Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

What Education Should Be About October 14, 2011

In my last post I wrote about the rewards of parenting and grandparenting and promised to share two essays written by my twin grandsons who are in the third grade this year. This is Connor’s. The assignment was to describe the most beautiful place in nature he could imagine. He also drew this picture. Enjoy.

An Amazing Day At The Beach!

“When I’m at the beach I always wake up to the beautiful sound of birds and the tide rolling in and out. Then I chomp down my breakfast, throw on my bathing suit and run down to the beach. I can always feel the sand sifting through my feet like an hour glass. Then when I finally get there I go out to the beautiful aquamarine and white sea. I can hear the seagulls flying overhead. Then I go boogie boarding and feel the cool breeze in the air and the foam in the water falling around my neck and I feel like I’m flying. Can you imagine that? Then I go up to the sand and try to collect shells. Once I even found a crab shell. It had specks of bright red but most of it was a beautiful tangerine orange color. Then I eat a wonderful dinner and sometimes go for a walk on the beach. I saw an amazing sunset that was purple like a grape and red like a cherry. Have you ever experienced something as amazing as that? When we were walking back it started to rain but I still had an awesome time! And I thought to myself what an awesome day! I hope some day you can have such an amazing day as I.”

Connor copied his story in his best handwriting and handed it in. As far as he and his classmates knew, this was the end of it. But their teacher had a surprise for them. She thought this activity would be much more fun if the parents wrote letters in response; so she put each child’s essay in a large envelope, added a page of instructions, sealed the envelope, put the name of the family on the front, and at the bottom wrote the warning “Adults Only” in red ink!

When she handed out the envelopes a few days later, the children had no idea they had anything to do with their essays. She simply told them something top secret was going on, and only the adults could know about it for now. But, she assured them, it wouldn’t be long before they would be let in on the secret. So on the back of their envelopes the children wrote in large letters, “Please Don’t Show Me! Top Secret!” and took them home to their parents.

Our son, Matt, wrote back to Connor;  our daughter-in-law wrote to his brother, Jake. (I’ll be sharing their stories next  time.)  Both responses were returned to the teacher in sealed envelopes. What happened next is the coolest thing ever. Along with his job as an economist Matt is a gifted screenwriter, (he even has a Hollywood manager), so instead of a regular letter, he wrote a script! At the age of three Connor had carried a stack of stapled papers around for weeks, adding scribbles from time to time to his “script.” Can you imagine how he must have felt when he opened his envelope and saw a script from his father, written just for him, inside? I’ve included it below.

I love everything about this assignment. Is there a third grader in the world who doesn’t love mysteries, secrets, and surprises? Who wouldn’t be thrilled to receive a warm and personal letter from a parent praising a job well done? Who wouldn’t think writing is so much fun they’d want to keep doing it? Providing exciting and personally meaningful learning experiences is what education should be about.

 

Matt’s Script:

 

                              AN AMAZING DAY IN ST. THOMAS!  

                                                                                          FADE IN:

                INT. OFFICE – MORNING

               A rectangular black desk sits on a floor of white marble
               tile.  The surrounding walls abound with smiling faces,
               moments in time captured and preserved in frames of wood. 

               With warm hearts and innocent eyes, the smiling faces (three
               brothers at various ages) look down on a MAN who sits at his
               desk, reading a piece of paper.

               The man is slender and in his late 30’s.  He has coal black
               hair with flecks of gray.  His eyes are big and brown, just
               like the boys in the pictures.  

               On his desk is an opened envelope that reads…

               PLEASE DON’T SHOW ME!  TOP SECRET!

               With a big smile, the man places the paper on his desk.  We
               see the title of the paper.  It reads…

               AN AMAZING DAY AT THE BEACH!

               The man turns to his computer and begins to type.

                                   MAN (V.O.)
                         Connor, I am so very proud of you.
                         Your writing, like the day you
                         described, is truly “amazing”.
                         When I read your essay, I felt as
                         though I was actually at the beach.
                         I could hear the seagulls and feel
                         the sand between my toes.  What a
                         special day that was.  And, what a
                         truly astounding job you did of
                         capturing that day forever in
                         words.
                             (Beat)
                         If it’s alright, I’d like to share
                         a special day in nature with you.
                         I’m certain that I will not be able
                         to express myself as beautifully as
                         you did, but I will try.
                             (Beat)
                         Here goes.  My day begins like
                         this…

               EXT. ST. THOMAS – U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – MORNING

               SUPER:  JULY 1, 2000

               The crystal clear turquoise water washes in and out over the
               soft, cotton-white sand.  Seagulls dance in the cool breeze.
               An iguana slumbers on a nearby cropping of palm trees.

               EXT. OUTDOOR CAFE – MORNING

               The man (late 20’s, no gray hair yet) sits across a small,
               cloth-covered table from a beautiful WOMAN (late 20’s, green
               eyes, the prettiest girl you’ve ever seen).  The two sit
               eating breakfast with big, eager smiles on their faces.

               EXT. BEACH – MORNING

               The man and woman relax on chairs as they gaze out at the
               endless blue sea.  Islands once inhabited by pirates dot
               the tropical landscape.  Sail boats with sheets of white
               flapping in the wind float across the tranquil horizon. 

               EXT. OCEAN – AFTERNOON

               Beneath the sea the man and woman swim with masks and
               snorkels.  The man points out a delicate reef of white
               speckled coral.  Urchins, anemones and sea fans in shades of
               lilac and crimson cling to the reef and wave to and fro.  A
               school of blue and yellow fish swims past.  It is amazing. 

               INT. HOTEL ROOM – AFTERNOON

               The man stands before his FATHER (late 50’s, black hair and a
               mustache).  Both men are wearing black tuxedoes.  The FATHER
               helps the man straighten his silver tie.

                                   MAN
                         Thanks, Dad.

               The father smiles, holding back his tears.

                                   MAN (CONT’D)
                         Hopefully, one day I’ll be doing
                         this with my son.

               EXT. OCEAN BALCONY – SUNSET

               The woman stands next to a PRIEST, before a crowd of FAMILY
               and FRIENDS.  She is wearing an elegant white gown and
               holding a bouquet of white lilies.  She is the prettiest
               thing on Earth.  The sun sinks slowly behind her into the
               ocean.  Shades of tangerine shimmer across the bay.

               The man sees the woman for the first time and cannot help but
               cry.  Wiping tears from his eyes, he walks toward her.

               EXT. OCEAN BALCONY – SUNSET – MOMENTS LATER

               The man and woman hold hands and stare into each others’ eyes.
               Seagulls float overhead.  Palm trees rustle with the breeze.
               An acoustic guitar plays in the background.  Just then…

               SPLAT!!!

               A seagull poops on the woman’s dress.  The two cannot help
               but laugh.

               EXT. OCEAN BALCONY – SUNSET – MOMENTS LATER

               The man and the woman share a kiss.  The crowd cheers.  They
               are now husband and wife.

               EXT. OCEAN BALCONY – EVENING

               The night sky is alive with the twinkle of a million bright
               stars.  Music plays from a nearby ballroom.  Everyone is
               singing and dancing.

               EXT. OCEAN BALCONY – EVENING – LATER

               With glowing sparklers in hand, family and friends make a
               tunnel for the man and woman to run through.  Everyone
               cheers. 

               EXT. BEACH – EVENING

               The man and woman walk hand in hand on the peaceful, moon-lit
               beach. 

                                   WOMAN
                         This was the best day ever.

                                   MAN
                         I agree.

                                   WOMAN
                         Maybe one day when we have kids
                         we can come back here.

                                   MAN
                         That would be great.

                                   WOMAN
                         By the way, how many kids do you
                         think we’ll have?

                                   MAN
                         One maybe two.

                                   WOMAN
                         Wouldn’t it be cool if we had
                         twins?

                                   MAN
                         I don’t know about that.

               The two laugh and smile as they walk on.  Holding hands, they
               disappear into the darkness.

               INT. OFFICE – MORNING

               The man takes the essay and lovingly places it back into the
               envelope.  He returns to his keyboard and types…

                                         THE END

 

Living Art April 28, 2010

I had planned to review one of my favorite books, Prodigal Summer, this time, but after Beth’s comments about my previous post, I wanted to elaborate on some related thoughts that came up. So I’m saving Prodigal for next time.

In the late 60’s I was an elementary school teacher. Fostering creativity was a big issue in those days, and in my county a program was instigated to address it. Basically, the children chosen to participate went to a special site for a day where they collaborated in small groups with other students of similar ages and abilities to find creative solutions to a challenging task. Sort of like a duplicate bridge tournament.

While this program was stimulating and prodded kids to think outside the box, I always thought it missed the mark somehow. It taught great social skills like leadership and cooperation, and it encouraged brain-storming and problem-solving, but all this was just good teaching. How did it address creativity in ways that were not already being used by fine teachers?

But our school system had done its best and I had nothing to add to the situation, so I figured this was just one of those problems without a solution. Maybe nobody understood creativity. Maybe there really was no practical way to teach it. Maybe it was just a matter of genetics, some characteristic of DNA with which you either were or weren’t furnished at birth.

Several years later when my own creativity began to blossom I finally understood. At bottom, creativity is not a function of our proficiency with the objective logos skills emphasized in most classrooms, but of our ego’s willingness to use these skills in service to our deeply personal mythos realities: things like what feels important, how we yearn to spend our free time, or what brings a deep sense of accomplishment. For example, one of my earliest memories is of trying to write a book on folded pieces of paper. Since I was only four years old and didn’t know how to write yet, I drew pictures instead. But while my passion for writing persisted throughout my school years, few teachers noticed it and nobody ever encouraged me to pursue it.

The problem is, most kids are too busy trying to learn what their parents and teachers want them to learn and most schools are run more like factories than forums for individual exploration and expression. As Einstein wrote, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

The psychological realities of each soul are as unique as our fingerprints. Creativity is about manifesting that uniqueness. We activate our creativity by pursuing self-knowledge and personal meaning. We hone our creativity by following our passions regardless of the world’s opinions; by sacrificing popularity and approval for self-knowledge and authenticity; by creating original works of art out of our lives. By becoming who we are.

And how do we foster creativity in others? By mentoring them on the path to self-discovery. Until educators understand this, we will continue to be far better at stifling creativity than fostering it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

 

 
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