Thursday, June 09, 2005

Priorities and Perspective

What are your priorities in life? Have you thought about that lately? Well I arrived down at school today to find that one young gentleman had had a panic attack during his Leaving Cert Honours English paper the previous day and consequently had to be prescribed medicine to relax. He also felt he could not do his Honours paper in Irish because he felt so poorly nerve wise. I listened to him for half an hour and did a short relaxation/meditation exercise with him. He decided at the end that he would be more relaxed doing the pass paper. I told him that I could not decide for him - only he could make up his own mind. After all he had to live with himself, not me. Anyway I could in no way put pressure of any sort on him. I also rang his mother twice and spoke to her. We both agreed that this young man's mental health was way more important than any exam, than the level of paper sat or than the grade attained. The mother's priority was her son's health as was mine. The level of paper he might sit was a secondary concern. I feel good in myself that I did not put pressure on him. How could I live with myself if he bottled it a second time? He told me he felt more relaxed after our "chat" and relaxation exercise. I also drove him and his friend home and brought them both in for coffee and cakes at MacDonald's new cafeteria in Artane.
Anyway, priorities are important. People are more important than subjects or results, which in the end of the day are all about perception really. A.L. is a good kid, well capable intellectually of honours, but not able to take that horrible pressure which our system puts on some certain few vulnerable individuals. What is our system doing to certain kids? What are we as adults and parents feeding them as regards success in life? Have we got the right priorities? Have we got a realistic and wholesome perspective on life? I use both these words "realistic" and "wholesome" purposely. Realistically the young man is more important than the exam. We must take everything into account, that is, the whole person, not just one aspect of his intelligence. I say one aspect because exams seem to only measure one or two aspects of intelligence at most. (Rather than going on an educational diatribe here I will just briefly allude to Howard Gardner's theory of Multiple Intelligences. For those of you interested just go into and learn all about this wonderfully enlightening theory of multiple intelligences.)
As regards perspective, did you ever try viewing a painting with your nose nearly up against the canvass? Or at least did you ever try viewing one from too close a position? That's it, you've guessed right - if you view a painting like that you will get it all out of perspective. Stand back and you will view the "whole" of the matter in hand. You will gain perspective. We all need perspective, otherwise we will bore, confuse, confound, and worst of all probably upset both ourselves and others. This young man had lost his perspective. What he needed was an adult to give him space to relax and achieve a certain amount of perspective - as much as he could after this period of crisis.
That's why we need our teachers to be well balanced. We need our adults and parents to be people who are into self-development, to be adults who are open and honest, sincere and realistic and are good listeners. We need on-going personal development. All you adults out there listen to me. In my 25 years of teaching I have known personally 5 or 6 suicides. Those were the ones I knew of - I'm sure there were many of which I did not know. So listen to your kids. For God's sake don't try to live out your hopes and dreams in and through them. Don't put undue pressure on them. (Please note the adjective qualifying the noun here - "undue" - I didn't say "no" pressure. No pressure can and does lead to laziness, sloppiness, drift and more drift and disaster too!) Be open, be honest, and listen, listen, listen. Please hear what they are saying and also what they may be afraid to say to you. With practice you will learn to hear also what they are not saying.
Here's wishing you priorty, perspective and balance in your life and in that of your friends and family!!!!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Voice on the phone

I'm writing this in answer to a call from my friiend J. McC. about the address of my blog. Luckily enough I was able to retrieve it. Apologies to all addicted bloggers out there in Blogsville.

Travel on. It's not the destination that counts - it's the journey. So say all those who follow any spiritual path worth its salt. Where am I now? I'm at home in my study looking at the screen of my computer with both attic windows open allowing in the nice cool summer air here in Dublin, Ireland. Believe it or not the sun is actually shining and I can hear the lovely sounds of children at play, lawnmowers cutting grass etc. Nice to be off school with nothing in particular to do. Just relax, meditate - or as the words of the famous play put it: "Relax, relate, communicate!" I've forgotten the name of the play. Maybe some blogger out there might remind me. "Dr Fell" or something like that I think.

Bad news at school there in early April, one recent past pupil ended his life tragically. I wrote this poem on that day.

For D. M: 1985-2005

So final,
So brutal,
So sad,
The words won’t come,
They trip each other up,
Spiral down
Like an aircraft shot
From out the skies.

Words won’t behave –
They mutiny at this shock,
They slap my face
To bring me to my senses,
Forget your selfish preoccupations,
The deceptions of the ego,
Sit a while and watch and wait
For the tears to track your cheeks.

So final,
So brutal,
So sad,
The words that come must lisp
Against the choking rope,
The way you chose to end it,
So final,
So brutal,
So sad.


There are no answers to such tragedy - just the acknowledgement of our own reactions. We had a lovely memorial service for him at the school. As a senior teacher and part-time counsellor I had the privilege of leading that service. D.M. is still in our hearts.

Yes, life goes on. We must plant seeds of hope and hope that some few of them will grow amidst the rocky soil of modern society. Sorry that this post became so serious so quickly. I have just been meditating for over a half an hour and that combined with the good weather and the beautiful day sent me a little into the deeper reaches of the spirit.

Thanks JMacC for waking me from my slumber and greetings to all fellow bloggers out there, especially to any of you who are kindred spirits and who walk lightly on Mother earth. TQ