Friday, August 14, 2009

Home sweet home.

Don't get me wrong. It's lovely to be back in cold, wet Australia (ok, not that wet) in the bosom of my family and friends, and if we were to move cross-continentally I would need to convince about twenty people to move with us. But we are so damn rude and stupid as a nation. Actually, that's really negative. How about: We have great potential to develop humanity and respect for others. Great potential.

It's been lovely to be welcomed back by my students this week: I feel heartened by what CAN be achieved in Australia without the benefit of cultural support of Suzuki's philosophy. To clarify: A lot of what makes Suzuki's philosophy tick is embedded in the Asian psyche.

Parents are expected to be their child's first teacher much more actively than we practice; Japanese children can read and write kanji characters before they start school. Seeing under-twos playing with origami paper, imitating their mothers' absent-minded folding and smoothing was such a wake-up call to the different levels of stimulation that these children are exposed to as a matter of course.

Even simple things, like HAVING to remove shoes when transiting indoors and having very simple but very definite rules from infancy about behaviour and social interaction (let me be clear that these things only work and become clear when the PARENT visibly and actively engages with them) change a child's ability for self-discipline and participation.

When a teacher engages a child with respect and equality from the beginning, that child feels what a privileged thing it is to be a student and (hopefully) will continue that desire to learn and to be in that position of privilege throughout their life. Similarly, they will want to teach others; to assist and guide and give effort to helping someone else develop that joy of learning.

I think the most important lesson I learnt in Japan was that being a student is a privilege. You don't "graduate" to being a teacher, and if you think that that precludes your ability to keep learning (from the three-year-old, from their parent, from the newest teacher trainee to the most advanced/intuitive/brilliant teacher available) you surrender a very privileged status.

Much better to exist fluidly. Be the teacher who says "Please teach me; I am ready to learn!" to the student. Remember that you too, once knew very little, and that you still do know very little; even if you know a lot, how much of it do you PRACTICE?

Stay a student. And be grateful to your teachers who will give you their time and their respect and seek to learn something from every encounter.

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