E.B White’s children’s book, Charlotte’s Web is a classic. The story of barnyard animals talking to each other and sharing their lives, along with the unlikely relationship that develops between a pig and a spider has captivated the imaginations of thousands of moms, dads, teachers and children since it was first published in 1952.
Last night, I had the opportunity to see our Upper School production of the play in the Sloan Theater on our campus. It was a marvelous production and the acting, lighting, direction and staging once again demonstrated why GDS is the premier theater program in the Triad.
One of the things I so appreciate about our productions is the Director’s Notes found in the programs. They always speak to the underlying messages of our productions, and I was particularly moved by Ruthie Tutterow’s comments for Charlotte’s Web:
That we can overcome incredible obstacles – not on our own, but because someone loves us and invests their time in us. That Wilbur and Charlotte are incredibly different, and didn’t know that they could be close at first, but grew to be the best of friends. That courage begins when you stop worrying about yourself. That there is something more valuable than a ribbon or a medal. That ordinary miracles happen every day.
Ruthie points out the central point of the story, which goes to the heart of what we want to develop in our families, our schools, our communities, and our nation. She notes that incredibly different people can find common purpose and work together in overcoming obstacles to create outcomes that benefit both parties. It usually takes courage as well as mutual trust and support as people move toward common goals or into the unknown. That is the miracle which comes from looking beyond self and helping others.
If we want our children to grow into ethical adults who can create mutually successful and connected communities, we need to help them learn how. This is not done without trial and error, hurt and healing, correction and reformation, because this is the way that we all grow into caring adults. Our work as parents and educators is not to define a narrow, unforgiving line for our children and students to walk, but to make sure that we are providing a wide path with guard rails – a path where errors can be successfully forgiven and rectified and where stepping outside the boundaries will have more serious consequences.
Our children need opportunities to develop their ethical and interpersonal skills, but they can’t do it if the pathway doesn’t allow for errors and opportunities to learn. Our students strengthen their ability to solve problems as they have problems to solve. Let’s allow them appropriate challenges so that they can come to know and value the impact that they can have in making positive changes with their classmates and in their communities.