The story goes that Michelangelo was walking along the streets of Rome when he was approached by an admirer. “Michelangelo,” said the admirer, “your statue, David, is so beautiful! It is so perfect and awe-inspiring. What skill you must have! How do you imagine, how do you create, something as wonderful as David?” The artist stopped, and pondered for a moment. “It is easy,” he replied. “First you get a piece of marble, and you look at it very carefully, examining it from all sides. Then, very gently, you chip away all the parts that are not David.”
Parents and teachers have a daunting task. Like Michelangelo, we must find the work of art inside our children and carefully strive to reveal it. We must examine from all sides, trying hard to see patterns and then connect those patterns to the world so that we can understand and appreciate them. We use our skills and tools to shape, as gently as possible, the potential that is inherent in each individual. Plato described education as “drawing the soul from becoming to being.” The task of educators, including parents, is to help that inner work of art come into view.
We may not always agree about how to do this. We may differ in what we believe is important to the work of art. We may use different tools, and we may not all be equally skilled – not all of us are Michelangelo, and we need to keep practicing our craft. At The Harbour School, we find that there are four universal beliefs that seem to be true to all of us - parents, educators and artists alike.
First, we believe that there is a work of art hidden in every child. We do not believe that valuable blocks of marble (and valuable children) should be discarded simply because the outline is not immediately clear or the process of revealing the art is difficult. Some of the most beautiful and impressive pieces may be hidden or harder to make clear. Our job is not to find a completed work and dust it off – sometimes we actually have to use skill, patience and artistry to reveal the masterpiece.
Second, we believe that every great masterpiece is different. We cannot make David out of every marble block – sometimes, the marble block holds The Pieta. In trying to shape all pieces in the same way, with the same end result in mind, we not only create an inferior copy but we miss revealing the true masterpiece inside. Sometimes, when we try to shape everyone in the same way, the block of marble simply crumbles and we are left with a mess.
Third, we believe it is impossible to find David if one simply does not get to know the marble. When teachers have too many students, they cannot know the students well enough to see what is inside, and when that happens the teachers can only try to impose their own vision of what they think might be a good statue… with results that would be limited and mediocre, missing the potential of the raw stone.
And fourth, we believe that it is important to have a humble appreciation of the damage that can be done with a heavy or hasty chisel, an understanding that we can damage the work of art if we are not careful, cautious and respectful. We know that there is a balance between revealing what we want to see and harming or missing what is already there.
For over a decade, we have been privileged to help our families reveal the masterpieces in their children, and the works of art we have had the opportunity to chisel are far greater and more complex than our own imaginations could ever have created. As we watched our first graduating class leave in June 2018 and report from their first years at university, we are left stunned by the beauty of the finished pieces they have become. Like many of you, we are passionate about being parents and teachers because there is no greater feeling than finding David. It is surprising, awe-inspiring, meaningful and deeply satisfying, and the reason why there is The Harbour School. If our humble hands have helped the piece emerge, we are even more appreciative as we watch it stand alone.
About Dr Jadis Blurton, Head of School, The Harbour School
Dr Jadis Blurton is the Head of School at The Harbour School and is well known as a leader in the fields of education and psychology. She has a Ph.D. in Cognitive Developmental Psychology and Master’s Degrees in both Special Education and Psychology. She is a Qualified Teacher in Hong Kong and a Certified Montessori Teacher (AMS). She is also a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in two states in the United States and a Registered Psychologist in Hong Kong.
Dr Blurton has worked in the fields of Education, Child Psychology and Educational Psychology for over thirty years, practicing clinically as well as teaching at university level and working with schools. In Hong Kong, she is the founder and Clinical Director of the Blurton Family Development Center and the 2009 recipient of the American Chamber of Commerce Ira Dan Kaye Award for Community Service in Hong Kong.
She has served as consultant to numerous international schools and speaks both locally and internationally on topics related to gifted education, alternative or progressive education, child and family development, expatriate children (“Third Culture Kids”) and special educational needs.