Transforming Education-December 2013

It’s Time to Start Acting like ChildrenEna-Shelley12

Have you noticed that during times of political turmoil, a common chastising comment to leaders on both sides of the aisle to “Stop acting like children!”?

What an insult to our children.

In fact, rather than framing the behavior as childish, the critics should perhaps encourage those leaders to be more like kids because children understand what matters.

In past columns I have cited the wisdom of many thoughtful grown-ups: Margaret Wheatley, Daniel Pink, and Maya Angelou, to name a few. Yet today my inspiration comes from the voice of a child—a child who really  understood what matters.

Mattie Stepanek was a young poet whose life was cut short by a rare form of muscular dystrophy, yet his voice reflects on what really matters better than that of most adults.

About Things That Matter
By Mattie Stepanek

It matters that the world knows
We must celebrate the gift of life
Every day in some way, and
We must always remember
To play after every storm.

It matters that the world knows
All children are truly blessed
With the innocent gifts of gentleness,
Trust, and compassion, which
Should guide the wisdom of grown-ups.

It matters that the world knows
We each have a song in our heart
That can inspire us in good times and
Hard times if we take the time to listen.

It matters that the world knows
Our senses can help us discover
The hidden and non-hidden
Enchantment in life, if we use them fully.

It matters that the world knows
We must choose our words and wants
Carefully or we could forever hurt others
With these most dangerous weapons.

It matters that the world knows
Strength and value of all things created
Must be measured by character and commitment
Rather than by might and wealth.

It matters that the world knows
We must heed the valuable lessons of
Everyday life, through the celebration of
Children and Heartsongs, senses and words,
Or we could lose in our journey to the future.

It matters that the world knows
A person by my name and being existed
With a strong spirit and an eternal mindset
To become a peacemaker for all,
By sharing the things that really matter.
If you have ever seen a group of children sitting on the floor in a circle, and they see another child come in, think about what they do. They widen the circle and include the child, not after questioning her political perspective, motive, or agenda, but rather without hesitation. They scoot back and invite them into the conversation. You see, they understand that what matters is you can only get to know someone once they have been invited into the circle.

Today, I encourage our leaders, I encourage you, to widen your circle and invite someone into the conversation that may or may not have the same view as you on any number of issues. For it is only when we begin to have true conversation, without preconceived agendas, that problems can be solved.

Children aspire to be grown-ups, yet look around. Are some of our most visible grown-ups really modeling what we want children to be? Maybe grown-ups need to aspire to be a bit more childlike in their understanding, relationships, and interactions.

Let’s start acting like children.

Until next month,

Dr. Ena Shelley
Dean, College of Education

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