By Maureen Kalbus
Sheltering at home, it has become easy to lose track of the days of the week. It is hard to believe we are over half way through August, as many of our regular activities and plans have either changed or don’t exist! Listening to Patrick O’Connor in Sunday’s service, blessing the backpacks/brief cases of students and teachers poised to go back to school, we were brought back to the reality that our education institutions will soon be back in session. No one knows the form that will take.
As a child growing up in Belfast, I looked forward to the lengthy, two- month summer break from school. The prospect of endless summer days disappearing into the horizon, being able to gather up friends and play from morning ‘til night, was irresistible. In the Northern Hemisphere, our summer days stretched until 10 :00 pm, so play time was only punctuated by meals. Every year there was a different fad: jump rope skipping, ball games, Jacks, roller skating, dolls, Hop Scotch, cycling…My parents planned a vacation the first fortnight in August, usually to the north coast of Northern Ireland. Once home, Mum would begin buying new clothes/uniforms /school supplies for my brother and me. One arrival home, the year I was sixteen, I’ll never forget. As our car rolled to a stop, our next- door neighbor ran out, and told me there was a man waiting to speak to me. Sure enough, a tall, affable gent stepped into our driveway, and introduced himself as a reporter from a national newspaper. Once inside our home, he proceeded to tell me that I was the outright winner of a weekly competition on the newspaper’s back page…one hundred pounds! That was a fortune back then. I subsequently bought a motor scooter, crash helmet, leather fashion boots, gifts for all my family, and still had money to put into a bank account! The scooter conveyed me back and forth to my Grammar School, and then to Stranmillis Teachers’ Training College. Once qualified as a teacher, I experienced the joy in preparing my classroom and lessons for my incoming students, eagerly anticipating discovering the personalities beyond the names.
When I retired a few years ago, I had spent forty- five years as an educator on three continents, so my life had been governed by school calendars and schedules. As a school principal, I had been deeply entrenched in thirty/forty-minute divisions of time: in addition to the school bell ringing regularly outside my office door, I had created the schools’ schedules. No wonder that in vacation time, and since retiring, I don’t wear a watch. For me, losing track of time, days, months, has been refreshing and rewarding.
What do you remember about your school vacations?
How did you get ready for the new school year?
How did you get to school: on foot? riding a bicycle? by car/bus?
In relation to education, Thomas Moore believed, “Education is not the piling on of learning, information, data, facts, skills or abilities-that’s training or instruction-but it is rather a making visible what is hidden as a seed….To be educated, a person doesn’t have to know much or be informed, but he or she does have to have been exposed vulnerably to the transformative events of an engaged human life…One of the greatest problems of our time is that many are schooled, but few are educated.”
Albert Einstein urged us to “Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn at school are the work of many generations. All this is put in your hands as your inheritance, in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and then one day faithfully hand it on to your children.”
Jean Paget said, ” The principle goal of education in schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.”
John Ruskin, poet and founder of many schools, asserted that, “The true end of education is not only to make the young learned, but to make them love learning. Not only to make them industrious, but to make them love industry. Not only to make them virtuous, but to make them love virtue. Not only to make them just, but to make them hunger and thirst after justice.”
Many times, I have opened Parents’ Evenings with the following quotation from “The Prophet” by Kahil Gibran:
“And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said Speak to us of children. And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you, but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love, but not their 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 bows are sent forth.
The Archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows might go swift and far.
Let your bending in the Archer‘s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”
Very best wishes to all parents who, this year, vie with the dilemma of sending their children to school, home schooling or opening up the opportunity for them to learn on line
grandparents/aunts/uncles/cousins/friends who caringly watch what is happening from the sidelines
teachers and administrators who are weighing up their personal and familial situations, wanting only the best for their students
office and janitorial staff who wait supportively in the wings
children/young people who are having to cope with additional new back to school realities and hurdles, to keep them safe in a faltering world
May each feel God’s presence
as a new year opens up.
May each be guided to deal
with scary, confusing times.
May each embrace exciting
new challenges each day brings,
May all feel warm protection
in God’s nurturing embrace.