Our society envisions success as a ladder: Those who climb to the top do so one at a time. I think that’s bunk. I’d like to see success as a wide road to a mountain top, with room enough for everyone to come along.
Over the last couple of days, I’ve been talking about an African philosophy that’s being used in Awesome Elementary School by a fifth-grade teacher there, Mrs. C. She’s been helping her students understand that success can only be measured in a group basis. Individuals can go well, but, if they are the outliers rather than only the leaders, if they do not use their skills and knowledge to aid those behind them, then those dudes and dudettes haven’t really succeeded at all.
Ubuntu, the philosophy Mrs. C has been spreading through her class, is one that encourages people to help those around them do better, while also helping them realize that they also can accept help from others without being ashamed or worried. Personally, I think it’s done some wonders in her class, having observed it in action.
In talking to Mrs. C about Ubuntu and her class, I wondered if this kind of thing might help out little dudes and dudettes who aren’t using this to make their school day better.
“One of our class goals is to be better people! We practice and talk about it every day. A child is not educated if you forget the human aspect of their lives. I always tell my kids that you cannot be perfect, but we must try to be the best we can be. We are all on a journey and practicing Ubuntu can help us make good choices and treat others with compassion.”
There’s folks all over who get onto schools and teachers for not doing enough to turn the little sociopaths who enter schools into well-behaved worker drones who have the right skill sets to step into menial, low-wage jobs. Although, looking back, I might have mixed up a couple things in that last sentence. Let’s just say that teachers and schools get a lot of flack. Some people think they do too little. Some think they do too much.
Helping parents to mold the little mushy minds is, I think, one of the most important jobs for which a school or a really good teacher can strive. Stuffing a little dude full of facts doesn’t help him develop the love of learning necessary to succeed in academics further up the line. Training a little dudette to be compliant, but only think of her own success, won’t help many people aside from her own self.
Mrs. C is doing a great job in helping to bridge that divide between strictly academics and some sort of feelings retreat. It’s a lesson we adults can learn as well. Helping others does not mean we hurt ourselves.
Who wouldn’t want to live in a world where spontaneous acts of kindness were the rule instead of the exception? When everyone succeeds, we are all winners.
“I am who I am because of who we all are.”
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