Think back to your days as a student at that square desk with the metal shelf for all of your papers, pens, and books. Those lockers lining the hallways and the changing of the classes at the 10:10 bell. Of the rotated schedules of periods, requiring the knowledge of EXCEL even before it was invented.
Tests and lectures and the like.
Creating communities of learning is one of the main tasks of our educational system. And it is formed on the basis of forming a foundation during the first three years while at home and then putting up a frame from the time of preschool to kindergarten and then the next 12 years are spent filling that frame out and then during post high school years, putting the frosting and flavor to that cake. Very expensive morangue but important nonetheless.
Mayor Corey Booker of Newark, New Jersey, shared with Oprah Winfrey that "education is the cauldron of creativity that serves to meet the common goals of our communities."
That is an apt description of what education is and when we take a journey from the cavemen to the techno geeks of the 21st century, we will see how that it is the case.
When we go back in time to the cave men, fire served as a central way for men and women to gather at the end of a long day of hunting and gathering. No cell phones or Ipads existed back then. What existed was the woods and the fields and the ingenuity which was required with their hands to make an existence. Wholesome values were taught to the children growing up and there was a need to cooperate with one another.
Fire brings forth light and warmth and can create the cauldrons that are forged for the olympic games held every two years. Those cauldrons are displayed in the middle of the stadium for the opening ceremony and the location of it and the torch's path are sometimes kept in the dark.
Once the runners finish the relay of thousands of miles and the spark reaches the cauldron, the flame bursts and stays lit throughout the competition of the games.
Education is a lot like the relay to the stadium. There must be a steady effort to keep the flame lit and it requires teams of thousands to keep the light lit throughout the travels in the rain, in the snow and sleet and up the long paths that it travels. Sometimes disappointments result and there can be failures along the way.
In some parts of the educational world, the spark may be rather faint and especially in the inner city where there is a widespread epic of drop-outs and delinquencies. The teachers there have to work with innovative models. Some of those models have worked and been made into motion pictures and books. Look to the Freedom Writers, to the Dead Poet's Society of how these authors reached into the imagination of children, sparking them on paths to make a difference for society.
In my life, I had such teachers.
I remember when I left the private school classroom at The Henry Viscardi School and went into public school with the metal desks and the classroom with the blue cinder block walls. I had a special teacher, Miss Gorton, who paid attention to me, a frail student, who needed propping up a bit to succeed. For I was not like the other kids in my class. But I had that spark and its ember needing tending every few moments for it to be successful. For she encouraged me and helped me relate to my peers and included my mom and dad on some field trips to historic sites in Connecticut.
I remember in the 8th grade in my algebra class, Mr. Scrofani had us play math baseball in which our class was divided into two teams. Each team would come up to bat and answer questions from concepts that we were studying: whether it was the quadratic formula, or the multiplication tables or solving a complex equation, it served as a way to keep us as students on our feet. Or back to the dug out if we struck out and got the answer wrong. I always looked forward to these moments. I wish I could have some of them back.
In high school, when I took Spanish for three years, I had Miss Goggin and she taught me how to translate and speak Spanish and I had opportunities to create small dialogues and compositions and papers in Spanish. I remember standing at the kitchen counter overlooking the backyard and writing my first paragraph that I recited during our class assignment. Mine was something like: Camino por el parque y vivo. I had a few more lines but the rest eludes me at the moment.
Those kinds of details are not important but what is important are the connections that get forged early on and the ways that we solve problems that pass along our paths.
These are a few of the baton relays that kept my educational flame burning.
In the world, there are these vast pockets that are not burning brightly. Places where that cauldron was not lit early in the hearth of the home.
That is why it is so important for the spark to be lit.
That is why this conference on creativity is being given. It is that place where we can learn once again to play in the sandbox and to walk up to the chalkboard and draw or take a swing at a math problem that seems to be daunting. It is all a matter of breaking down of life into small teachable moments, to be digested one at a time.
Remember that wise saying of how to eat an elephant. Definitely the best way to eat it is one bite at a time. And extremely well done. Now how to cook one is another story.
Poetry often has that connection where we can learn from the greats of our past and what they thought and from they dreamed.
What brings back some of these thoughts to me is that in four days, I will be back on campus at my alma Mater, Fairfield University, to reconnect with the students that I once studied and shared life with- life in the moment and also life that is eternal. A long time has passed since I left Bellarmine Gardens in May of 1987 with the diploma in hand under the hot sun. But I have those friendships that have been rekindled with that flame of love and encouragement over the years as griefs get shared and as moments of life will be remembered.