Children learn what they live and see

Bird Droppings August 9, 2011
Children learn what they live and See

I was sitting in my room at school last night from three till nearly seven for our annual open house and talking with various parents and students that came by. Several made comments about how their child loved my class and my ego was boosted not that it was ever deflated but it does feel good to be applauded occasionally. Along the way another parent as they talked said you are the greatest teacher my child ever had. By now I was on cloud nine and rising. But I stopped and thought had it not been for great teachers I would not be who I am. It is how we live and what we see and hear as we live that make us and mold us into who we are. I was reading autobiographies yesterday students were writing and where we have been and what we have seen so impacts us.

“I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be the happier. If you cannot, I will seek to deserve that you should. I will no longer hide my tastes and my aversions. I will trust that what is deep is holy…that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever rejoices me and my heart appoints. If you are noble, I will love you; if you are not I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions. If you are true, but not in the same truth with me, cleave to your companions…I WILL SEEK MY OWN…I do this not selfishly, but truly. It is alike in your interest and mine, and all men’s, however long we have dwelt in lies, to live in truth. You will soon love what is dictated by your nature as well as mine..and if we follow our own truth it will bring us out safe at last.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Seems I can nowadays find an Emerson or Thoreau quote to fit most times. I am sitting and thinking about children after the parent open house and how and why we raise them to be who they are. Later today I am evaluating several children using standardized tests to determine if they are “normal” or not. However much of my evaluation is my perception of these children and where I think they should be. Somewhere in that effort I have to fit them in, not simply my own picture of what it is they should be but a description and understanding others can agree on.
Many times over the years I have written numerous times about a poster hanging in my classroom actually immediately in front of me as I type. No author is listed on the poster. It is a brightly colored 1970’s black light poster I found in a head shop in Philadelphia back in the day. Around the statement are several flowers and cartoon character children with smiles across their faces. I did an internet search years back and found that a child psychologist; Dr. Dorothy Nolte penned the poem. The title is “Children Learn what they live”. Back in the day as my youngest son says so often, for me back in the days of hippies and peace, so many years ago that is the statement on my poster.
As I looked for the author on the internet something interesting happened. I typed in her name wrong, just a minute error and nothing I found was what I was looking for. There were different people and different topics but not her poem. Tens of thousands of hits that were all wrong, from a simple error in typing a letter or two.

“If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect. If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.”
Dr. Dorothy Nolte

Available at following website:

The entire long version is on this author approved site. As I searched for the poem on that morning it dawned on me. What if I make a slight error in evaluating a child and go a totally different direction in one or two key strokes. That is a b big what if with a child’s life. A child is placed based on my educated and experienced guess. Sadly so often as parents, teachers and friends we only see those around us in light of our own experiences and perceptions. The old adage of “walking a mile in my shoes” is so true. It is difficult to know what has elicited the response, when you only have your own information to base your response on and to operate from.
Recently in several emails various worldly views have been discussed. As I read Emerson’s thoughts on being true, “If you can love me for what I am, we shall be the happier.” So often we want to change that person and in my situation at school, that child. I keep coming back to Nolte’s poem. The far more powerful lesson is in setting the example. We can evaluate and place children but if what they continually see is in contradiction, we will fail. There needs to be truth and example for them to emulate and strive for. I encourage each of you to read again Dr. Nolte’s Poem take a few minutes of your time and see what the words hold for you. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

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