Do you have a Life Sentence?
My Retirement Picnic was on Sunday…so many faces from near and past, all in the smoke and mirrors of memory. Surrounded by beautiful people, I felt very blessed to have known them and to have played some part in their lives. Many people said I changed their lives. Embarrassing! Incorrect! I look at the person and see a wonderful, self-confident, funny, intelligent, capable person. And I don’t know what I did. This really made me think: on reflection, I have to put it down to Life Sentences.
DEFINITION and EXPLANATION
A life sentence is usually delivered to a child by a parent, or a teacher, or society as a whole. For example, the negative ones: You are Such a Fool! You are Stupid! (Dyslexics for example carry this blasted sentence and that’s what makes them either determined to disprove it or prove it) You are Ugly. You Can’t Read. You Will Never Understand Maths/English/politics/economics/ whatever. And the worst one: you will Fail! You are a failure! And then there is the panoply of racist, sexist, homophobic life sentences which blight lives, blind eyes…
The job of the teacher is to find the Life Sentence of the pupil and if it IS a negative one, to grant them a pardon. We do this by finding the Life Secret. And then turning that into the new positive Life Sentence.
“Wow! You have a real Designer’s Eye!”
“You write so well. Amazing”
“Excellent answer! You really get it don’t you?”
“Well done! Consider a career in Accounts…
So that’s what we do. Positive reinforcement. It’s no great trick. And people can do it for themselves. Identify your life sentence or sentences. Change the negative ones….
Every student deserves a collection of positive Life Sentences and I have tried so hard to give them out when I have found that person’s Life Secret. It’s not easy but it gives me so much pleasure…As teachers, (or in my case as an ex-teacher,) all our joy comes from the achievements of others. Large or small! In some cases, survival is a huge achievement and I am so proud of some of my ex-students who have survived horrific events. Or have overcome silly addictions, or silly people, or silly situations. Or crime of any sort. Yes I do enjoy students getting in to impressive university courses. I am very proud of the doctors and lawyers, the accountants, the police, the shop assistants, the security guards…but you know what, teachers are merely catalysts. A student often just needs a gentle nudge…or a new life sentence. A positive one.
In Martial Arts, each grading adds up to more self-esteem, self-confidence and success. My dilemma has always been whether to award a grade for excellence or competence compared to the expected standards of the grade OR to award the next level because of the student’s effort and level of improvement against their previous performances. The conclusion I came to was to celebrate effort in the lower grades, say up to Green Belt. And thereafter to apply much stricter standards. My Black Belts really earned their grades. I made the Brown Belt syllabus consist of four levels rather than the three favoured by Karate. After all, Bushido involves so much more in terms of fighting skills, including grappling, weapons and teaching others, as well as an understanding of the ethical and spiritual dimensions….blah blah…I seem to have wandered miles from the original purpose of this ramble. Sorry…. back to funny blogs soon! Promise! Enough introspection.