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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Learning Objectives of Life

From time to time, I contemplate the learning objectives of a lesson or activity.  They tend to be most easily filled with simple concepts that we call facts.  The learning objectives of an entire course of study end up being encyclopedic tomes that, though impressive, can be satisfying to the intellect but a disappointment to the soul.

I have for the last several years been developing a instructional framework that I call the Mining Gems Model.  You can read more about it here --> HERE, but the part I want to mention that is its keystone, if you will, is virtues.  This isn't just my opinion, but teachers and parents who have attended a seminar or workshop of mine have been drawn to that part of the model.  They agree with the profound, yet simple, quote from Abdu'l-Baha that states, "Every child is potentially the light of the world--and at the same time its darkness."  The full context of the quote can be found here ---> HERE. Abdu'l-Baha also stated, "Training in morals and good conduct is far more important than book learning. A child that is cleanly, agreeable, of good character, well-behaved - even though he be ignorant - is preferable to a child that is rude, unwashed, ill-natured, and yet becoming deeply versed in all the science and arts. The reason for this is that the child who conducts himself well, even though he be ignorant, is of benefit to others, while an ill-natured, ill-behaved child is corrupted and harmful to others, even though he be learned. If, however, the child be trained to be both learned and good, the result is light upon light."

And it is with this that I meditate on the question, "What are our life's learning objectives?"  It is to absorb encyclopedic information in order to pass an exam?  Is it to receive high marks, to earn a high income, to own many things?

Well, perhaps here is one quote to start the conversation with...

"All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. The Almighty beareth Me witness: To act like the beasts of the field is unworthy of man. Those virtues that befit his dignity are forbearance, mercy, compassion and loving-kindness towards all the peoples and kindreds of the earth. Say: O friends! Drink your fill from this crystal stream that floweth through the heavenly grace of Him Who is the Lord of Names. Let others partake of its waters in My name, that the leaders of men in every land may fully recognize the purpose for which the Eternal Truth hath been revealed, and the reason for which they themselves have been created." - Baha'u'llah (emphasis added)

How do we empower students to 'carry forward an ever-advancing civilization'?  I propose that lessons need to have two, intertwined parts.  One part of the lesson contributes to gaining subject knowledge and understanding, while the second part contributes to the growth of the child's virtues.  At times virtues are taught by example, while at other times virtues are the explicit objective of the lesson itself.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Model of Behavior

As a parent I am aware, not all of the time, of my behavior when in the presence of my child.  What I do and what I say will alter her reality, her understanding, and her ability to express virtues in this world.  I fail at times and sometimes I succeed in small measure.  I don't ponder this to a level of immobilization or fear, but I check myself from time to time and many times ask, "Did she just replicate what I do?"  And my response to that question is either "Oh no." or "That's nice."

I wonder however, when parents start having difficulties with a child's behavior do they analyze themselves, their home environment, their words and deeds and ask, "How might these things contribute to reinforcing my child's undesirable behaviors and how they might contribute to reinforcing his/her desirable behaviors?"

If my child acts out inappropriately, then have I displayed that behavior as an adult?  Have I given permission, by deed, that acting out is commendable?  Do I expect respect, when the subtle actions I have with my child deem respecting them as unworthy of my time?

Please don't misunderstand me, I don't agree with the idea that my child is above me and should be treated as a spoiled princess having all things done for her at a moment's notice.  I do think though that she has a noble station and if I can show her respect by acknowledging her interests by commenting on a drawing as she requests, "Daddy, take a look at this" and just giving into the shared moment, then I will do it.  Also, I will respect her by asking her to wait patiently when I cannot be interrupted and then following through with recognizing her use of the virtue of patience when I am ready.

When she was younger, the time period she could wait without being frustrated was short but over time I have reinforced the display of patience from one minute to now many minutes.  This is one example of applying patience and caring.  Do I always excel at this?  No.  But I try to remind myself of my nobel nature and her's and the power of another virtue used so little by ourselves, for ourselves - forgiveness.