Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Illuminations of Childhood

Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wrote,

...the experiences and illuminations of childhood and early youth become in later life the types, standards and patterns of all subsequent knowledge and experience, or as it were, the categories according to which all later things are classified -- not always consciously, however. 

And so it is that in our childhood years the foundation is laid of our later view of the world, and there with as well of its superficiality or depth: it will be in later years unfolded and fulfilled, not essentially changed.   

I came across this quote as I was reading The Mythic Dimension: Comparative Mythology by Joseph Campbell and it made me think about the influence teachers (and parents) have in shaping the future thoughts of the children in our care.

On the same day I finished this book I also finished rereading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  In it Scrooge is discussing the influence his former employer had over his workers stating,

"He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil.  Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count 'em up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune"

Combined, the two quotes underscore the nature of teaching.

In my classroom I strive, every day and every moment, to make learning a joyful experience.  That doesn't mean there are not challenges, but challenges should be met with a smile and an "I can do this!" attitude.

I am honored to support the academic, social and emotional development of my students.  I may not always live up to my highest expectations but I can honestly say that I do my best to have them wake up in the morning and look forward to coming to school.

For me, "the happiness they give, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune".


Steve Reed said...

We all remember our teachers so well, and so clearly, I suppose because the brain is such a sponge when we're young. So it makes sense to keep in mind that everything you do shapes your students' perceptions of the world.

I've never read Joseph Campbell but I've always been curious about him.

Thanks, by the way, for the condolences. This is a very trying time!

Angella Lister said...

i think your kids are so lucky to have a teacher who is so conscious of his lasting impact on their lives, and who strives to make it good. i look at my own two, and yes, personality is a part of it, but my daughter went to a school where she was constantly affirmed and learning was a joy and an adventure (my husband said they engaged in "stealth learning," that the kids thought they were playing, when in fact they were being taught!). she is a joyous soul today, an optimist to her core, and very resilient, and dear god, i hope she is always thus. my son went to a more traditional school, with uniforms and traditional markers of progress, which made him always stressed, with too much homework for his learning style always, and while the teachers were good and caring, they weren't JOYFUL, and my son today is an anxious one, definitely highly responsible but he puts so much pressure on himself. i know this could simply be that he takes after me and my daughter takes after her dad! and i haven't even begun to analyze our effect as parents on our two. but i really do believe the early atmosphere at school was key in who they are today. so this post resonates with me big time. happy new year, gary!

Gary said...

Steve - I got hooked on Joseph Campbell through Joy who know that I would love him. She truned me on to the PBS series of interviews with Bill Moyers entitled The Power of Myth. It is a good introduction so if you are interested check it out.

Hope you are doing okay. It will take a while to lose the habit of having a dog and when that passes there will still be a loss. But better to have loved and all that.

Angella - I have had teachers in the past who have been so caring and nurturing and they have made a huge impact on me. I want to be a positive influence on the children I teach.

I love the notion of "stelth learning" because I subscribe to it too. If you can something a game and make it meaningful the children will gravitate towards it and make it their own.

I'm not sure about the nature/nurture issue. I was always a perfectionist and my teachers were concerned about that growing up. But I am still the same way. I suppose it is how we deal with how we are that is important. I am a glass half full kind of guy. But it is so interesting about your children. I think you may have a blog post there :)

Barbara said...

I'm sure your students will remember you fondly for years to come. I still remember the name of every teacher I ever had, but some hold a special place in my memory because they went above and beyond what was expected of them.

Pauline said...

Learning as fun - I had only one teacher in my school years that believed in that. Like you, I try to help children love learning, explore their worlds and expand their viewpoints. They in turn help us do the same! I will miss teaching when all is said and done.

Gary said...

Barbara - I really wish I could talk with my 6th grade teacher and tell her how much I appreciate all that she did for me. Her influence was mighty. I remember someone once told me that as a teacher I may never know the influence I have on my students directly but that it does not lessen the effect. I think I have been blessed with lots of positive feedback due to the ease of communication (this blog, email, texts, Facebook, etc). It is so much easier to keep in touch these days.

Pauline - I can retire in only something like 12 years but am already not looking forward to that. Although, just because I can does not mean I will (although not doing the 4-hour commute every day sounds rather nice). What are your plans for retirement?


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