"You are basically not teaching a subject, you are teaching children. Subjects can probably be better taught by machines than by you. But if we teach our children only by machines, what will we get? Little machines. They need you, you as persons." And I quoted Emerson: "What you are speaks so loudly over your head that I cannot hear what you say."
So I know, with a sense of responsibility that hits me with a cold fist in the pit of my stomach, that what I am is going to make more difference to my own children and those I talk to and teach than anything I tell them. (156)
If my goal, then, is that my children are often coming face to face with greatness, I need to do what I can to become great. Ay, Hamlet, there IS the rub.
This reminds me of Mrs. March in Little Women telling Jo, "I must try to practice all the virtues I would have my little girls possess, for I was their example. . . The love, respect, and confidence of my children was the sweetest reward I could receive for my efforts to be the woman I would have them copy."
Back to Madeleine (feel free to substitute "teacher" with "parent"):
All teachers must face the fact that they are potential points of reference. The greatest challenge a teacher has to accept is the courage to be; if we are, we make mistakes; we say too much where we should have said nothing; we do not speak where a word might have made all the difference. If we are, we will make terrible errors. Be we still have to have the courage to struggle on, trusting in our own points of reference to show us the way." (181)
(Sidenote: I LOVE everything she said about points of reference. Get the book and read the rest.)
This "become what you want your kids to become" IS NOT EASY! Mrs. March was apparently excellent enough at it that her girls didn't believe she ever had any faults. But she is a fictional character, and you and I are not. It's a comfort to read all this greatness from Madeleine, yet have her confess things like "When I scrubbed the kitchen floor, the family cheered. I couldn't make a decent pie crust. I always managed to get something red in with the white laundry in the washing machine, so that everybody wore streaky pink underwear" (21).
I know I have plenty of areas to improve, things like personal discipline, housework, consistency, not procrastinating, housework, and housework among many other things. Madeleine gives a few others to add to her list as well. "I would, quite often, like to be grown up, wise, and sophisticated. But" she adds, "these gifts are not mine" (42). That brings out something I love about Madeleine - her word choice. She is excellent at finding just the right word, and I never would have thought of those things (except maybe being wise) as gifts. But if they are, then other things I wouldn't always see as gifts are also gifts. Like maybe the ability to play!
I've been trying to wrap things up for this post off and on for a while now but it hasn't happened yet. I will have to tie things up in another post, if even then.