Emotional Intelligence – Yoga For The Mind

The Value of A Lost Toy

Toys In The Attic

 

It wasn’t gone or lost, not really…just misplaced. I just need to search more diligently. It must be here someplace.

I couldn’t believe it was really gone.

School was over — the last celebration attended, the last award presented, and the last speech delivered. I was in the process of clearing house — the doll house, that is (the big house remains sadly neglected) — when I discovered one of my favorite gifts, a small toy chest, had disappeared from its place in the attic. I looked everywhere in the “house,” and then all over my office — under the desk and under the couches. Marsha searched her office. It was gone…really gone!

Toy Chest

The toy chest was a gift I received last year from a student’s family. The theme at school had been “play”. So, the chest contained six tiny gold toys: a rocking horse, a teddy bear and sailboat, a tin soldier, a cannon, a mother duck and her babies, and a jack-in-the-box. This adorable chest and its contents not only reminded me of the importance of maintaining a sense of wonder in our daily working lives; it also brought back fond memories of my own childhood toys.

I broadened the search, asking the staff. No luck. The only possible deduction left, unfortunately, was that it had been pocketed. I confess I was sad. Marsha was wounded. Who? Why? How? When? Was it an outside visitor or a community member? I devoutly hoped it was the former. Was this an impulsive act or a carefully plotted premeditated act? Again, I preferred the former.

The loss, and my reaction to it, reminded me once more of the importance of teaching the virtues that we, as compassionate members of the human race, are committed to.

Happy Birthday

One year, on November 26th, I celebrated my 54th birthday. It was one of the most delightful ever because of several wonderful surprises. They began when Dale called from the reception desk: “Anabel, you are needed in the library. Apparently, two students are out of control.” Naturally, I ran up the stairs into the library, but there I faced not a problem but a chorus of “Happy Birthday.”

I was not surprised that the entire staff (teachers, teaching assistants, and administrators) had gone out of their way to wish me a “cheery birthday,” that has become something of a tradition. But I was astonished and delighted by the present the staff had selected for me.

Adorable

It was an adorable, two-story Victorian farmhouse — complete with a tiny replica of my Maltese dog, “Holly,” and a miniature Thanksgiving dinner consisting of a golden brown turkey, chocolate brownies, chocolate pudding, chocolate cream pie, chocolate éclairs, and a bag of Nestlé chocolate chips. (Yes, I do like chocolate.) I was entranced by this gift and the anticipation of the pleasure, enjoyment, and fun that I knew it would bring me for years to come.

Over the next few days, furnishings continued to arrive anonymously: a holiday wreath, a tiny umbrella, a jar of beans, and a bag of groceries. Children from every level came to see and admire. The Kindergarten children started to make “homes” of their own from cardboard. I still keep adding new items, some gifts, others purchases: a Christmas tree; a bicycle; a cat trying to snare the goldfish from the bowl (all replicas of items in my own home).

Birthday Miracle

The gift is special because as a little girl, I had desperately wanted a “doll house” and somehow it never happened. Perhaps, I never delivered a clear message, or perhaps I did, but my parents still didn’t understand, or perhaps they simply couldn’t afford it. In any case, someone at school (I suspect Marsha, then my Administrative Assistant) heard me mention this unfulfilled wish and then diligently worked, organized and coordinated with the rest of the staff to bring about this “birthday miracle.”  Obviously, I have a staff that embodies both sensitivity and empathy.

Normally in our thinking, we associate these qualities with maturity. But I believe they can be taught to children. That was one of the reasons why I began a values newsletter a while back, discussing the values of courage, respect, sharing, forgiveness, and perseverance, and another one more recently.

Labor of love

The earlier newsletter became a classic labor of love. This small idea grew some intriguing tentacles. One shelf of books in the school library was devoted to each value. Children were encouraged to read one or more books, then respond to a questionnaire and evaluation form created by a parent volunteer. Children spent circle time discussing the concept, bringing their own daily experiences and interpretations to the concept. One parent called to tell me her family was using the newsletter as the principal subject around which they held their weekly family meetings. Parents stopped me in the hallway or dropped me notes, sharing the conversations that occurred when they wore the buttons that accompanied it to the cleaners or the grocery store. And at the end of the year, one group of students handed out awards to those who had exemplified particular values the most, during the academic year.

Onward and upward

The theft of the “toys in the attic” reminded me of the importance of teaching, building, sustaining, and supporting the values that we care about and that we are committed to as members of the school community. So for the next year, I am personally committed to continuing and improving my three-part approach to education in values.

1, 2, 3

First, I pledge to continue to the “Value Newsletters”.

The second piece is action. “The big ideas in this world,” writes author Norman Cousins, “cannot survive unless they come to life in the individual citizen.”

The third ingredient is modeling. Students need adults and peers who they can admire and emulate. I plan to do my best in that regard.

Finally…

I do not expect that an emphasis on values will eliminate all negative acts. Life is, after all, an experience in learning, and mistakes often create opportunities for moral development. I do expect, however, that we will improve the quality of our moments together — that we will strive more diligently to train our hearts and our minds towards the good. I will not give up this battle.

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