How to eat an elephant

by Debbie Knight

As a young teacher, I was given this advice from my headmaster: “Educating children is just like eating an elephant, you have to cut it up into small pieces and eat one small piece at a time.”

Now, being a visual learner, I see everything as pictures, so this idea of eating an elephant was, to me, appalling! I saw myself, sitting with knife and fork in hand, contemplating getting stuck into a poor old “ellie” lying steaming on a huge plate in front of me! And, in the picture I am all alone with this HUGE task ahead of me!

Let me paint a much more realistic and meaningful picture: On the grassy plain lies a great big elephant carcass (that died after a long and happy life in the African bush), being consumed by a pride of majestic lions. After the lions have had their fill, the Hyenas, Jackals and Vultures move in, each polishing off more and more of the elephant. Even the smaller animals and insects play a part in eating the elephant – until nothing is left but a pile of white bones in the sunlight.

OK still a bit gory, but in the big scheme of things, we all understand that this is nature’s way of recycling the nutrients from the elephant’s body, and also cleaning up the environment.

Educating children IS a huge task, but if you, (as a solo teacher), realise that there are many people and organisations that are out there to help you in this undertaking, you will feel a lot more confident and ready to take on the responsibilities ahead.

For a start, each child’s parents (and extended family) should play the “lion’s” share. Family are important in laying the foundation for a child’s education, supporting the teacher in his/her efforts to widen their child’s horizons, and to provide opportunities for learning and diverse experiences for enriching a child’s life.

The school, the team of teachers and management, all the school’s programmes and structures, and the associated support body (therapists, psychologists, and other specialists) – all play a very important role.

Every activity a child participates in, and every skill a child practices will contribute to making that enormous thing called “EDUCATION” a wonderful and rich experience!  

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