14 Jun Slice of Life: Parental (or Teacher) Guidance is Suggested
I love this quote. It helps me focus on the good in the world. It reminds me that we need to talk with our students and children about the hard and good things that happen in our world. This quote makes it clear to me that an adult was with a child – talking, sharing, and explaining. The most powerful words in this quote for me are, “my mother would say to me.”
So much is happening in our world right now and there are always questions about what we should share with our kids and when should we protect them from the world around us. Even in relation to books – there is debate over which topics should be shared and which books we decide are inappropriate and ban. This quote reminds me that adults matter. His mother was there helping him notice and wonder. His mother was there to answer his questions and share her perspective. If we don’t take opportunities to talk with our children about the difficult things in our world they will miss the chance to hear our perspective. If we don’t take the opportunities we have, our voices will not be with them when they experience their first difficult situation or book with mature content without us.
This year my son’s eighth grade reading group read The Glass Castle. He loved this book. I loved sharing my thoughts on one of my all-time favorite books with my son. He came home from school upset one day because he learned this book would not be a part of the eighth grade curriculum next year. Many parents felt the content was too mature. He wanted me to share my perspective. He wanted me to convince them to keep this book. I searched for words to express my thoughts and feelings. I thought about how I could share my point of view in a way that would honor the concerns of the other parents. Mr. Rogers’ quote once again came to me.
What seems to missing so often in many of these discussions and debates is the role of the adult. Does it need to be a yes or no decision? Mr. Rogers’ quote helped me find my words and clarify the why behind my decision to allow my son to read this book and my disappointment that it would not be included in the curriculum next year.
I agree The Glass Castle is mature content. I agree The Glass Castle could be read in high school or college. I agree that there are other memoirs they could connect with as fourteen year olds. I agree with all of that and I too am worried about him experiencing mature content at his age. But I am more worried about the possibility that he may never read such an important book than I am about him reading it at the age of 14. Missing this book is more of a concern to me than him reading it in the eighth grade under the guidance of a thoughtful, skilled teacher. I am more concerned that he may never discuss the important topics covered in this book and be inspired to notice the world around him. I am more worried that he may not see himself in that book and understand that we are all vulnerable in life. I am thrilled with the prospect that he will discuss these themes with his peers. Their conversations will give this topic meaning in their day to day lives. They will make connections to life and literature together over the next four years to try to comprehend the lessons and messages in this book. They may even reread it.
To me, the most important consideration was the teacher. These students were reading this book with the guidance of a teacher. As parents, we were invited to read the book as well so that we could guide our children and share our perspective. To me, there is no better opportunity to help our children embrace diversity, understand point of view, and aspire to live a life that makes a difference.
We need to guide our children, each and every day. We cannot control what will happen in our world, on the news, in movies and in books, but we can impact how our children experience these things. Mr. Rogers’ mother angled his perspective on tragedy and misfortune. Her presence, her guidance, her wisdom shaped how he understood and interpreted that event and every event in his future. In the conversations about what to share and what to read, let’s not leave out the option of guiding our children through the experience. Our interpretation matters.