Member Voices: Listen to the Children
This article originally appeared as Ena Shelley’s monthly “Transforming Education” column; it is reposted with permission. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.
“While we try to teach our children all about life, they teach us what life is all about.” – Anonymous
You are likely reading this on the brink of our national election. There have been months of bickering, insult slinging, and behavior that would not be tolerated in most of our classrooms. Certainly there are adult issues that must be addressed, yet I sometimes wonder that if we remembered more often the voices and ears of children, we might find the margins of compromise that allow debates to become more about the “us” and less about the “them.” Children truly have wisdom and perspective that adults sometimes forget or lose in the busyness of life. I am sharing three links in this column that are the voices of younger children and adolescents. What if those running for political office, as well as those who already hold a policy-making position, and the media gave more time and attention to the wisdom they have to offer?
The first link is a video made with children at the IPS/Butler Lab School. They offer advice to the next President of the United States, which includes the importance of remembering the Golden Rule and why it is best to choose kindness over meanness. Our children are watching; so how do they reconcile what they are told is appropriate behavior for them and then see adults not modeling it?
The second video, also by the IPS/Butler Lab School, is of the children reading the famous “100 Languages” poem by Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the internationally known schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Listen carefully and ask yourself, “Am I allowing students to learn and demonstrate their understanding through multiple forms of communication?” Are you asking the child “to think without hands, to do without head, to listen and not to speak, to understand without joy?”
The third link is one of the most powerful messages I have seen, created by three young adolescents. Their message, cited in unison, provokes deep thinking and questioning about their school experience, their life as a student, and their questions about society and culture. How do we answer the question they raise as to why we ban certain books but we will not ban assault weapons, especially in light of school shootings? While you may not agree with all of their questions and observations, it will definitely provoke thinking about issues and concerns of today’s adolescents.
What I found in each of the three messages was the power of a child’s mind and heart and their openness for understanding. It reminded me of the quote by Aristotle: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” I encourage you to find time to listen to children of any age that surround you and be open to learning from their minds and hearts.
Ena Shelley is chair-elect of AACTE’s Advisory Council of State Representatives and a member of AACTE’s Board of Directors.