From a human standpoint, this story reinforces the importance that it’s not our skills themselves, but what we do with them that counts.

We extend that lesson into the classroom by focusing not just on how Shakespeare uses dramatic irony to draw the reader in, or the difficulty of writing an entire play in the poetic form of blank verse, but also on how each of us has strengths as a person, and as a writer, and how we should skew toward our strengths, rather than dwell on our weaknesses. It seems like common sense that it is easier to move from good to great, than poor to mediocre. This is because areas in which we are subpar are often areas we aren’t all that interested in, and so do not devote time to them because we are engaged in our interests, which usually trend with our strengths.

In our Creative Writing course, our main, overarching lesson is to always lean toward what we do well, first. A secondary, no less important goal is to form a greater understanding of human nature. We’re not all going to write like Shakespeare, nor should we be expected to. But we can be the best versions of ourselves, both from a writing standpoint and a personal one as well. 

In the end, reading great literature not only gives us deep insight into how to become effective writers, but it also teaches us important personal lessons about human nature, so that, when we engage in our own writing, our understanding is deeper, richer, and fuller. In this way, we not only become better writers, but, because our understanding of human nature is deepened, better human beings as well.

-Charlies Eichman
Compass Rose Academy English Language Arts Teacher

Students Reflect on Growth Through Bonding

What CRA character capacity is the ability to relate to God and others, to connect to something outside of ourselves, and to never be left without a way to get our needs met?

  1. Bonding
  2. Boundaries
  3. Reality
  4. Competence  

If you said bonding, you are correct!  Our students have recently completed CRA’s quarterly growth model emphasis on the character capacity of bonding, also known at attachment. This didactic series and related phase work emphasizes growth in the areas of connecting to others through attunement in relationships, connecting to self by being aware of emotions and learning to soothe or regulate, identifying relational needs and seeking to get them met in relational ways, and taking risks to trust and feel safe in appropriate relationships.

I have the privilege of teaching our growth model didactics and a front row seat to the evolution of our students in these character capacities.  I want to “pull back the curtain” and share with you what I see everyday.  I recently asked our students to reflect on some ways they have seen themselves grow in their ability to connect, bond, attach and relate to others.  Here are a few of their responses:

“I have grown in bonding by knowing my relational needs and seeking to meet them.  Also by trusting myself and others.”

“I have grown in bonding because I am now able to relate and talk with my parents and peers instead of shutting down. I’m also able to assert myself when necessary.”

“I’m able to reach out for help in a positive way and say what my needs are.”

“I’ve made a lot more growth in bonding by being honest. I’ve learned to be gentle but open with my parents. I’ve been able to attune to my family and peers.”

“I have grown so much in the area of bonding. I now know how to attune to others as well as attune to myself. I also now know more relational needs for myself and others. I can identify my emotions and get help when it is needed.”

“I have grown through bonding by using my attunement skills and AB communication.  I can reflect how I am feeling and trust others including myself to share my deepest fears and feelings.”

“I learned how to speak for my needs. I learned my feelings are valid.”

“I have learned how to stay in relationship even when there is conflict.”

“I have grown during our bonding unit by asking what peoples’ relational needs are and then using them when they need it.”

“I have gotten better at realizing what my emotions are and where I feel them in my body.”

“I am able to seek out my needs and identify them to others. I have healthy relationships and am able to attune to others. I have new mindfulness exercises that I put into practice daily. I meet others’ (around me ) needs healthily.  I value my own emotions and don’t take on emotions of those around me.”  

Hmmmm…. “Don’t take on emotions of those around me.”  That sounds like a different character capacity- maybe boundaries?  Lucky student, that’s our next didactic series!

Stacey Ruberg

-Stacey Ruberg, MA, LMHC
Compass Rose Academy Clinical Director

The Biblical Basis for Boundaries

I remember really questioning the idea of boundaries early in my adult life. Is it really biblical to have and assert boundaries as a Christian? Did Jesus model boundaries? I thought of the scripture in Matthew where he said, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well” (NIV, Matthew 5:39-40). What does it look like as a Christian to have a strong “No” when our model for living is to give the shirt off our back?

So, first of all, what do we really mean when we talk about having strong boundaries? Developmentally, having strong boundaries means that we have a strong sense of who we are and what we stand for. It’s a result of the early developmental stage, individuation, that directly follows attachment. In this way, we develop a strong foundation for life through safe, meaningful relationships right before we begin to understand and assert who we are as an independent, separate being from others.

God designed our lives to be this way. He calls us first to a life of meaningful connections (with Him and others) that are stabilizing, energizing, enriching, and growth-producing. Secondly, He actually does call us to a life of boundaries. We are designed to know who we are and what we stand for. God wants us to be rooted securely in Him and who He has made us to be. The more secure we are in our identity and beliefs as an individual, the less we are like an infant, “tossed back and forth by the waves” (Ephesians 4:14). To live a life of faithful following, we must know who we are apart from others. To not be conformed to the patterns of the world (Romans 12:2) means that we are rooted securely in our identity as children of God.

I think that if we are letting everyone slap us on the cheek and take the shirts off of our backs as a pattern in our lives, there might be an indication of poor boundaries. But I also think it’s clear that that was not Christ’s example. So, I realize now that giving the shirt off of our backs can actually be the most boundaried thing we could do. If I’m secure in who I am, then others’ actions don’t define me. I give because I am giving. I love because God first loved me. I sacrifice because I’ve been a recipient of the ultimate sacrifice.

If you’ve ever wondered what it means to have boundaries as a Christian or even just in general, I challenge you to lean in and explore this identity piece. Who are you as a separate person from others? What defines you? How do decide when to give freely out of a place of love and when it’s the right time to say “no,” also out of a place of love?

Mike Haara

-Mike Haarer, MA, LMHC
Compass Rose Academy VP & Executive Director