Sixteen years of Treehouse talk

Sixteen years of Treehouse talk

Sunday, March 15, 2020

From the archives: How to be a mensch (or a womensch)

First posted 2015; slightly edited.
"If it be not goodness, the will is virtue, in the etymological sense of that word; it is manliness." -- Charlotte Mason, Ourselves (Volume 4)
In other words: Menschliness.

The post at Life Without Pants refers to a book by Bruna (not Brenda) Martinuzzi, The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow

So what does that have to do with homeschooling parents? The attributes listed in the above poster, which are summarized from Martinuzzi's book on leadership, can be taken as characteristics of good teachers, and also of good parents. I won't paste the explanations as given on Life Without Pants, but here are my own (homeschooling) takes on the list.

1. Give people gifts other than those that you buy.  LWP mentions the gift of "A reason to care," among other things. We invite, we offer, we give; we don't invade or impose.


2. Become a talent hunter. See #5.

3. Share ideas and information that can enrich. Don't keep all your good ideas to 
yourself. Homeschooling parents seem to understand this naturally...hence the existence of support groups and the publication of many "how we did it" books and magazines, not to mention the Carnival of Homeschooling. And of course it applies as well to what we actually teach. One way we frequently start our day here is with our homeschool "principal" (Mr Fixit), who tunes in closely to current events of all kinds and who is usually good for a "weekday update."

4. Spend more time in the “beginner’s mind.”  Put yourself in the student's place. What would you want to know about a topic? What would be a good way to communicate a particular idea? What points should you explain first, and which ones does your student need to discover for him or herself?


5. Don’t tell people what they can’t (aren't able to) do.  Marva Collins is a prime example of ignoring "can'ts," and so are John Holt and John Mighton.

6. Minimize the space you take up. LWP interprets this as referring to focus and lack of clutter, but I actually see another meaning in it: what Charlotte Mason calls Masterly Inactivity. That is, the focus is put on the student, rather than on the teacher. The student gets to ask the questions instead of just answer them.

7. Become a relationship anthropologist.  It means we have to work at listening to and understanding each other.

8. Be happy for others. At the L'Harmas retreat one year, we heard about a boy attending a small school, who had a particular set of special needs and who was also hypersensitive to noise. On one occasion, when he demonstrated how far he had come by doing some kind of classroom presentation, the rest of the students all clapped for him...quietly.

9. Get rid of grudges. Allow second, third, fourth chances. Don't let past tensions spoil a good learning opportunity.


10. "Help others caress the rainbow," which means "Inspire hopefulness." One way to do this: include books that inspire in your homeschool curriculum: poetry, fiction, biography.

11. Make people feel better about themselves. No matter where they come from, no matter what's happened before. Give them opportunities to succeed, and let them know they're smart.

12. View promises as unpaid debt.  And don't promise what you can't follow through on."How do you become the kind of person others want to follow? By being a person that people trust." (LWP)

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