T. Pierce Brown

The sub-title of this article might be, “STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN.”  My least granddaughter, Chelsea, almost 3 years old, came into my study while I was sitting in front of my computer working on my workbook, “THE MIND OF CHRIST.” She said, “Paka, may I do my artificials?” I felt sure I would like to see her do her artificials, but I had no idea what they were. So I asked. (That is the proper thing to do when you do not know something. It is seldom proper to hide your ignorance from a child — or any other person — for they will soon find out anyway). She replied, “They are compediate letters.” That sounded like a good word, from “com,” a Latin prefix meaning “with” and “pedi,” a Latin form meaning “foot,” but I did not remember it, so I punched the buttons on my computer for the Thesaurus and it was not there. Then I got up and went to my big unabridged Webster’s of over 3200 pages and did not find it. So I stopped and said, “Show me what you mean.”

She sat down at the keyboard and ran her little stubby fingers over it at random. Since I knew that she knew at least part of the alphabet, and do not like to see people wasting time when they can be doing something constructive, I said, “Why do you not type the alphabet?” She replied, “No, not now. I just want to do artificials.”

After looking and listening for a while, I discovered that “artificials” were not real meaningful letters, but were made just by playing around on the keyboard. Although I am sure she had never heard anyone use the word “compediate,” I thought, “Since she said that is the same as “artificials,” maybe that means `just walk your fingers through the keyboard at random.'” After all, if a brilliant mathematician has a right to make up “googol” to refer to a number so big he can’t use it, or a scientist has a right to make up “argon,” as a Greek term for an inert gas, meaning “it will not work,” I suppose Chelsea has a right to make up a word with Latin derivation that eventually means “working with letters that do not really mean anything — are therefore artificial.”

But one of the better lessons I got from that experience is that if we stop, look, and listen, we may learn something — even from little children. If we do not learn anything else, we can at least learn what THEY mean.

That principle is valid in all teaching and communication of any sort. Even those of us who have been teaching teachers how to teach for many years may forget that teaching is really a two-way street — not just imparting information in the hope that some of what you mean will soak in, but listening for feed-back to see what your words mean to the persons you are trying to teach.

Another small and incidental lesson which is hard for me to learn is that a person does not always have to be doing what I think is constructive and useful to be doing something that is worthwhile for them. As Solomon might have put it, “There is a time for every event under heaven — a time to work and a time to play.” And both grandfather and granddaughter can learn from playing if they will take the time to do it — and look and listen while they are doing it.

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