Ex-Maltese headmistress shares lessons she has learnt about children and their journeying in education.
1. TRUE EDUCATION TAKES PLACE WHEN THE WHOLE PERSON IS EDUCATED – physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. Leaving out any of these makes a failure of education! We are working hard to eradicate illiteracy – and that is right! But there is also such a thing as spiritual illiteracy! And being “spiritually illiterate can lead to increased feelings of purposelessness, disconnection, isolation and loneliness in the world” - Tom Moore. No wonder spiritual education is so important for our children and teenagers!
2. GIVE THEM THE WISH TO LEARN. Author John Lubbock said “The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught as that every child should be given the wish to learn.” And it is this wish to learn that can lead our children and youngsters to succeed educationally! Dear parents and educators, it is our duty to develop this wish in them. Let us not make learning a chore, an unpleasant burden for them!
3. HELP THEM ACQUIRE RESILIENCE. Resilience is the ability to:
- face the challenges and problems of life without going under,
- accept both success and failure while using the latter to learn,
- overcome stress,
- face difficult situations and move on,
- fall and rise... fall again and rise again... Our children need this resilience. Let us learn how to pass it on to them!
4. EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT from her sister, her brother, her cousin, her friend, her neighbour...Our duty is to understand this diversity in our children. We must learn about their individual abilities, distinguish their potential and help them develop in the best way that fits their particular aptitudes and abilities.
5. PEOPLE WITH LOW-SELF ESTEEM ARE NOT HAPPY. They do not value themselves and find it very difficult - if not impossible - to resist undue pressures from the world around them. The seeds of a healthy self-esteem are sown in childhood when the people surrounding the child accept her or him with love and unconditionally, focus on the child’s good points and discuss the child’s mistakes without bitterness or undue anger.
6. OUR CHILDREN NEED UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. This unconditional love means loving and respecting children and adolescents for who they are. It means applauding their successes and creating opportunities for further success. It means commiserating with their failures and helping them see failure as an opportunity for improvement. It means enabling them to view themselves as worthy human beings who can make mistakes but learn from them.
7. A GOOD PARENT PLAYS AND PRAYS with their child thus forging a strong bond between them.
8. BE THE FIRST LISTENER. Communicating with adoloscents can be notoriously difficult. But if we give them time, empathise with them and, above all, listen with our hearts, we will get through to them. As parents and educators, let us work to be the first listeners and counsellors to whom our children and adoloscents feel free to open their hearts.
9. INTELLIGENCE IS NOT ENOUGH according to Martin Luther King “Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” And what is character? People with true character have values of honesty, responsibility, respect, tolerance and altruism. They can work together, can appreciate each other, can distinguish between truth and lies on the media. Do you think that this goal is possible? It is a tough job for parents, care-givers, and educators. But please God it can be achieved. In my life I have met many people who have managed to develop such a character.
10. WE CANNOT PREACH ONE THING AND PRACTISE THE OPPOSITE. We all want our children to grow into mature, responsible adults. So we must respect their intelligence by ourselves living those principles that we are encouraging and/or ordering them to follow.
11. DISCIPLINE IS NOT PUNISHMENT. Many people associate discipline with punishment. Is that right? Not really, because with real discipline punishment becomes unnecessary. What we need to do as educators and parents, is to establish clear boundaries for behaviour, explain why such boundaries are important, and then sow in our children a strong sense of responsibility for their choices and actions. “This is right because... That is wrong because... If we do the first we’re OK... but if we do the second, we have to suffer the consequences because...” May sound complicated, but, believe me, it works!
12. ALL CHILDREN HAVE AT LEAST ONE GOOD QUALITY. Let us all be fully convinced that we are different, that children are different. One may be good at Maths or languages or science... another may be fantastic at sports or drama or art while another may work wonders when it comes to friendship and support for others. So let us appreciate all good qualities – and everyone has one or two or ten – and give help when and where necessary without fixating on the negative.
13. CHILDREN LEARN BEST AND FEEL AT EASE WHEN SCHOOL AND HOME WORK TOGETHER as one team, when their lives are not muddled and confused by contradictions and conflicting loyalties. As Dorothy Rich, a great American educator puts it “In this complex world, it takes more than a good school to educate children. And it takes more than a good home. It takes these two major educational institutions working together.” And there is also Robert Putnam who wrote “When schools and families work together to support learning, children learn to succeed not just in school but through life.”
14. MORE IMPORTANTLY THAN THE SCHOOL-HOME TEAM IS CO-OPERATION BETWEEN PARENTS, between care-givers! We may disagree of course, but let us do our very best not to indulge in disagreements that are bitter, hurtful, long-lasting. These destroy our children’s well-being!
15. KEEP UP WITH NEW IDEAS. Good parents and guardians and educators are ready to keep on learning how best to relate with children and teenagers in an ever changing, and, sometimes, very complex world. We must be ready to keep on picking up ideas from reliable sources and keep ourselves up to date with new developments on how best to bring up our children.
16. LIFE AND EDUCATION ARE TO BE ENJOYED! E. E. Cummings the poet once wrote “the most wasted of all days is a day without laughter.” So let us not forget to inject some humour, however slight, into our days, our work, our relationships.
This article was left anonymous not to have anything written here directly associated with the author’s school.
Published: September 2017