We are learning about space. Imagining whats our there, trying to conceive how big the universe really is, how little we are and really know. The one thing i have noticed the most since coming here, is the stars. Rarely in life, did i look up. Now i can’t help but not. Here in this wide open space, the stillness of night brings a peace i have never known before. The black skies are free from impeding suburban lights and are now dark and mysterious and filled with such a magnitude of stars. It reminds me how small this moment is, how we are just circling around and around again in life. Children love the mystery, they are more open to mystical theories and stories around life, worlds and gods innocently holding notions that anything is plausible. Rationality has yet to taint their thinking. They are yet to be corrupted by the rules of the way things are said to be. I don’t want to play that role in their lives. I want their hearts, minds and souls to remain wide open to the extraordinary mystery of this world, of their lives. I want them to believe the believable truth that anything is possible. Because who has the right to say it’s not. Our children are more awake, than ever before. Old ways of parenting and teaching children will never work on these new generations, they know too much, they won’t be dictated to, just because we believe we are older and wiser, if that really means anything anyway. We need to come to children on the level of respect that we wish them to come to us with. My three-year old will allow nothing to be done for her. She will master everything with her determination even if it means kicking and screaming through the frustration of trying. We all listen, usually horrified at the rage that can erupt in her tiny body, but she is adamant on allowing no help. So we let her go, raging and all and eventually she always succeeds in her endeavours. I cannot imagine her learning way would be seen as socially acceptable in a school environment, yet she is very much learning, in a very loud and often obtrusive way. She has not learnt this from people around her, she hasn’t been role modelled this reactive behaviour, it is simply uniquely her, innately born way. If i was to try to stop or halter her or give her the impression that it is unacceptable to voice her frustration in trying so hard, then i am hindering her voice, her determination, her powerful innate drive to succeed at what ever she sets her mind to. I won’t play that role for my children. I won’t be the one to tell them that they can’t do something because it seems too hard or implausible. And it wont bother me if she kicks and screams her way through life, at least i know she won’t succumb to being silenced easily.
Asperger would often just sit with the children, reading poetry and stories to them from his favourite books. “I don’t want to simply ‘push from the outside’ and give instructions, observing cooly and with detachment,” he said ” Rather, I want to play and talk with the child , all the while looking with open eyes both into the child and into myself, observing the emotions that arise in reaction to everything that occurs in the conversation between the two of us.”
-NeuroTribes, Steve Silberman
This is how i want my children to learn, i want to be the observer not the dictator to their curious and instinctual minds. I want to watch what they are drawn to, and where they take themselves naturally when provided the space, opportunity and environment to do so. I don’t want them ever to become accustomed to what is perceived as normal or abnormal about themselves in a class room, by the opinions that are deciding where they sit on some grand scale of intellectual competence. Children are loosing their natural flow. They are being denied the access to learn by instinctively following from their own interests, a naturally occurring process that is inherent to everyone. There is no room for individual self-directed learning anymore. Instead they are being shaped and moulded, and filled with information about things that are meant to support them in their lives, but really have nothing to do with their life at all. By the time they are reaching high school it’s all but gone. Thats when it really becomes prevalent to what is happening. It is then that they too begin to realise the sad truth of how little they matter in the system, how small their voices are, unless of course they have an exceptional skill that can offer some personal gain to the school. It becomes entirely about working hard, retaining the masses of information, memorizing as opposed to learning, endless testing and our children tirelessly keeping pace, trying to prove themselves over and over again. It is about them illogically having to have their whole life plan set out before them, at the tender age of sixteen. This is not the learning we are striving for. The learning we strive for is one that doesn’t require forcing information upon them with the expectation that they retain it and then perform it back in some way, as proof of a job well done. My children are learning to count, I know this. I hear them practicing all the time, for their own pleasure. I have also watched them refuse to count on demand or worse feel so under pressure, to prove themselves that they simply can’t. Testing children is much the same. It fills them with dread, panic and insecurity, and really is no way to conclude where a child’s level of understanding is really at. Testing children in this country in the educational systems is out of control. We test everything, even how fast they can run, in ‘beep tests’. This has nothing to do with nurturing the physical health of our children, or guiding them towards naturally being aware of how to take care of their own bodies, and everything to do with competition and adequacy verses inadequacy. Never before in our history has the pressure to perform been so rampant, you have to wonder how much learning is actually taking place. We are living in a time where we are now recognising the expansive neurological diversity amongst ourselves, more than ever before, and the educational options to cater for the diversity in our children’s differences is few. Parents are wanting a new approach, they are wanting individual learning styles for their children as they are uniquely learning individuals. They are recognising that many children cannot learn effectively in a traditional school environment anymore. With the number of children being diagnosed with learning differences it is inevitable that something will have to change. There is simply no one size fits all model that can be followed effectively anymore.
I am sending you this in response to a conversation you had with a student, my daughter, a few weeks ago prior to the end of term.Firstly I wish to express that by writing this letter, by no means am I wanting this to cause any disturbance or ill feelings with in the teaching and school environment, my intention here is simply to inform you of a different perspective on a simple conversation for your further consideration.
The conversation in question proceeded with you asking my daughter if she knew what it was she wanted to do with her life after secondary school, or if she had an idea of what it is she could see herself doing with her future.
Undoubtedly, this is a relevant and important question that these young adults need to begin thinking about. It is a question of such significance that often it is asked over and over again many times though out a single life time.
My daughter, has indeed considered this question in great depths over the past few years, it is a conversation that naturally occurs quite regularly in our family around the dinner table. My daughter is insightful and clear about what it is that simply makes her happy and what it is that does not. She has an understanding about the things in life that drive her to want to know more, learn more about, take action on, become a voice for. She is passionate in life and understandings about the things that Really matter. Her strongest and most obvious caliber is her ability to create; her visual mind is of extraordinary magnitude.
When she answered this question for you, she gave you her absolute truth.She gave you a lovely list of things she ‘could see’, and I emphasize here, ‘see’ herself doing with her future. Her list I imagine would have consisted of many creative ideas and inventiveness. I understand that from an academic point of view this may not seem like a viable way to pave for ones future, that these choices that are being considered may or may not lead to what society deems a suitable or economically sustainable way of living. Your responses however, whether it be what you actually believe, or a moment of unconscious thought, to my daughter’s ideas about her life’s future were quite disheartening and surprising to say the least. You proceed to inform her that her ideas she was considering were merely just that of ‘hobbies’ and that they were not a means for ‘making a living’. I don’t wish to quote here on the exact way in which the conversation took place, however what does matter is the understanding of which my daughter walked away with from the experience.
You have in your judgments of what is considered to be a viable future and what is not, bought her to a place at a vital young age to question herself about her abilities to offer something of value and insight to the world in which we live.
Now, my question to you is this, if we are not to guide these young minds to follow their dreams, to pursue their passions and the very things that are the driving force behind what makes them who they are as individuals, and instead lead them to follow the ideas and beliefs of another on the advice that it is a better way, or the only sustainable way; are we not creating a society of individuals who need to perform rather than live and rather than acceptance of who they are, conditioning them into an idea of what they should be?
I beg you to consider this, if we are to follow the essence of who we are, and are fortunate enough to be able to offer a valuable truth of ourselves to the world and the people in which inhibit this world, are we not in essence creating a better place for ourselves and those around us to live. Where would we be with out the creative writers who offer their poetry for you to teach, where would we be without the painters who have embellished this planet with extraordinary pieces that are admired and past down through the tests of time, and the person who sat with pencil in hand and drew the outline of the satchel you carry your important papers in, and the books that are written, the gardens you stroll through, the glorious meals created from ingredients before they find themselves into the recipe books you cook from.
There are millions of ways to walk this life, my daughter is blessed enough that she falls into many, many ideas in which she will pave her way, all of which I’m certain will have a creative flare. And when I think of that prospect for her, I am unconcerned with the amount of money she will make, or even the details in how it will happen. For now, all that is important is that she believes in herself.
You hold an important and highly valued role within the school community, and have always been highly regarded in your opinion towards particular subjects with my children. It must be recognized that your view does impact the ways in which we move these young minds towards their futures. That you are in fact, in a position of great significance by educating and shaping these minds with ideas about themselves and the choices they will need to make.
Another student at the school, recently showed me a thought provoking piece by Alan Watts, titled ‘What if money was no object’ that is quite similar to that of which I have expressed here, if you are yet to see this piece, you may find it of interesting listening.
Religion is, as I say, something universal and something human, and something impossible to eradicate, nor would I want to eradicate it. I am a religious person, although I am not a believer.
These pictures were taken from a few of the many breathtakingly beautiful churches around Italy. I always love the feeling that becomes present when you first step through the doors into these places, and take the moment to really see, what it is that is surrounding you. Religious or not, believer or non, really it doesn’t matter or is of concern. You are welcome into the divinity of these walls that have been standing for the test of time. They have heard and hold deep within the deepest of secrets, immeasurable stories and prayers to ever be recounted. These places are sacred, not only by vertue of religious believers but by their very presence and the silence they keep on all that has ever been confided. It is here, that it is for ever memorable that I light a candle for the passing of my mum’s dearest friend, Ruth.
It’s alluring, but complicated. It’s the kind of place that can have you fuming and then purring in the space of a hundred metres, or in the course of ten minutes.
Beppa Severgnini, La Bella Figura
ZàZà Ristorante Trattoria Firenze -Piazza del mercato centralelovely Venice..Artists Apartment, Trastvere, Roma cobble stone paths and names for remembering Luca, waiting for un caffè, NO NAME CAFE, TRASTEVERE the open door bookshop, Via della Lungaretta, 23 Trastevere 00153 Rome,Italy Ph:+39065896478