The following piece was selected as one of the winners of this year’s Refuat Hanefesh Creative Expression Contest. Age group: High School. It has been lightly edited.
Prompt: A substantial percentage of childhood is spent in the classroom. What can our educational institutions do to improve our mental health and well being?
The world is a magnificent place. Full of beauty and magic. As children, it’s in our DNA to question everything. We wonder why the sky is blue, if animals understand us. But our youth is wasted in the classroom. Our souls die a little more every time we leave behind nature and enter the dull hallways of our schools, which scream with forced structure. This does not mean we must doubt the educational system and the importance of its impact on our lives; it simply proves we must remember to live.
As a child, I remember counting down the moments until the bell would ring for the last time. That first breath of fresh air as the countless possibilities of adventure entered my brain. The enchanting aroma of freshly mowed grass wafting through the air. The endless rolling hills we’d overcome in order to be crowned queen of the mountains.
Schools attempt to bring aspects of freedom and excitement into their learning environment, but as children grow into young adults, we seem to lose our imagination. We begin to see the world for what it has been made into, a grey circle in endless space. It becomes difficult to cope with life and the need to survive and prosper. This does not mean that all of adolescence become depressed, but rather the peculiarities we carried and treasured become unimportant, and instead we become zombies.
In a world of endless disappointment, it may seem too difficult to change the view we see, but not impossible. We must begin young, drilling into the minds of humanity the significance of make-believe. We must show them how to savor the rainbows and understand the wind. That being kind to one another and going on escapades with friends are the memories that will permeate the core of our very beings. Children need to understand that we only live one life, so we must safeguard each second. If we can do this; if we can help everyone find joy in the little things, then the mental health of future generations will be gifted with strength and love.
Yet, it still seems impossible to incorporate such abstract ideas into the classroom. How can a person – who is part of the epidemic – teach these extravagant ideas? We must begin with art and music. Reconnect with the beat of the world, and soon beauty can be found in the sound waves of the air conditioning machine springing on. Teach the swirling of colors and scribbles of a pencil. With practice, this will become second nature, and even through the darkest of times, creativity will dance through our veins. And when a child turns to you, with gloom overpowering the unique color of their eyes, and states they are untalented or insignificant, wrap your arms around them and prove to them they’re not.
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