Bob Cratchit (Kermit) with Tiny Tim (Robin the Frog) in The Muppet Christmas Carol. Photograph:Disney/Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar
This holiday season, I asked my kids to watch the classic "The Muppet Christmas Carol" with me. This movie came out when I was 10, which is how old my oldest son is right now. It's my mom's favorite holiday movie and I wanted to re-watch it with my kids. After watching it, I went into my office and found my copy of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. My boys and I had just finished reading one of my favorites from my childhood, called "The Westing Game" and I asked the boys what they thought of reading "A Christmas Carol" next. The idea was met with resistance. (I still read to my children each night before bed. Sometimes we spend hours reading chapter after chapter on the weekend or holiday breaks. It's one of my favorite traditions that we've created in our home. Read here and here about benefits of reading to your children.)
"It's only 85 pages long! Five 'chapters' called staves!"
Still resistance. With some bargaining (we have to start this series next) I prevailed and we began reading the story Charles Dickens published in 1843 that has spiraled into one of the most well-known and beloved Christmas stories of all time.
While reading the first stave, I was struck with the beauty and depth of this 175 year old writing. We all know the story.
Jacob Marley's ghost comes to Ebenezer Scrooge. After much disbelief, Marley tells Scrooge about the chains he forged in life that he is dragging around with him after death. He tells Scrooge that Scrooge's own chains were that long and heavy long ago and Scrooge has continued to forge them even longer and heavier through the years.
"Jacob," he said, imploringly. "Old Jacob Marley, tell me more. Speak comfort to me, Jacob!"
And the response Marley gives is what gave me pause:
"I have none to give," the Ghost replied. "It comes from other regions, Ebenezer Scrooge, and is conveyed by other ministers, to other kinds of men. Nor can I tell you what I would. A very little more, is all permitted to me. I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I cannot linger anywhere. My spirit never walked beyond our counting-house -- mark me! -- in life my spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before me!"
How fitting in thinking and discussing the needed change for education. How far do we walk outside our own homes, our own internal and external struggles, our comfort zone? Do we rove beyond the narrow limits of our own beliefs and fears? Must we travel the path of "traditional", "normal", "status quo" and in doing so, what kind of chains are we forging?
Marley also tells Scrooge what is required by humankind:
"It is required of every man," the Ghost returned, "that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world -- oh, woe is me! -- and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!"
Educators and parents have chosen to walk abroad among young people, helping to shape and guide them on a daily basis. How far do we travel for these children? How wide do we go? By embracing and valuing something different than traditional markers of "teaching" or "learning" , we can avoid forging chains we may someday regret having to carry. These chains can be made up of fear, anxiety, inadequacy, diffidence, apathy, dogma, and self-righteousness.
Perhaps you've been curious about what a different type of education could look like. Will it be messy and chaotic? How will children learn? How will you have evidence of learning? Will it challenge your long-held beliefs? Should it? Bah! Humbug!
BUT... if you are curious, I think the question then becomes: How far and wide are you willing to travel in this life for the young people you love? (Inquire here for more info.)
When Marley tells Scrooge that he will have a "chance and hope of escaping" his fate, Scrooge is afraid and hesitant when he learns that in order to do so, he must be visited by three spirits. Growth and change are frightfully hard enough without the added dread of haunting.
"I -- I think I'd rather not," said Scrooge.
Scrooge is scared but in the end, he is redeemed. He breaks his chains and his earthly spirit travels far and wide during the remainder of his life by honoring Christmas in his heart and trying to keep it all the year. He vows to live in the Past, the Present, and the Future and we are told that Scrooge is better than his word... that he did it all and infinitely more.
How will you respond? How can you create a chance and hope of escaping traditional education and embrace a modern way of educating our young people? Let your spirit rove beyond the narrow limits of where you are right now with your children or classroom... growth and blessings are on the outer limits of your comfort zone!
I leave you with these words from Old Marley:
"Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed," cried the phantom, "not to know, that ages of incessant labour, by immortal creatures, for this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed. Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused! Yet such was I! Oh! such was I!"
May you not lament, "Such was I! or even "Bah! Humbug!". May your life be long but too short to see the end of your usefulness as you work kindly in your little sphere. Best wishes this holiday season! Only 6 more sleeps til Christmas!
Value something different. #TISValues #Projects #Passions #Peers #Play
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