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Saturday, July 25, 2009

HUMANE HUMANS NEEDED

On the first day of the new school year, all the teachers in one private school received the following note from their principal.

Dear Teacher,

I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness:


Gas chambers built by learned engineers.


Children poisoned by educated physicians.


Infants killed by trained nurses.


Women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates.


So, I am suspicious of education. My request is: help your students become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmanns.


Reading, writing and arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human.


As I am reading my journals that I have written since 1969, I came across the quote which is shared above. I had written these words in my journal after I heard it at a music teachers workshop. I attended these workshops on Saturdays. This particular workshop was titled Creative Drama, Sound, Sight and Movement taught by Mavis M. Serries of the Waltham, Massachusetts Public Schools.

Reading it today moves me, as much as it did the day I wrote it down in my journal. It is from Haim Ginott's book,
Teacher and Child. It is the book's epilogue, page 317.

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Your children are not your children,
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but are not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
Kahlil Gibran

More notes from Haim Ginott's Books
can be found at eqi.org/ginott.htm

Haim Ginott's most famous quote:

I have come to a frightening conclusion.
I am the decisive element in the classroom.
It is my personal approach that creates the climate.
It is my daily mood that makes the weather.
As a teacher I possess tremendous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous.
I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.
I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.
In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or de-humanized.

Between Teacher and Child


Haim Ginott died at age 51 years old and his wife, Alice Ginott, wrote about him:

‘He wanted to learn how to discipline without humiliating; how to criticize without destroying self-worth; how to praise without judging; how to express anger without hurting; how to acknowledge, not argue with, feelings; how to respond so that children would learn to trust their inner reality and develop self-confidence.

“What is the goal of education?” he would ask, “When all is said and done, we want children to grow up to be decent human beings, a ‘mensch’, a person with compassion, commitment, and caring.” How then does one go about humanising a child, making a “mensch” out of him? Only by using “menschy” methods: By recognising that the process is the method, that the ends do not justify the means, and that in our attempt to get children to behave in a way that is conducive to learning, we do not damage them psychologically. Also, that we do not talk to children in a way that will enrage them, diminish their self-confidence, inflict hurt, or cause them to lose faith in their competence and ability.’ (p.10)



Haim G. Ginott (1922-1973) was a teacher, child psychologist and psychotherapist, who worked with children and parents. He pioneered techniques for conversing with children that are still taught today. His book, Between Parent and Child. The book stayed on the best seller list for over a year and is still popular today.


Teacher and Child

Ginott, Haim (1972)

New York; Colliers Books Macmilllan Publishing Company

The book primarily comprises a series of very short sections with a point to make about a humane way of being in the classroom and stories to illustrate. Each feels like a springboard for an enquiry focussed on ‘How can I improve what I am doing and live my values more fully through my practice?’ which would enable the enquirer to theorise their practice, to tell the story for how they account for themselves and their learning, recognise themselves as contradictions and progress; a quick and provocative read and good resource.


The next page of this journal has these words by Charles Silberman, from his book, Crisis in the Classroom:


Thinking alone, does not make a human being human. Feeling is also needed.


What tomorrow needs is not masses of intellectuals, but masses of educated men...men educated to feel and to act as well as to think.


Other links:


alice-miller.com


Emotional Intelligence

How to help a suicidal teen

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