Tag Archives: Mold

Traditional Philosophy Helping Mold Young Minds

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.

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Embrace Them For Who They Are

by Richard

One of the hardest parts about raising young dudes and dudettes to adulthood is that we have to, at some point, let go. After all, that’s the whole purpose of parenting: raise them as best your able and then let them go out on their own to start making their own mistakes.

It’s difficult when those kids who you’ve been feeding and guiding and mentoring for so many years start to act in ways you know you didn’t teach. Sometimes that can be something as silly as liking your arch rival’s college football team instead of your own, to something as serious as going out and stealing stuff, or worse.

As much as it hurts to admit this, young dudes and dudettes aren’t simply the sum of the bits we cram into them. They have their own thing or thirty-two to say and, by golly, they’re going to do so. Often. And loudly. So what can we do to offset this?

Absolutely nothing.

Well, that’s not exactly true.

Contrary to what some parents might believe or hope for, children are not born a blank slate. Rather, they come into the world with predetermined abilities, proclivities and temperaments that nurturing parents may be able to foster or modify, but can rarely reverse.

The goal of parenting should be to raise children with a healthy self-image and self-esteem, ingredients vital to success in school and life. That means accepting children the way they are born — gay or straight, athletic or cerebral, gentle or tough, highly intelligent or less so, scrawny or chubby, shy or outgoing, good eaters or picky ones.

The above came from a really nice opinion piece by Jane E. Brody that ran in The New York Times earlier in November. It got me to thinking, especially considering it was sent to me by my dad. I wonder if he was trying to say something about me? No, probably not. It’s difficult to critique perfection.
Trying to fit children into a predetermined mold, deciding what they will like and what they won’t, is a mug’s game, argues Ms. Brody. And I have to agree with her.
Differences, no matter how annoying, should be celebrated. It’s our differences that make us who we are. If we were all the same, wouldn’t life be boring as snot? We’d never have a surprise, never hear a passing remark that allows us to see the world in a new way.
That’s teens, really. We raise them, teach them, love them and then let them go. And, once free, we can begin to marvel and the wonderful and unique being standing before us. And then wonder why they keep asking for our car keys.

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