‘Always winter and never Christmas; think of that!’ – C.S Lewis
Isn’t it interesting how we all have a penchant for black and white? Good vs. evil, right vs. wrong. We humans cannot seem to get enough of it: Star Wars is coming soon! The Dark Side flashes red hot once more, Nazi-inspired insignia abound. Soon it will be Christmas, and then – before we know it, the sky will light with fireworks over The London Eye and once more we will all look to the future and wonder: Trump vs Kim Jong-un, the IN or OUT referendum which now posits more ins-and-outs than the starry-eyed campaigners for either Leave or Remain led us to believe.
I always loved The Chronicles of Narnia as a child, with its simple, magical narrative: Always winter but never Christmas. Why? Because of an aggressive witch whose whiteness is perfectly evil and whose only enemy is not the jolly benevolent figure of Father Christmas (he seems more of a sweet-natured bit-part) but a self-sacrificial lion. It is powerful, appealing and deeply spiritual. However, as with all good-versus-evil scenarios, where does it actually leave us?
Teaching is no longer a black-and-white world. It is no more about imparting a body of knowledge to unformed and eager (or reluctant but captive) minds. It is about helping children to learn, to think, to reason, to become independent in thought and able to deal with life in a constructive and successful way, whilst teaching them a range of core skills. No blacks-and-whites, no instant respect; nothing is a given any more. The question is no longer what we are ‘delivering’ but what we are helping our boys to learn. We teachers are not making products, but boy are we making a difference! It is really demanding, this teaching business, but so wonderfully rewarding. To succeed and survive, indeed to thrive, teachers must learn as much and as fast as their pupils.
Perhaps more importantly, what is ‘parenting’ now? A verb for sure! Once parents were simply nouns! Publications and articles still pour forth from the disciplinarians versus the libertarians. Those who advocate parents should control everything (and often fail, somewhere along the line, when the ‘product’ malfunctions) and those who advocate freedom at all costs (internal décor goes first, adult sanity soon afterwards). Where are you on the spectrum?
Parenting is about many of the same disciplines as teaching: learning to listen as well as tell, to realise daily the unsettling truth that our offspring are not actually chips-off-the-old-block. They are alive, different, challenging and gloriously packed full of world-changing potential. They didn’t put that warning on the packaging did they?
Amidst all of this, which is my invitation to a very British world of grey areas, is much that is bright and hopeful. We can work together to do what nothing can beat, not even the best Artificial Intelligence: to create a fine young man out of a package of possibilities. However spiritual, religious (I believe there is a difference) or otherwise you are, Christmas is about this much: everyone, great or small, ended up gazing at a baby. And well they might.
Have a wonderful Christmas.
J R Peck