Slabs of Marble: Viewing Students with Michelangelo's Insight
Michelangelo is most famously known for painting the Sistine Chapel frescoes, sculpting the Pieta, and sculpting David. A little-known fact about the slab of marble Michelangelo used to carve David is one of the most intriguing reminders I use whenever I become frustrated in the classroom – the slab had been purchased years earlier for and used by another sculptor. When questioned about his ability to complete a commission that had been abandoned by two previous sculptors, Michelangelo said, “David was always there in the marble. I just took away everything that was not David.” When questioned about his ability to sculpt all of his masterpieces, Michelangelo stated, “In every block of marble, I see a statue. I only have to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it.”
Many of our most challenging students can be compared to the slabs of marble Michelangelo worked with to reveal masterpieces. Students grace our classrooms having encountered other caregivers – teachers, parents, guardians, etc. – that have influenced their being. They have been further influenced by their friends, foes, print media, visual media, and social media. Each encounter with parents, guardians, teachers, therapist, friends, foes, and media has left impressions that increase complexities in children. These influences make educating today’s youth a challenging experience. However, teachers must view children the same way Michelangelo viewed his slabs of marble that encased masterpieces.
The third of the “Noble Truths in Education” found in Enlightened Teaching: Elevating Through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states, “Children have the ability to reach self-actualization.” By viewing Diamonds-in-the-Ruff through the lens of this noble truth, teachers can begin the process of changing how they look at students so that their students can begin to change. As we grow in changing how we look at students, we can follow the “Five Principles to Enlightened Teaching” - mindfulness, understanding, compassion, discipline, and guidance. Revealing masterpieces requires the ability to see what is way too obvious to overlook because other factors are obscuring the view. Just as Michelangelo had to practice patience and focusing his mind on that which was yet to be revealed, teacher must practice patience and focusing of the mind on the best that is yet to manifest itself in our Diamonds-in-the-Ruff.
The present and the past are filled with individuals who could have been viewed as Diamonds-in-the-Ruff; they did not fit the mold and were somewhat unorthodox in their approaches to life. Many Diamonds-in-the-Ruff have or had ideals of how the world should be or groundbreaking ideas that are in direct conflict with established norms. Some of these individuals include Oprah Winfrey, Jim Carey, Dr. Shefali Tsabary, Dr. Deepak Chopra, and Eckhart Tolle when it comes to how we view ourselves relating to the divine energy, parent-child relationships, believing in ourselves, and living in the now. Others like Nikola Tesla, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and George Lucas introduced us to advances in technology that was beyond the imagination to make our lives more productive and entertaining.
If we take a more careful look at Diamonds-in-the-Ruff, we may see individuals who are beckoning for a world that is more inclusive by asking us to go beyond our traditions that allow us to have a deeper connection with the divine energy that flows through us. They are asking us to honor the true essence of a person’s being so that we may elevate ourselves and our world to the original intention of Eden. We may discover that their voices are shouting for acknowledgement, direction, and opportunity. Being mindful of the fact that Diamonds-in-the-Ruff have a great deal to offer the world, makes it easier to think of them as change agents and thought leaders. They are simply individuals who are encased in a body that needs to have the rough edges removed to reveal the masterpiece within.
Michelangelo must have practiced mindfulness to be able to expose masterpieces sheathed in marble. He had to go into his sacred place to connect with his divine essence that connected to the possibilities that were sheathed in slabs of marble. Teachers practicing mindfulness in the classroom allows them to lead students, especially Diamonds-in-the-Ruff, to a place where they elevate through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to reach self-actualization. This in turn allows teachers to transcend to their highest potential.
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