If You Aren’t Making it Better, You Might Be Making it Worse

Jackie french - raindrops

Last week I shared some of the wisdom of Jackie French, including these wise words:

“Let us give our children role models who do not, will not despair, no matter how long it takes to change the world. And let us never surrender, no matter how tired we are, or how long it takes. Because with these weapons we shape the future of our planet.”

When I read this post I thought, “Here is someone putting it into action”. What wonderful ideals this school and these children are working towards. A great example for all.

kinderconfidential

This is going to be a rather short post, but I have been thinking something in the document Play For a Change which mentions two views of children- one where we are waiting for them to be adults, and one where they are fully functioning and valuable members of society already. I think I used to think the former (you are learning to be a well balanced happy adult), until I realized that I am still learning to be a well balanced happy adult (and to be fair I know plenty of adults who are less balanced and unhappier than children I know).

Simultaneously, I have been annoyed at the once a year charity blitz that I see in December, all of a sudden the homeless need coats? They didn’t need coats in November? They won’t need more coats in January? And I am so guilty of this, off…

View original post 520 more words

24 thoughts on “If You Aren’t Making it Better, You Might Be Making it Worse

  1. Sarah Brentyn

    How did I miss this? And quite a conversation going on here in the comment section. I’ll have to go back and reread the post but, Norah, I am in complete agreement with you. 100%

    As you know, my children started helping out very early. I can’t remember exactly but they were very young when they started helping: animal shelters, homeless shelters, local hospitals… They have both been to some of these places when they were older and we donate online through numerous organizations so they can see and help parts of the rest of our world. I truly believe this builds compassion and perspective. My children have asked for donations to be made in their names for birthday and holiday gifts. My youngest also has a Kiva account and made a panda page through WWF to help endangered species for his birthday. (There are so many picture books out there about endangered animals so I don’t see how this is introducing anything young children can’t handle. As a matter fact, I would think it would empower them to read about this in a picture book or board book and actually be able to help and do something about it.) I really don’t see anything wrong with this. In fact I see a world of right with this. Before anyone gets upset, know that I only give information I feel is appropriate and can be handled at a particular age. I would never tell them something I thought they would not fully understand or that would traumatize them in any way. But that does not mean that they cannot know there are homeless people in the world and that we can go shopping and get them warm blankets and hats.

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for finding your way to this post and leaving your wonderful comment, Sarah. As I was reading the linked post I thought immediately of you. You share so frequently the wonderful ways you encourage your boys to show compassion for others and to live compassionate lives. You live it fully with them. I have never known anyone to do as much as you. I admire it greatly. I love your statement, “I see a world of right with this.” I think if we did as much as you there would be a whole lot more that’s right with the world. I love that these teachers are leading the way in their classrooms. I agree with the need for age-appropriate information, but it is never too soon to start caring for others. Thank you for demonstrating so effectively how this can be lived. xo

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Sarah Brentyn

        I bet you thought of me! I thought of me when I read it (and thought of you thinking “Sarah will love this.” Then I didn’t show up…) LOL!

        Thank you. You’re always so wonderful and supportive of my teaching compassion (as I see it). I completely agree. As long as it is age-appropriate, it is never too soon to start caring for others. 💕

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
  2. Bec

    I love Jackie French’s quote and the post you’ve shared. Like the other comments and like you too (knowing you as I do!) I can see the importance of protecting children from those horrors of our world that they can’t understand. But I love the idea that the classroom is a place for change, and I especially love the attitude that children aren’t just adults-in-construction, they are fully functioning citizens and members of society.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Bec. We definitely need to protect children from horrors, but learning to assist those in need helps to develop an attitude of care and compassion. I remember how we used to always enjoy buying gifts for the “Tree of Joy” at Christmas time. I also remember how we started visiting a resident in a nursing home and you didn’t like doing so, so I went alone. Children know themselves what feels right for them. We need to listen to and respect their knowledge of self. It’s so true that they aren’t adults-in-construction. We need to appreciate their every age and stage along the way. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
  3. TanGental

    I’m with Pauline. Take it gradually. With ours they seemed to be right for different lessons at very different ages and the lessons sort of followed naturally. Death being huge exception. We didn’t have to deal with death up front until our aged cat popped it’s paws when the oldest was ten and the youngest 7. That was tough and, for the seven year old badly timed. She retains a suspicion that we hide that kind of bad news from her and gets upset still if she thinks we might be holding something back even though she’s 23.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks, Geoff. I agree with you about different lessons for different ages. Death is a difficult one. Poor daughter thinking that you withhold bad news. But you told her about the cat didn’t you? Did she react badly, and now suspects you won’t tell her for fear of the same? I must admit I have felt rather annoyed sometimes when information has been withheld “to protect me”. The protection backfired each time. I now figure it’s best to inform, best to know. If it’s known it can be dealt with.
      Thanks for sharing.

      Like

      Reply
  4. Steven

    I suspect (with, “What wonderful ideas…”) that you were intending to demonstrate the persistence and impact that the teacher (the role model) can have in trying to improve things in the world and how this can encourage and empower the students. In principle it is a good idea, although like some of the other comments, I agree that in practice it is susceptible to risk and would have to be very carefully controlled and monitored. I think that as long as it remained a classroom/playground activity then this might be acceptable, but if it were my choice, then I wouldn’t feel comfortable progressing any further than that. I guess I’m suggesting that as long as there is a buffer protecting the students from the real-world situation, then there is probably more benefit than harm.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Steven. It’s nice to hear from you again. It’s interesting the comments that have arisen in response to this post. I was quite impressed with the ideas when I first read the post (and still am), but others are not so excited. Having worked with children in this age group for a number of years, and participating in a few isolated projects as part of the school program, I can imagine how what is described would work. I definitely wouldn’t be taking children on an excursion to an animal refuge, children’s hospital or homeless shelter, if that’s what you mean about the projects remaining in the classroom/playground. Anyway, I have appreciated the thinking that all of these comments have encouraged. I am no longer in a position to apply any of the suggestions in my own classroom, but now wish I had done more to develop these attitudes of care and compassion when I had the opportunity. Thanks for giving me more to consider. 🙂

      Like

      Reply
  5. thecontentedcrafter

    I see the passion and the caring and the good intentions in the post Norah – but – and this is a big but – I would be very careful about racing off with very young children and making them aware of something that they might not yet be ready to understand. Children aren’t just short versions of adults, they are developing all their senses, learning about their world as it applies to their experiences ……. [our brain keeps on developing until we are 21 – 28 years old] Children in kindergarten are still being socialised with each other – premature exposure to the worlds ills isn’t something I care to see at all. All in good time – and good time begins very slowly from age nine on adding more in terms of experience and knowledge by degrees until puberty [and up] when we chuck ’em in at the deep end and get them out working in soup kitchens and hospices and so on – the real experience of ‘doing the work’ and being emotionally challenged by those not as fortunate as they themselves are. [All this comes from my understanding of child development and of course, is just my opinion] 🙂 I agree with Anecdotist – start with what is in front of them – litter is a good thing to get their heads around and being kind to everyone is good practise for six year olds – and sharing, even when they don’t really want to……

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Hmm. Thanks, Pauline. I really appreciate your comment, and as with Anne’s, another challenge to my thinking. As I said to Anne, I have been back over the article a few times and reread it and am not sure what I am missing. I think the children I worked with would easily understand, and be familiar with the idea of helping out injured animals and sick children. I can imagine the enthusiasm with which the children would approach making items for them. I like that the ways in which the children are involved are local and low key, not unlike other fundraisers and events that children may already be involved with in the community e.g. Jump rope for heart and Christmas shoeboxes.
      I agree with you about the need for children at these ages to get on with everyone and that taking turns and sharing is a great place to start. Sometimes having a “bigger” purpose, rather than a focus on self, helps to foster cooperation rather than competition. I agree that there are many of the world’s ills that young children should not be exposed to (and I’d rather not have exposure as an adult either) but the truth is that not everything is the community is perfect and there are probably children in every class who have personal experience with someone in need. Some of the children themselves will have lives that are far from perfect and doing something for someone else may lift the eyes outward for a little while. Of course, as parents, it is probably easier to adjust to a particular child’s development than it is to cater for all in a class, but I think it could be done. You have got me thinking more about this though, and I’m not through yer. Thank you for that. 🙂

      Like

      Reply
  6. Annecdotist

    I really don’t know about this one, Norah. I remember as children collecting money for the “black babies” teaching us to have the same prejudices as the adults, totally ignoring issues of inequality. I also remember, on our own initiative, foisting ourselves on the “old folks home” to sing at them – I’m sure we weren’t old enough to see things from their perspective. I know times are different, but are there some assumptions here we wouldn’t want to pass on to children. I do like the idea of harnessing the strengths of children, rather than seeing them as adults in training, to be actively involved in making their communities better – I’d say something really basic like not littering would be a great place to start. (Sorry I’m rambling, making this up as I go along!)

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Anne. Your introductory statement got me thinking, wondering what in the article I had missed. I’ve been back and reread it a couple of times and am still not sure. We are reading different things from it I think. I don’t see what these classes are doing as anything like collecting money for the “black babies”, or even tithing at church and then going out and not giving a thought about anyone or anything for the rest of the week as if that’s one’s responsibility done. We used to be told to “think of the children starving in Africa’ if we didn’t ever finish our meals. I’m not sure what good that did either.
      I like the idea of children making toys for injured animals in refuges, and mobiles for children’s hospital wards. It seems to me these are small acts that can be incorporated into everyday life that could make a difference to another; fostering an attitude of care and compassion. Something as simple as smile, an “hello” a kind word all can do wonders for another.
      And littering! Don’t get me started. That’s something I’ve never understood. Why can’t people just dispose of their litter in the appropriate way – not “thoughtfully” as the packaging often says, but properly!
      Thanks for you comment, Anne. I’m pleased you have challenged my position on this one – still thinking it through. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Annecdotist

        Could be indeed that we actually read different articles – testament to the fact that readers bring their own constructions to the text. Perhaps this is especially a risk with blogging where we are often reading quite quickly. Seems like I used your post as a launchpad for exploring some of my own prejudices. Interestingly, I did have a further more positive reflection on this from my own childhood experience (which obviously should determine everyone else’s!) of organising a jumble sale in aid of the charity Oxfam aged about nine – I don’t think we had any idea what we were getting into, but it was good fun, and a charity I still support.
        As to littering, very proud of Mr A who has bought himself one of those picker-uppers and goes out tidying the verges.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        1. Norah Post author

          Thank you for coming back and adding more to the conversation, Anne. I hope you haven’t mellowed your response because of mine. I love to hear the differing opinions, as you know. Challenges to what we think help us grow; and I had to give a lot more thought to the article as a result of the comments. That’s a good thing. I would be very unhappy if people felt they couldn’t give an honest opinion because it disagreed with mine. I’m sure you wouldn’t do that. You are always honest, I hope, in a gentle way.
          I love the thought of 9-year-old-you organising a jumble sale for Oxfam. Because I went to a Catholic School we were always raising money for something. But we didn’t actually DO anything. That’s what appealed to me about what was described in the article.
          I am also very proud of Mr A too. That is a wonderful thing to do. I just wish he didn’t have to! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          Reply
          1. Annecdotist

            No, I don’t think I changed my mind, but it did make me think I might not have responded to the actual article. I’m always confident of a warm welcome here regardless of potential differences in point of view.

            Liked by 1 person

            Reply

I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s