Your mental model is shaped by WHERE you were raised, WHO raised you, and HOW the adults in your life shaped your belief systems (good and/or bad). We are all products of our childhood; we are all products of the people who crossed our paths each and every day as we grew into the people we are now. And how we see the world functioning has been determined by all of those interactions.
- Do you see the world as being fair or as being filled with inequity?
- Do you see the future as being lined with opportunities or with barriers?
- Do you see people as a steady support in times of need or as one more thing that will leave you just when you need them the most?
- And do you see life as something you are creating or something that is being done to you?
Your answers to all of those questions are determined by your own mental models....of how you see things working in the world.
I teach the concept of mental models every time I do a poverty training so that educators do not just label kids as bad or apathetic or even worse, hopeless. I challenge them to uncover their students' mental models and then use that knowledge of who they are so they can begin to ADD to those mental models and show their students something different; perhaps something better.
I shared a mental model in a training I did earlier this month that might seem a little trivial when you think about it in the bigger picture of experiences like abuse or trauma or neglect, but honestly, in my world, it really does explain who I am and why I do what I do and why I believe what I believe.
These 2 pots define my mental model.
They are Magnalite and are both older than I am (you do the math).
They both belonged to my MoMo Fontenot (yes, the one for whom I am MoMo 2.0). The small one was her roux pot and the big one was her gumbo pot and she always told me that once she left this earth, those pots were to come home with me.
I'd grown up standing next to her in the kitchen learning how to cook all the amazing things that a Cajun woman is capable of creating and she knew that I would carry on her legacy of providing good food for our family and for all the people who find themselves gathered around our table.
However this weekend, as I pulled both pots out to prepare a Hurricane-weather shrimp & crab gumbo for my crew, I thought a long time about what these two pots represent on the larger scale. Sure, they have the history of her kitchen and her hands worn into the metal of each of them, just as they are also woven into me. But these pots are about more than just cooking great food....they about providing for the people I love; they are about bringing people together around my table at the end of the day to CONNECT; they are about preserving the concept of dinnertime as a staple to defining and shaping our family.
Jacob used to laugh and tease me when he first joined our family because each night, WE EAT AT THE TABLE. He said it was because I'm white.
Yes, seriously. 😂
He's since changed his view on that and just knows it is foundational to who we are and how our household functions. Even when it's usually just the 2 of us, we end our day at the dinner table together. Sometimes there's lots of conversation; sometimes it's a little quiet. But we always come back after our crazy busy disconnected days and we RECONNECT...he and I.
Yes, I was born to a mom who was 16-years old when she had me.
Yes, I was born at a time in the south when racism was rampant and tolerance was hard to find.
And yes, I was born to a family where education was something that was never talked about because there were so many more important things needed to be talked about just to survive.
So could those things have defined my mental model and set me on a very different path than the one I am on now?
But somewhere in the midst of all of the things that could have put me on a very different path than the one I am on now, 2 Magnalite pots intervened and I learned that caring for others, providing for others, and connecting with others were paramount to all the rest of what COULD'VE shaped me.
So thank you MoMo Fontenot-- for the recipes, for the cookware, and for all the secret ingredients, but most importantly, thank you for the lessons that shaped my mental model about what my job is in my family, in my community, and in this world.