Sunday, May 20, 2007
As a teacher for the best part of thirty years I am well acquainted with young people in the age group 11 to 18/19, the years of secondary schooling in Ireland. Needless to say I am also familiar with it in so far as I once was a child or a youth many years ago. Also as I have grown older, and hopefully a little wiser, I have also read much and attended many conferences on child psychology, counselling and psychotherapy and how to handle discipline problems as regards the students whom I teach. With all of this as a background I feel I know not a little about childhood.
What inspires these thoughts, these ciphers upon this page? Well, yesterday some 8 other teachers and I, along with 20 or so students, all around 15 or 16, attended the Month’s Mind of our recently deceased student, young Stephen Dowdall. The sense of the “lostness of childhood,” if I may coin a phrase which I shall explain more fully further on in these musings, that sense of trust in adults, that sense of looking to us teachers and other adults for direction, if not for some meaning and support in life in the face of that same life’s ultimate and unavoidable extinction hit me forcefully. In fact I felt humbled as I, too, inwardly to some extent was lost – perhaps not as lost as the youngsters. The only thing we adults had on our side were our years of lived experience of life, a certain equanimity that comes with age and a hard won wisdom garnered from whatever personal pains we had suffered.
Since Freud et al and the emergence of modern psychoanalysis and all other cognate therapies, childhood has been studied as if it were a quarry for all our “hang ups” and neuroses, for all our fears and phobias. We adults are forever chasing our elusive child deep within us. Most modern therapies not alone allude to, but recommend the healing of our “inner child.” We are called to “parent” or even to “re-parent” our “inner child” and by doing so allow ourselves to be healed of our neuroses which we can trace back to the bad parenting skills of our own families.
At college I, along with my fellow student teachers, had been informed that we not alone were educators, but also that we were “in loco parentis”, in the very place of parents while we were exercising our educational roles. This theory of education is so true, and it really struck home for me yesterday as I sat there surrounded by our “lost sheep” who were looking up to us for support and guidance. “They’re only children!” as one of my colleagues said to me. Indeed they are, and we’re not too far ahead of them either, I’m thinking!
The picture above from 1962/3 shows from left myself, my brother Gerard and our friend Gerard Fitzpatrick. To be continued