Recently, Ms Nancy Vaz, our manager, quoted from the book, The Path, by Lawrie Beth Jones. What stayed with me was this idea: Parenting and teaching are healing Ministries, compelling me to share the following reflection since I tick both boxes.
Parenting: A Daily Learning Experience
“Parenting is the easiest thing in the world to have an opinion about, but the hardest thing in the world to do” (Matt Walsh). A serious statement—coming from a comedian. Parenting is a daily learning experience. Trust me. We have been at it for the last twenty-seven years, which in early childhood included not just the usual tonsillitis and chicken pox, but suspected T.B. (later diagnosed as an adenoid problem) and throat cancer (later diagnosed as an unusual lower jaw problem). As the years flew by, the tremors intensified, as it involved handling third degree burns – courtesy jumping into the ‘Holi Pit’ of smouldering ashes, and an angioplasty done as late as last year on my 25-year-old. Besides these, there were school- and college-related problems, peer pressure issues, the first crush and the more serious break-up that called for our undivided attention.
What I have shared are a few intimate revelations that have left indelible marks on our relationship with our children. In the realm of God, I believe the small initiatives taken by parents, against all odds, to bring succour to their children, can turn out to be very significant. So, yes, being a parent has meant that I learnt about strengths I didn’t know I had and learnt to deal with fears I didn’t know existed. The paediatrician who nursed me along with my two boys through the early traumatic years (God Bless you, Dr. Rouen Mascarenhas, wherever you are!) had a plaque on one of the walls of his consulting room. It read ‘All life is a story, lived forward, understood backwards, but a story nonetheless.’ I didn’t think much of the saying then but the story of my life intertwined with those of my husband and children, continues to unravel, displaying a series of events, many good, a few others not so.
With parenting there are no real answers. Instinctively you do the right thing; you do the best you can ALWAYS. Everybody goes through the joys and difficulties involved in parenting, which can be compared to a road trip, undertaken with no map and no schedule in place. … Oh! What a fascinating journey it is! Why? Until you have counted little fingers and toes, held a little hand, kissed a little runny nose, tickled a little tummy, read to little ears, powdered a little derriere, wiped away little tears, you have not known LOVE.
“One of the most important things we adults can do for young children is to model the kind of person we would like them to be,” suggests Carol B. Hillman, who spent more than twenty years in the classroom and has been an educational consultant and an adjunct professor of early childhood education. Children close their ears to advice, but open their eyes to example. It is not only children who grow; parents do, too. As much as we want to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. We can develop a future society of caring individuals if the young ones of today find in their parents to be spiritual individuals, persons who are ready to reach out with their time and resources to those in need, persons who show kindness to animals and who care for the environment.
Here are some priceless nuggets on parenting.
When they cry, kiss them. When they are afraid, hold them. When they speak, listen. When they ask, answer.
Let them explore; dirt washes off.
Allow them to be goofy; silly is a good thing to be.
When you say, “Please” and “Thank you” to them, they will say it back to you.
Always do the right thing even when no one is looking; they will follow suit.
There are many crises in the world; scribbling on the walls is not one of them.
Reiterate that ‘Faith opens many doors”; they too will believe.
The Teacher as “Second Chance”
“Children learn more from what you are than what you teach,” opined W. E. B. DuBois, sociologist and author. The great psychologist Alfred Adler (1870-1937) stated over and over again that, the teacher was the “Second Chance” for every student. So powerful was the influence of the teacher that Adler believed that, s/he could overcome nearly all the mistakes in child rearing that the Parents had made. The critically important role of the classroom teacher in both primary and secondary schools is being strongly underlined by new neuroscientific research.
Recent research has uncovered a group of neurons located in the brain called ‘Mirror Neurons,’ which are activated when we do something such as: playing music, dancing, moving our limbs, etc. They are also activated when we watch someone else do the same! So, when a child in the classroom sees the smiling face of the teacher, the chid responds with feelings of comfort. The important role of these Mirror Neurons makes it possible for a teacher to correct attachments that are not secure, thus laying down new and positive attitudes that help the child to feel loved, cared for and nurtured, not just in the classroom, but in the wider world.
The demography of our classrooms has changed radically. It is an indisputable fact that today a multitude of children come to us from dysfunctional homes. It is this very situation that allows the teacher to become that “Second Chance,” and help those children and adolescents who enter the classroom as a collection of rough and jagged edges to become refined and smooth.
Edgar Lee Masters, an early twentieth century American lawyer, who was also a scholar of Greek and Latin, wrote poems which enunciated the notion of the teacher being the second chance. Through them he unites, across time and space, the teacher and the student whose broken life is healed by a teacher who never gave up on him, who continued to see the good in him despite the messy reality of his life. What a wonderful vision of the healing and life-saving role of a teacher! Masters, the millionaire lawyer and poet, knew in his heart what contemporary neuroscientists are now proving: ‘The teacher IS the second chance for every child.’
How Things Can Go Wrong
The potential for the teacher to become the second chance for every child is greatly reduced by three factors: (a) an education policy that harps on ‘inclusive education,’ while paying scant attention to training mainstream teachers to handle children with special needs; (b) an education department that does very little to provide continuing professional development; (c) social factors, like accommodating a large class size in small classrooms; limited teaching resources; pressurised curriculum; an exam-driven secondary educational system that lays emphasis on how many students achieve those unbelievable percentages, as opposed to how many students leave school equipped to live a life of dignity, self-respect, self-confidence and the ability to be a contributing member of society. Really it is a wonder our children continue to come to us to be nurtured, to be groomed, to be HEALED.
Parents and teachers reading this, please meditate on the basic fact that our highest worth is not to be determined by how much knowledge we instil, but on the impact of the healing role we play in the lives of children gifted to us by the Almighty, either in the home or in the classroom—or, better still, in both places.
– Ninette D’Souza is a teacher of high school mathematics and science at Canossa High School, Mahim, Mumbai.
To subscribe to the magazine Contact Us