Bird Droppings March 21, 2011
Children Teach what they Live
It is a dreary and overcast morning and quiet out side cool not cold and the weather person said might get up to 70 degrees today in the afternoon. So it is not a bad day but not quite as nice as it has been possible rain as well. Standing earlier walking our dog there was little in terms of any sounds the overcast heavy air muffling the human side of noise around me. I heard nothing as I stood even in the background not even crickets or breeze in the trees. Every morning I have been passing by a bill board and wanting to write about it. It is bold and artistically done for everyone to see; Peace, Paz, Shalom courtesy of the Rotary Club sort of strange for these parts.
“Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.” Will Durant
Several years ago I found this short story on a web site. I have used it several times in meetings and in my daily wanderings. I would like to share today a story from many years ago entitled, Our nature, which is from the Zen thought and writings.
“Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process he was stung. He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell in. The monk saved the scorpion and was again stung. The other monk asked him, ‘Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know its nature is to sting?’ ‘Because,’ the monk replied, ‘to save it is my nature.’” From the website of Dr. John Suler, Ryder University
As I look at this story there are many reactions to the monk’s response. How foolish is the monk who gets stung. He knows it is a scorpion. He knows scorpions will sting and he has been already stung once. What lesson is being taught in this passage some have said over the year’s stupidity? There is also a similar story Dr. Suler uses from Native American lore of a fox and scorpion crossing a stream. My concern is there are applications to parenting, friendship, teaching within the context of a stinging scorpion? As I read this morning looking through various articles by Dr. Suler and another writer I enjoy immensely Sydney J. Harris, this is a piece of an article from his daily column Strictly Speaking which was in syndication during his lifetime in over 300 papers, this caught my eye.
“The student, who could really get an A if he wanted to, cannot really get an A because he really doesn’t want to. And the wanting to is an essential part of the achieving, not a separate thing, as parents imagine, that can be injected into him like a shot of adrenalin. All genuine and meaningful and lasting motivation comes from the inside, not from the outside. The carrot and the stick work maybe only as long as the carrot is in front and the stick behind. When they are withdrawn, the motivation ceases. You can get a mule to move this way, but not a person for very long.” Sydney J. Harris, Motivation, a key part of Talent
Last week in class listening to students tell why they have low grades several interesting answers, “but I am passing I have a 70” or “what do I need this crap for anyhow”. As I listened and looked through notes and ideas on how do we instill the idea of motivation in a child or student? I found most of the students yesterday when told about the monk getting stung would say he was stupid, just step on the scorpion, why waste your time. Occasionally a person will pop up and say, “The scorpion has a right to live too and that is why the monk helped it”.
Somewhere when I first started working with children back in the dark ages I found a poster, “Children Learn what they Live” which was written by Dr. Dorothy Nolte Ph.D., in 1972 and goes as follows:
Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
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.
If children live with friendliness, they learn
the world is a nice place in which to live.
Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte
Sydney Harris couldn’t put a finger on motivation as he mentions in his article how parents want it to be like adrenaline and we could give a shot of motivation. The monk showing kindness to the scorpion is an attribute that had been learned by observation by seeing and by example. I believe motivation is from inside as Harris states and as Dr. Nolte so eloquently points out in 20 or so statements. It is what children see and feel as they grow that provides them with that inner drive that inner spark. Children do learn what they live and as parents and teachers we are modeling their future. We are what they will be and can be.
“If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and others.” Dr. Nolte
It is really is not that difficult when we look at kids? How can we expect a child to be motivated to succeed if we take away any of the twenty or so possibilities presented in Dr. Nolte’s chart. No matter how big the carrot dangled it must come from within, and eventually we as teachers, parents, and friends need to be providing that support and effort. So it is another spring day and a plea to please keep all in harms way in your hearts and on your minds.
PS. Maybe – just maybe it is Dr. Nolte’s thoughts hanging on the wall in my room for the past nearly forty years that keep me going and not to stepping on scorpions.