Sunday, September 1, 2013

Children are Spiritual Beings Having a Human Experience (and so are we!)

Note: I took a break from blogging due to the busy start of a new school year.

Let's listen to a child in my Gan, four-years-old: (quoted with his parent's permission)
We were discussing Rosh Hashana, and the creation of the universe.

child: "Outer space is Hashem's mouth.  I goed to outer space one day and Hashem told me that I was in his mouth!"
 Keep listening, as this child explains a picture that he drew of his theories about Hashem:
"There's a bad Hashem and a good Hashem.  I drew me shooting at the bad Hashem and he exploded, and the good Hashem is smiling cause the bad Hashem exploded."
Me: "but, It says in the Torah that there is only one Hashem."
child, "The Torah is joking. It's not the real Torah.  I exploded the bad Hashem, cause I'm stronger than the bad!"
This child is grappling with issues that we, as adults, struggle with daily, especially as Rosh Hashana approaches.  How can a good Hashem be the same God that allows bad things to happen? 

How could one of  my best friends, mother of young children, be dying of cancer?  How could a friend's mother, a pillar of the community, die suddenly in a senseless car accident?  How can my father at times have been a loving father, and also a child molester?   How can my family, who has so many strong, good qualities, treat me like I am dead, for years on end, because I remember being molested by my father?

We tend to go into denial when bad things happen.   In our inability to hold two conflicting realities in our minds at the same time, we deny truth.   In our pain and confusion we push away Hashem.  We deny that good and bad can come from the same source.  We deny that otherwise good people are capable of doing terrible things.

  My young student has found a working, albeit immature, (yet, developmentally appropriate) solution, to this epic problem.  He knows that both good and bad come from Hashem, although in his mind they can't possibly be the same guy.  This child also knows that he is good and that good is stronger than bad.
  God allows bad things to happen in order to give us free will.  Free will and choice is the basis for morality.  Without choice we have no free will.  No judgment.  No responsibility.  Like non-human mammals, we would always simply be reacting to instinct. 

  Choice is synonymous with free will and is the basis for judgment and morality. Encouraging children to choose develops their awareness of how their minds work, and helps their teachers perceive their innate differences, revealing what Gardner (1983) calls intelligences. " 

(Possible Schools Lewin-Benham 2006 )
In my classroom I listen carefully to the children to try to understand their world view.  My goal is to help the children discover, express, and test their theories.  I am much more interested in teaching the children to make good choices that affect their daily lives, than I am in teaching them to, "listen" and "obey."  We encourage even very young children to take responsibility for their choices.

 For example, If one child hits another, we ask the offender, how will you help them feel better?  If he doesn't know how to help, we suggest asking the child he hurt what would help him.  Would ice help?  Would an apology help?  Would drawing him a picture help?  a band-aid?
 By allowing our children to think, to make choices, and to take responsibility for themselves, we raise our children to be moral, ethical, and aware human beings.

 I always learn more from the children in my Gan than I teach them.  I'm so happy to be back in the classroom!

1 comment:

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