Tag Archives: South Africa

Boxing Day And Me With No Gloves

Well, no big, puffy gloves designed to hit people.

And, yes, dudes, I realize it’s not that kind of boxing.

Boxing Day is a rather Anglophilic holiday, being celebrated in UK, Canada, Hong Kong, South Africa and a few other places. Traditionally, the day after Christmas was when the wealthy snobs would give gifts to the servants and tradesmen in what was known as a Christmas box. Hence, boxing day.

Nothing about the Sweet Science in the Squared Circle at all. (And thus ends my knowledge of boxing. Rather shallow, that.)

We don’t necessarily have the day off here in the states, but I definitely think we should. I mean, this is the Day of Recovery for most of us who celebrate Christmas, religious or no.

We’ve done the major clean up, but now it’s time to get our heads back on straight. Time to remember that people aren’t going to pop out of the chimney and hand us gifts just for being good little dudes and dudettes any more this year.

Time to realize that eggnog is appalling, like white snot in a glass and we really wouldn’t be drinking it if it weren’t some sort of tradition and, of course, filled with enough alcohol to anesthetize a very lost elephant who had suddenly found itself in a cocaine processing plant.


It could happen. Maybe. Somewhere in the multiverse.

Moving on.

Today is the day my teenagers go back to being teenagers. Yesterday, on Christmas Day, they reverted to their younger selves and actually rose on their own, leapt from bed and came charging down the stairs, ready to take on the day. And anyone who stood between them and their presents.

On Boxing Day? Not so much.

There’ll be quiet in the house again this morning. The only one likely to make a noise is Buzz, the garbage disposal that walks like a dog, who’s still going to demand a walk at a reasonable hour. And, like the chump that I am, I’ll give it to him.

Boxing Day also is the Day of Regret. Mostly I’ll regret that I didn’t do a better job of listening to people during the year and, consequently, purchased presents for them that they didn’t really want and forget the stuff they did.

I love giving presents. I just wish I were better at it.

Regardless, today is the day we begin to ease back into the real world, to rejoin our real lives. Already in progress.

So what do you say, dudes?

Let’s get out there and live ’em.

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Awesome Elementary Brings The Awesome — Again!

Mrs. C is a fifth-grade teacher at Awesome Elementary School in Charlotte and she’s bringing a great, African philosophy into the classroom to help her kids find a more harmonious path through life.

Just for the record, there is no Awesome Elementary School. I’m using a nom d’frenchwordforschool. Also? Mrs. C does have more letters to her last name, but we’ll keep it that way because I’m all about not using actual names here. Just ask my kids, Sarcasmo, Zippy the College Boy and Hyper Lad. Or my wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Kept In The Dark.

Moving on.

The philosophy, as I talked about yesterday, is Ubuntu. Which, according to Mrs. C, translates loosely into “I am what I am because of who we all are.” I love this philosophy because it says, basically, that no one can succeed if he or she doesn’t bring the rest of society with them to that success. We stand on the shoulders of giants, but we need to stand also in the company of giants.

Ubuntu is all about treating others with respect, with helping others who don’t have your knowledge or skills, receiving help from others who have different knowledge or skills than do you, and working for the good of the community as well as your own good.

“At the beginning of the year, I had my students read am article about Ubutnu,” Mrs. C told me. “It was a story about an experiment in South Africa and an anthropologist who was studying Ubuntu. To test it, he put a giant bag of candy under a tree and told a group of kids that the person who reaches the bag first can have all of the candy.

“The kids ran towards the candy, so excited, and, once they got to the tree, they started dividing it equally. My students were blown away, but really understood that Ubuntu is a way you live, a way to share, a way to care about others, a way to live in balance.”

If you’ve stuck around here long enough to have read at least one or two entries, you’ll understand I’m not some hippy-dippy treehugger. I’m not about to go raging on about how values from different societies, more traditional societies, are always better than our own because they’re closer to nature. That’s bunk. Culture is culture.

That said, however, you’ve got to love this sort of thing. If Ubuntu philosophy can get a group of kids to share candy equally without any kind of force, to have them do it spontaneously. . . There’s something pretty darn special about it. That was Africa, though. How would it work here in America?

That’s something I’d really like to know. Good thing, then, that I asked Mrs. C about it. I asked her how Ubuntu was going in her classroom, in which it is an integral part of the culture there.

“Does it work? Well, the kids have definitely internalized it,” she said. “They will say things to each other like ‘That’s not showing Ubuntu’ or ‘I’m putting this on my Ubuntu tracker.’  (They track the ways they show Ubuntu every day.) That being said, my students still do not treat each other the way the philosophy dictates. Not all the time. Sometimes they get frustrated, use words that are not so nice, or are nasty towards each other. Like I said, its a process.”

Still, I think we can agree that it’s a process that needs to continue. In a world where kids have to be worried about being bullied, and where we as a society have to worry about bullies deciding enough is enough and going back to school with a weapon and a bad attitude. . . Isn’t it about time we decided to try and nurture a little caring and community spirit?


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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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