It was the second thing I noticed when I walked into her classroom. A big sign saying “I am who I am because of who we all are.”
Incidentally, the first thing I noticed when I walked into Mrs. C’s room at Awesome Elementary School, where I’m working as a reading tutor, was that the students didn’t have chairs and desks.Oh, they had desks and they were sitting down, but they didn’t have chairs. Instead, the students were sitting, balancing and gently bouncing on large Swiss exercise balls.
Because Mrs. C teaches a lot of kids with learning differences, she said she’s done some research about ways to keep the kids focused. She’s found that having the kids sitting on the balancing balls helps to burn off some of that excessive energy that can make teaching kids with ADD or ADHD or other learning disabilities such a drain on many teachers.
The kids, of course, love them. Except when they get carried away and start bouncing up and down on the Swiss balls like grasshopper on a sugar high. The threat of making them sit in normal chairs usually is enough to get them to settle down.
Despite having what seems to be a bit of a chaotic classroom, Mrs. C keeps things humming right along. She’s got the kids doing what needs to be done in a collaborative method. Heck, sometimes she even gives up the big desk to an especially hardworking student, sitting down elsewhere while the student works at her desk.
But this isn’t a story about how awesome Mrs. C is, or how she perfectly fits into the progressive traditional grove that is Awesome Elementary School (although she is, she does and it is). I want to talk, instead, about the philosophy that seems to drive her educational ideas. It’s called Ubuntu.
The dictionary definition of Ubuntu is quite dry, but illuminating: a quality that includes the essential human virtues; compassion and humanity. When Mrs. C translates it into English, it gains a bit of poetic license. “I am who I am because of who we all are.”
“Originally,” she said, “it was a South African philosophy about interconnectedness and community. It became quite popular after apartheid was overturned. I love it. It says we cannot become successful alone, we cannot fail alone, we are all in this together. It also teaches about the acceptance of others and ourselves by seeing us all through a community lens.”
That’s what I love about this. It harkens back to Hilary Clinton’s go-to catchphrase: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Let’s try and leave politics out of this and look at it for what it is; a plea for involvement beyond your own narrow interests.
Sure we parents would like to think we’re the preeminent forces for moral growth in our little dudes and dudettes, but, if we’re being realistic, we need to understand that society has a massive impact on what our children believe and how they act. Which is why we need to act for the greater good, as well as our own good, because the two are very much intertwined.
We’re running a bit long here, so I’ll be back tomorrow with more from Mrs. C and Awesome Elementary School.