With the coming of September a special feeling surges in my heart. As a Persian, growing up in Iran, several things were related to the fall. Being children and having our own priorities, first were the harvest time and the coming of fall fruits, the most delicious of them being pomegranates. The next important event was the Festival of Mehregan, which is celebrated around the fall equinox. This is the time for planting trees and thinking of the future and the welfare of our next generation. On this occasion, trees that are long time bearing, such as walnut, which bears fruit for a hundred years, are planted since one would like to think of a further future than a few years.
It is interesting that schools also start at this time of the year and I cannot help to think that our next generations are like those trees that bear fruit long after we may be gone. Therefore it is the right time of the year, for me, to think of human potentials especially those of children.
To expand on the example of the trees, one has to remember that all children are not the same and every tree is not going to be a maple. These little seedlings, which now are transferred from the shelter of their homes to the greater arena of school, come with different potentialities. The degree to which we recognize children’s inner realities, nurture them and guide them to bring their potentialities into reality is the degree to which they will feel fulfilled and be of service to their communities. Some trees will give fruits and are of service in this way, others provide medicines, and yet others provide wood, spices, nuts, shelter, and beauty. All trees give us oxygen and are of service in this way. To expect an apple tree to provide medicine or eucalyptus to provide fruit will lead to the frustration of the gardener and prevent fulfilment of the service of the tree.
Many parents have apple trees but would like to have had maple. Some prune maple trees in the way that apple trees are pruned or vice versa and wonder why their apple tree does not bear much fruit or their maple tree does not provide enough shade. Every tree deserves to be treated with love and care and this love and care will assure the fulfilment of the destiny of the tree. Children respond to our acceptance of their potentialities and watching us, they will in turn accept their own potentialities and try to fulfill them to the best of their ability.
This year Roger White Academy experienced a large increase in enrolments and we observed the dynamics of the interactions in the school with great interest. As educators we feel moved to see the potential in each child and to try to empower the child to develop such potentials, turning capacities into capabilities. Probably, one of the most important aspects of educating a child is to recognize that all children are born with gifts and talents and all children are capable of progress (for further information see Baha’i Writings on education at www.bahai.org).
The essence of good education is to strive for excellence in all areas of life, without any comparison to any other being. When comparison and competition prevails, the ability of children to see their own potential is clouded while they feel obliged to conform to or meet standards that may have very little relationship with their reality. For a child gifted in reading or math to be compared to standards would not serve any purpose other than a hindrance for progress. On the other hand a child who has challenges in any area would be so discouraged as to give up trying for excellence in her or his own capacity.
Holistic education stresses the use of cooperation. In cooperative learning students are empowered to bring out the best in one another. The joy of helping another in the fulfilment of their potential helps students to try to reach their own potential as well. We often experience this when children, in teaching a friend, without any feeling of superiority and only as a service to their friend, are moved to do better in their own work and to fulfil their own potential with greater enthusiasm.
Many of the challenges that children are facing at this time, are emotional and more importantly spiritual in nature. For example we observed that some of our new students, though having great potential, come suffering from lack of self-confidence, self-reliance and self-esteem. The usual remedy for low self-esteem is greater attention to the child and encouragement in their desirable qualities. Yet in the course of years we have discovered that empathy with others could serve as a great catalyst in bringing out self-mastery and self-esteem. Empathy is the quality of teaching children to think about the feelings of others. Though this does not seem to be a priority for skill building for the child that lacks self-esteem, yet it is through thinking about other people’s feelings that one develops understanding of one’s own feelings.
Humility is another quality that helps children reach their potential. Humility helps children to see their strengths and weaknesses without pride or shame. When one knows where one stands, it is always easier to go forward. Humility enables us to discuss with children their strengths and build on them and also those qualities that they need to develop to help them reach their potential. The eagerness for self-knowledge, which is the foundation for self-mastery and self-esteem, will not come without humility.
There are many other qualities that children require to reach their full potential. As educators we evaluate the conditions of children and their uniqueness and we help them discover the path that would best help them reach their potential. In this path we will always ask for guidance from the positive forces that are at work in their mysterious ways in this world.
At Roger White Academy we look for the potential of each child, celebrating the wide range of diversity in abilities and interests, kindling the flame of their hearts and souls with the most loving and inspiring instruction. Finding their dignity, children often try to fulfil their potential and attain a greater degree of success and more praiseworthy achievements. For more information visit our website at www.rogerwhiteacademy.org or call us at 905-967-1156 for an appointment.
We invite you to visit Roger White Academy to observe our classes and see a demonstration of a truly fulfilled group of children.