The past year and a half has been a challenge to educators and parents, as they adapted to new ways of teaching because of the pandemic. Parents were thrust into the role of “backup teacher” while teachers worked to keep their students engaged in learning. The whole experience put additional weight to attitudes that hold some kids can learn and some kids can’t, or some can be helped, while others cannot. When we categorize kids – actually, anybody – like this, we short-change the kids, as well as short-change ourselves.
Several decades ago, the great Japanese teacher, Dr. Suzuki, who taught over 20,000 children to understand and play the violin like virtuosi, had some words of wisdom to share with us. He said, “People today are like gardeners who look sadly at ruined saplings and shake their heads, saying the seeds must have been bad to start with – not realizing that the seed was all right, and that it was their method of cultivation that was wrong. They go on their mistaken way, ruining plant after plant. It is imperative that the human race escape from this vicious circle.” These words have just as much value today as they did when they were said.
You see, Dr. Suzuki did not believe that some children were gifted while others were not. He believed that every child could be superior, and that every child could be educated. Talent, he believed, was no accident of birth, but a purposeful effort, a powerful creation.
What if we teach our children to understand that when they see someone of ability, they see a person who has been carefully taught, and who has worked hard to realize some of their unlimited potential? And what if we teach them that they have that very same unlimited potential? What if we teach them to believe in sustained effort, self-discipline and self-determination? Some may not reach the stars, but at least they will reach. The error is not in reaching and missing, but in not trying at all.
We have the opportunity and the ability to raise an entire generation of efficacious go-getters, every day. Why would we settle for less? Plant the seeds, water, fertilize. Weed, loosen the soil so the roots can go deep, and then water again. Ensure there is warmth and the illumination of light. Repeat.
With a little time and the proper attention, we can grow some mighty “trees” . . .