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If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea

12th March 2020

At the end of the last academic year I received a rather lovely gift from one of the girls I had been teaching. It was a copy of The Little Prince by the French Aviator and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery and it is from this author that the quotation from this week originates. In the story the little prince represents the open-mindedness of children. He is a wanderer who ‘restlessly asks questions and is willing to engage with the invisible, secret mysteries of the universe.’ The novel suggests that such inquisitiveness is the key to understanding and to happiness. I had never read it before and found it both inspiring in content and touching that the giver thought I would appreciate it.

Apparently many self-help guides and books about management now contain Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s quotation and I think it is should also be chief among quotations that guides educators. Educators, whether teachers or parents should aim to inspire because if a child is inspired, they will then be motivated to do the tasks set. Too often however, education has tried to by-pass this stage in a hurry to move on to the completion of tasks and work that can be easily measured. When education is reduced to this, I believe it has lost its way.

Inspiration comes from opportunities to experience and become excited by new places, meeting new people, the natural world, music, art, literature and ideas and this takes place as much outside the classroom as inside, through visits and extra-curricular activities. There should then be a time for savouring, a time for wonderment and awe from which the questions may arise and a longing to know more. We are often too quick to categorise, analyse and deconstruct the world, rather than helping our children first ‘long for the immensity of the sea’. It is only then, with curiosity aroused that children may be ready to do the necessary work to ‘build a ship’, in order to sail out into the wider world.

Mrs Crossley

If You Want To Build A Ship