Life is about experience, which you only get by taking risks and making mistakes…frequently. For this reason I have stood by and watched as people I love and care about have fallen flat on their faces. Oh, I offered advice and support, but in the end they made their own choices. I have always been there to help them back up, sometimes accompanied with an “I told you so.”
I believe in allowing people to choose their own path. Of course, if I see them walking into the path of an on coming truck (literally) I’ll tackle them to save their life, however, if the truck is metaphorical there is only so much I can do to prohibit the emotional damage. Often times I find myself on emotional cleanup duty rather than damage prevention.
There are things in this world that terrify me as a mother. I wish I could guarantee my children a life without pain or heartache. I wish there were no such things as monsters, and that bad things never happened to good people. But the truth is there are monsters, bad things do happen to good people, and there will be pain and heartache in their lives.
The best I can do is to protect them where I can, but more importantly I must prepare them for the reality of the world. This cannot be done by keeping them inside and away from everything. I can limit their exposure or delay certain experiences, but I hold no illusions of control.
My mother believes that experience is the best teacher. Not only did she stand by many times to watch me plow face first into the dirt, but there were times I can remember her refusing to help me make a choice. At the time I hated it when she wouldn’t just tell me what to do. I asked her once why, and her answer has stayed with me.
She told me that she wanted me to be a strong, independent woman capable of standing on my own, and that I wouldn’t be if she held my hand through everything. She would always talk with me, help me weigh my options, but the final decision was mine to make because I was the one that had to live with my choice. She never bailed me out of any of the consequences of my choices.
It took working ten years with troubled teens to understand what she had been talking about. It’s counselor logic: Talk, weigh options, allow them to make a choice, then talk about how it worked out. As long as the choice didn’t violate any laws, even if you could see that it wasn’t going to work out well, you had to stand back and let the kid figure it out for themselves.
I used to watch a cartoon called The Magic School Bus; there are also several books in the series by the same name. It is an educational series about science featuring a quirky, enthusiastic teacher (Ms. Frizzle) and her students. In every episode Ms. Frizzle would shout encouragingly at the children to, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” Basically this is the heart of my philosophy.
I want my children to become strong, independent people capable of standing on their own. They are still very young, but preparing them starts now. So I don’t jump every time I see them on the way to take a nose dive. I do help them up, clean their wounds, shower them with love, and turn them loose once again to learn their lessons.
What do you think about experience as a teacher?