Scoil Bhride is one of the warmest and most genuinely joyful schools that I have ever seen, and I am feeling very blessed to be part of it in fourth class for a short period of time. Both days, I have come out to the yard at lunchtime to watch the students. They tend to cluster around me, because I am new and fascinating with my strange accent, and love to ask me questions, tell me about themselves and show me all their games. I was surprised to learn that these Irish students play many of the same clapping games that my Mom taught me, my peers taught me at their age, and the girls I babysat this summer also play. I was even able to join a few of their games, and show them variations.
The day after this discovery, my conversation with my BC supervisor brought the clapping games back to mind. We spoke about the Great Famine and the incredible stories of fifteen year old girls who made the journey to Ellis Island alone, while caring for younger siblings. We also discussed how even though that feels like such a far away time, there are stories of girls travelling with younger siblings, in arguably more treacherous conditions, to reach the southwest of the United States from Mexico, Central and South America. Although clapping games and emigration are not inherently related, for me they both represent the notion that “the more things change, the more they remain the same.”
For me, that is both a comforting, even beautiful idea, and a terribly sad one. It shows how universal it is to be human- children will sing silly rhymes and play clapping games, and people will always be willing to go on a quest to find something better, no matter who they are or where they are in time or place. At the same time, when one social condition is corrected (e.g. the Great Famine), another of the same nature springs up (e.g. the extreme destitution in Latin America). This makes me question whether progress and improvement of the human experience can ever truly be made, or if the problem will only be shifted, transformed and recycled in another form, time or place.
I feel that if I am to accept this concept that “the more things change, the more they remain the same,” I will have to rewrite my entire philosophy of life. I have always held the belief that with patience, passion, intelligence and collaboration, people can change the world. I do not mean to seem like a pessimist, nor do I want to develop a pessimistic philosophy, but I feel as though I have to recreate my wishful, world-changing philosophy. It definitely requires more reflection on my part, but I want to find a way to unite these currently contradicting ideas of mine so that I can find a way to be optimistic and hopeful about the ability of people to effect change, and yet acknowledge the universality of humanity that surpasses time and place. As a teacher, I think that it is important to consider this idea in regard to social justice as well. Can a teacher truly contribute to change of a negative social condition or change the trajectory of a student’s life? How can a teacher do so, if it’s at all possible? I’m realizing that I cannot save the entire world, but I haven’t yet ruled out being able to change an individual’s world.