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Reconnecting With Wisdom From 'the Little Prince'

After watching the Netflix production of The Little Prince, I reminded my son of my earliest acquaintance with the novel.

In my high school French class, I read Antoine de Saint-Exupery's wonderful work. Sadly, having read it in french first, I think I missed so much of the nuance of the story.

Well, either a language barrier or my age made it impossible for me to truly grasp the story's brilliance.

Either way, having had the opportunity to reread the work with my son recently in English, I've been reminded and moved by the big lessons in the story's simplicity.

Here are some moments worth remembering:

  • "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." So many wonderful things are right before us, but we fail to see them. Always caught up in the minutia of the day, we don't allow ourselves to feel the range of emotions that exist with every experience. As teachers, we need to see everything in our kids, especially what is invisible to the eye. When students know we see them completely, they trust us enough to take major risks with their learning. They trust us to help them grow. So we must remember to see with our eyes and always with our whole being.

  • "Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to always explain things to them." We mustn't discount what children say or do, as their imaginations are at the heart of true understanding. Too often, grown-ups miss the boat on what's important, and kids can see right through the superficial. Be patient with kids and allow them to share their wisdom. Honor their wisdom and respect their vision. They get more than we often give them credit for.

  • "The whole chapter with the fox is probably my favorite. The idea of taking the time to build relationships by "taming" that which is untamed creates a responsibility to that being. Friendships require this kind of nurturing, and if we want meaningful lives, we must strive to live in these deep relationships. Developing these relationships among colleagues and students makes deep learning possible. It's a reciprocal relationship that is an ongoing conversation to enrich the lives of those involved.

  • "One runs the risk of weeping a little, if one lets oneself be tamed..." With true deep friendships, we run the risk of being hurt. The more we love, the more we hurt. It is never intentional but it doesn't make it any less painful. Growing close to people is always worthwhile, but we must see the whole person and understand that there is something less pleasant to balance with every great happiness. This is so with learning too. Some things come easily, and others will take work and may even be challenging beyond comfort or control, but that doesn't make them any less worthwhile.

  • Only the children know what they're looking for." Not sure how or when it happens, but as children, we see the path and fearlessly approach life like ours. The older we get, the less satisfied we become with our choices for many reasons, and nothing seems like enough. Whether always pushing for advancement in our careers or personal relationships, driven by money or success, each moment seems a mere stepping stone to something bigger in a long line of events. And although this may be true, we often miss the wonderful moments of the journey; however, cliche as it may sound, always focusing on what comes next. Kids know how to be present, and it is something adults need to practice. Balancing a solid plan with a true commitment to what is happening right in front of us, we must learn to be satisfied with the progress we make as we make it so we can understand the happiness of our hard work. This is something I struggle with as no matter how hard I work, I'm always looking ahead, almost blindly missing the spoils of my labor. My son routinely reminds me of what is important, even though he doesn't realize he does. I wish it for my students too that the journey be the reward, complete satisfaction.

  • "If you succeed in judging yourself rightly, then you are indeed a man of true wisdom." Although it is easy to judge others, and we often do, looking at ourselves and reflecting appropriately shows great wisdom. If we aspire to grow as human beings, the better we know ourselves, the better we can help others to know themselves. This comes with honest modeling of humility and growth. We are the sum total of many parts, parts we mustn't judge as good or bad but rather complexly put together and always changing shape. As we acknowledge these complexities, we learn where we need to push and change and where we have grown already, helping us judge who we were and who we are becoming. Students need to see adult role models in their lives doing this, and as teachers, we are in a unique situation where we can share our foibles and growth in a useful way.

Children's books often share major life lessons that morph into more complicated plot lines as fiction grows longer. Seeing things simply does have its place. As the world grows crazier, we can take solace in the wise words of children and continue to understand that our imaginations never stop working if we continue to exercise them.

What did you want to be when you grew up, and why? Has it changed? Please share

This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in August 2016


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