|Aeneas Fleeing From Troy, Pompeo Batoni, 18th century|
Undique convenere, animis opibusque parati,
In quascumque velim pelago deducere terras. Aeneid II.799-800
These lines from the second book of Vergil's Aeneid describe the refugees fleeing from Troy to Aeneas with the hope that he could lead them to safety and a new land. The lines are literally translated as "They assembled from all quarters, prepared in mind and in resources, for whatever lands I would wish to lead them on the sea." This is the perfect description of the ideal classroom.
Make no mistake, a teacher is a leader. The Greek word from which we derive "pedagogy" is paidagogos, which is a leader of children, and whether you understand education as a leading from the darkness of ignorance or a leading into the light of knowledge, it is an enterprise that requires leadership, and it is the teacher who serves that chief function.
Yet notice in these lines from the Aeneid that the people have come to Aeneas animis opibusque parati, prepared in mind and in resources for whatever lay ahead. We often focus on the student preparation of bringing materials to class, notebooks and writing instruments and such, but too rarely do we even consider the preparation they need in their minds and spirits.
I have written before about the quality of being docile, which is far more than merely being quiet and demure, but is the disposition of mind and spirit that makes it possible to learn. How, then, do we help our children develop that essential disposition so that when they enter the classroom, they are actually prepared for the adventure of education?
First, they must eat well and sleep well. A body that is malnourished or deprived of sleep will not be able to sustain the rigors of the educational journey, and if there is one of these two essentials that we tend to neglect, it is sleep. Young people must get uninterrupted rest, which means no phone or computer activity once the lights have gone out.
Young people, and indeed all of us, are imitative creatures. If the adults in their lives are curious, they will learn to be curious, too. Share with the young people in your life the questions that you ask about the world around you. Invite them into your speculations and discussions. Soon, they will be asking questions of their own, perhaps questions you have never considered.
Read. Read to children when they are young. Read with them as they grow older. Share with them the books you are currently reading. Express to them your excitement over an article you have read or a book you hope to get. They will value what those around them value, and if it is nothing more than a steady diet of electronic entertainment, we should not expect them to become the deep, reflective people they have the ability to be.
When children come to class prepared in both mind and resources, there is no telling to what lands they can travel and what they will discover along the way.