*PS-this was started on Palm Sunday, but life gets in the way….*
Today is Palm Sunday. Across the globe, folks walk the way to Jesus in his triumphal entry to Jerusalem before entering into Holy Week and arriving on Sunday at Easter. In my tradition, The Episcopal Church, we begin with the blessing of palms and then enter our sanctuaries with joyful hymns. My favorite piece of this service is one of my family traditions, and one I bet is shared by many across the blog who are handed a long frond of palm; we make palm crosses. Not officially as part of the liturgy, but something we do with our idle hands as we hear the stories and celebrate this beginning of the holiest week of the church year.
I take great joy in shaping these palms into crosses which I share with friends or keep in the sun until they are dried for the year ahead. Part of the reason I love it so much is that I learned this skill from my mom. Who I assume learned from someone in her church at some point, somewhere. I didn’t learn through a workshop. I didn’t learn through a video or textbook or lecture. I learned by watching my mom, right next to me in the pew, year after year. She might gently guide my hand from time to time, but I learned by watching and mimicking. Now, I sit quietly each Palm Sunday and build three or four pieces of art while I hear the sermon and reflect after communion. Perhaps someone watches me and learns?
This is a metaphor for our learning environments for me. How are we modeling learning, not only with our words and materials but our actions? How are we considering the role of apprenticeship and guest experts within our context of learning? In an age of self-directed learning and tinkering, which I wholeheartedly appreciate and support, how might we not forget the valuable role of modeling?
And not only for contexts of academic work but also learning to be whole-hearted humans. “The students are watching” so say Theodore and Nancy Sizer and remind us of the moral imperative as educators to support the integration of modeling character throughout our educational settings. Character education in a silo is yet just another drill and practice act but rather the appropriate modeling of our expectations for treating one another and ourselves is critical.
The careful and meticulous handling as a long, thin palm is crafted into a short, slightly sideways cross in the silence around others remains a symbol not only of the religious event for Christians but also as a symbol of the need for careful and meticulous shaping of our children. May we model it well.