Article: Katerina Tsitoura

Sotiris: “What is wrong Anna? You look preoccupied.”

Anna: “Nothing grandpa, I’m just a little tired.”

Sotiris: “The eyes cannot hide the truth, you know.”

Anna: “Let’s say then that the kids at school are cruel to me.”

Sotiris: “And why is that?”

Anna: “Maybe it’s because I’m different. I find it hard to make friends, I blush when boys talk to me. Even the teacher loses her patience with me sometimes.”

Sotiris: “Hm… Come here, Valia.”

Anna: “Why do you call out grandma?”

Sotiris: “I have my reasons.”

Valia: “What is going on Sotiris? Are you ok? I got worried and brought the sphygmomanometer in case you needed it.”

Sotiris: “I’m fine; your granddaughter though needs a little help. She feels sad.”

Valia: “And why is that? Hey, maybe you simply dazed her with your chatter?”

Sotiris: “My words sound like music to her ears, if you need to know… However she feels different from the others. Her classmates and the teacher cannot understand her. “

Valia: “Okay… It’s time for our story, right?”

Sotiris: “It is so…”

Anna: “Oh grandpa and grandma, are you in your right minds? I grew up already, I’m not a baby.”

Valia: “Too late. Close our eyes and listen carefully.”

Once upon a time, there was a small school, somewhere in the middle of nowhere, in an isolated island which enjoyed the secrets caresses of the bright sun, lying lazily in the calm waters of the blue-green sea. It was a strange time, as the kingdom of men had declared war on the heroes of fairy tales and cynics of the world were chasing the figures of fiction with the gray realism of their dimensional reality as their fire arm. In that school -and do not insist; I will never disclose any details that could irreparably expose my favorite friends- class members dressed in the most cheerful colors and small bearings hosted the leading figures of our boyishness.

The students of this special educational institution were few in number, however the uniqueness of each one’s personality sealed the map of the learning journey. At this point, allow me to introduce them to you…

At the back benches we always find the two wolf pups. There were not bad guys deep down. I know, you’ve heard a lot about their species and, perhaps, at some point, you fell into that trap too, believing that the truth only responds to what stands in front of you and you stopped seeking for the causes behind the surface.

Does the word ‘stereotypes’ ring a bell? As the wise but somewhat aloof director of our school often said, stereotypes is a difficult concept to define, even if many argue that they can easily distinguish them. We could say that they are constructed concepts, findings relating to specific social categories. Once, let’s suppose, just before Morpheus wrapped you in his tender arms, you heard an adult voice whispering that the wolf is that dangerous guy who constantly gets involved in trouble, the bad influence that urges you to throw your notes in the wastebasket and to follow the paths of his untamed destiny. And you, like many others – do not blame yourself- gave generalizing power to a description that never relied on objective data. And you ignored the sadness behind the silly jokes, the family drama behind the desperate need for attention, the shuttered kid behind the rebellious student.

In the middle bearings you discern the Little Red Riding Hood; an independent spirit, with a strong trend to challenge the establishment; beautiful, with rare confidence, but somewhat restless. Many questions seek satisfactory answers. But she knows it profoundly well… The essential answers we give ourselves to ourselves, once we carve our own path. And the route will eternally hide traps, potholes, wrong turns. But it’s the wisdom of adventure that will eventually lead us to the refuge of self-awareness. Yes, you see right. The wolf pups seem to have already open channels with this beautiful girl. But to remember, never the Laestrygonians nor the Cyclops shaded with their fog the idyllic landscape of Ithaca. At least never without the consent of the traveler…

And what is finally the role of education in the attempt to decode our personal journey? Education seems to initially consist of the process to discover our uniqueness and then of the ultimate goal to strategically develop it, so as to finally communicate it to others.

Next to Red Riding Hood, you see that blonde girl with the innocent blue eyes and shy smile. She has beauty and wit, but fails to exploit the undeniable talents like a mermaid who lacks the comforting sea water, chained to the treacherous rock of self-sabotage. And she has to dive into the ocean of action, even if the shackles of fear numb the energy of her existence. Herbert Otto said once that change and growth take place when someone risks and dares to meddle in and monitor the way he experiences his own life. Jump into the unknown Cinderella and the echoes of William Faulkner s voice (‘Phoenicians’) will wisely remind you that between pain and nil, it’s worth to choose pain.

And then, at the front of the class, you meet Peter Pan. He smiles at you cheerfully and his smile is a rainbow that makes you forget the rain, a balloon that raises you to the sky of eternal hope, where creativity is not a threat to the educational process and imagination builds bridges with realism. Remember that merry boy and do not ever tell him that the colorful dreams were burned on the altar of adulthood. Give him wings to fly and he will compensate you with the gift of eternal youth, the playful look of a man who followed his heart. And the heart chases always wise paths, be sure about it…

And now, in our strange class, enters the teacher by the name ‘Beauty’. Beauty, you see, does not give a wry look at the insubordinate wolf pups, nor has she threatened them, whenever they challenge her patience. She tries to lead them with love on the road where the three major fairies associated with the implementation of Positive Psychology for children and adolescents direct her. The fairies are called Optimism, Hope and Quality of Life and they are so omnipotent that can bathe in light even souls immersed in the darkness of despair.

The teacher of our school knows that the discovery and promotion of the particular inclinations of even the most challenging educational cases is a key link in the learning process and to achieve her objective, she successfully implements the strategy of experiential exercises. Let’s say then, that our wolf pups have a bad day during which they vent the stress, anxiety and sense of abandonment felt in rude comments towards their classmates. Beauty then tells them a story starring imaginary persons -or maybe not? – in an attempt to bring them into contact with the deeper feelings both their own and of the other members of the gang.

Then, this special teacher’s gaze stops at the timid face of Cinderella.

Here is your test” she says, and hands it to her, while Cinderella, cadaverous and sure of her failure, bows her head, mumbling:

“Ah Ms. Beauty, I made a mess. I hope I won’t disappoint you the next time”.

Beauty then smiles at her reassuringly and informs her that she once again excelled. Then she encourages her to believe in herself and in the precious substance of her soul.

And then, Little Red Riding Hood begins her famous questions:

“But why should we read? In what will knowledge be useful to us?”

“Why in fairy tales the good guy always wins in the end?”

“And who is the good guy? The guy who did the right thing because his parents told him so, or the other one, who fell on his face and consciously decided to change course?”

You know, Beauty is also human, which means that sometimes she wakes up in a bad mood because she quarreled with her boyfriend, or found that she gained seven pounds, or forgot to save her thesis in the computer’s hard drive. And to be perfectly honest, the days when her nerves are pounding on the door of her psychology, she feels that the endless questions of that insubordinate girl are testing her positive teaching attitude. However, she manages to control anger or her bad disposition and avoids whining or exerting criticism. In short, she chooses the creative action and always digs out from her trunk a magic wand that removes the clouds of gloom from the everyday sky.

Then, the teacher observes Peter Pan with the tip of her eye. He has forgotten the mathematical calculations of the teaching hour and designs new worlds with his pen, magical as his thirst for life.
‘Peter Pan, I would like your attention for a while. I promise you that once we cover the curriculum, we will talk about the fairy planets you love so much,’ addressing him, in a sweet but decisive way.

And somewhere there, in the middle of nowhere and at the core of absolute truth, a group of people who accept each other’s distinctiveness establish a different school, directed by Mr. ‘Beast’. Mr. Beast can be considered ugly by your objective criteria, but he has a heart of gold. Having suffered much in his life because of his differentiation, he decided to set up this separate class, fully adapted to the principles of positive psychology.

When Beauty first saw the Beast she got scared (labels are distancing effects, pushing away one from another, remember that), but then he, with his throaty, slow voice, told her a fairy tale:

“Once upon a time, the Board of the animal school held its first meeting, where it established the students’ curriculum. The hare, always a bit of a wise guy for that matter, persuaded the other animals that all subjects should be taught (flying, swimming, climbing, etc.). The school therefore opened, time went by and the results of the above teaching method were dreary. Think that some animals from the lots of blows to their head suffered such brain damage that they could no longer run. Curiously however, their teachers stated that they were pleased with the spirit of cooperation between the students, which automatically translated into success of the curriculum.”

And then Beauty understood… After all, the monster is always well hidden in our own stereotypes, in the refusal to highlight our uniqueness. “Be who you are”, Nietzsche once said. And at that very school of the tale, the phrase found its perfect application.

The heroes of the school swore me to never reveal to people where they are. They fear that with grandiose projects, with medication granted without hesitation to ‘hyperactive children’, like Peter Pan, and with caustic comments catapulted at misguided ones, like the wolf pups, people will manage to dissipate the magic of the fairy tale. Can you blame them? …