As an early childhood educator, I believe that children need to be respected. It is only through being shown respect, that children learn to respect. It is not learned through fear. Sure, fear may generate what appears to be respect – compliance, conformity, obedience. But inside, feelings of discontent may simmer until, at some future time they manifest in a variety of unpleasant ways.
Children also need to respect, and not fear, each other. I frequently write about the need to develop a welcoming and supportive classroom in which children feel valued and respected. They need to understand the diversity that exists in our world and learn to accept, appreciate, respect and embrace it. Fear is often the result of the unknown, so by getting to know each other better, that opportunity for fear, at least, can be erased.
In a previous post Watching ink dry, I wrote a story about a child being singled out and humiliated for an inability to keep between the lines in a handwriting lesson. An interesting discussion developed in the comments about nuns–teaching nuns, which surprised me. You see, although that particular situation wasn’t one I personally experienced, I did have in mind one of my teachers, who happened to be a nun, as I wrote, but I made no mention of it. I really didn’t think the attitude I portrayed was reserved for nuns during my childhood.
Within a few days of publishing the post, I visited the optometrist where the assistant, without prompting of any kind, (I have no idea how we got onto the subject) told me about nuns who repeatedly humiliated her at school. I then told her about my story, but not my real experiences which were quite similar to hers. I added this to the discussion, and so the conversation grew, prompting Charli Mills from the Carrot Ranch to entertain the thought of “Nun” as a flash fiction prompt.
She did shy away from it in the end, fearing, I think stereotyping nuns unfairly. Instead, she challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features something black and white. It could be a nun in a zebra monster truck, a rigid way of thinking, a bird in a tuxedo — be imaginative and go where the prompt leads.
But it was too late for me to consider the fear, or perhaps to feel the fear and resist doing it anyway. I’d already started recording my black and white view, coloured from years under the rule of those nuns in their black and white habits (literally and figuratively).
One memorable event occurred when, handing out history test results, the teacher (a nun) distributed everyone’s but mine. She then made a big show of trying to find it while telling the class what a dreadful result it was, and that she must have put it aside out of disappointment. Though I am quite tall, she did her best to make me feel small.
Funnily enough, when I experienced a similar situation at a writers’ critique session over the weekend–one of the writers had everyone’s story but mine–I was able to accept his apology and not relive the earlier trauma, even though it was brought to mind.
Perhaps I’m more like the nuns of my childhood than I’d like to acknowledge. Perhaps I find forgiveness no easier than they. So, apologies to all the lovely nuns, whom I am sure must exist, this poem is not for you. It is a reflection of my black and white reflections on my black and white experiences. I’m not sure that I expect you to enjoy this one.
The nun’s prayer
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
I have no need for counting sheep,
I count the girls that I made weep.
Lord, I ask Thee, help me please
To do my job with greater ease–
Bless them even when they sneeze,
And keep their skirts below their knees.
I know the task should be not hard
And I should never drop my guard
But if they’re ever marred or scarred,
It puts a mark upon my card.
And while she dreamed her cunning schemes,
Her girls were strangling silent screams.
To finish on a more positive note, which is more my way, on her Big Sister Blogs this week, Maria Parenti-Baldey shared a post of wishes creatives have for children. Those wishes are opposite to those of the nun in my disrespectful poem. One of my favourite quotes is that by Jeannie Baker whose books I have previously written about here and here and here.
According to Maria,
Jeannie Baker wished for every ‘single’ child ‘to love and be loved’. For children to have a supportive home, a peaceful environment and ‘to be creative and not be criticised’. To go to school with time to ‘exercise their curiosity… use their imagination’ and find and make things. Jeannie wanted children to think for themselves, play outside and engage with nature with feelings of awe and wonder. Some children experience a fear of nature – ‘Nature deficit syndrome’. ‘What one fears, one destroys. What one loves, one defends.’
I thought it was a perfect quote to round out my post. I wholeheartedly agree with her wishes–they match my dream.
Please pop over to Maria’s post to read what other creatives; including, Leigh Hobbs, Gus Gordan, Mark Wilson, Anna Fienberg, Kyle Hughes-Odgers and Deborah Abela, wish for children. Great wishes, every one.
Thank you for reading, I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.