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Rose Post: Teach him gently, if you can

If you put a kindergartner on the school bus for the first time today, Rose Post has a message for you.

During her career at the Salisbury Post, Rose kicked off each school year by writing a column directed at teachers as they welcomed students to school — especially the little ones.

Long after her children were grown, Rose remembered the powerful mix of emotions every parent goes through when first sending a child to school. She sent five of her own.

Rose, who died in 2011, wrote for the Post for more than half a century and won dozens of awards. As she always explained, the bulk of this particular column is not her work. But she grasped the timeless truth of its message and insisted on reprinting the column every year.

“I always knew,” Rose wrote, “the real story was about your child, my child, all the little ones who were just beginning, going off to school for the first time, one at a time. And I always wanted to tell the teacher …

“Then one day I discovered that a principal in Franklin, Ind., whose name I didn’t know, had already told the teacher exactly what I wanted to say, so I let him say it again for us.”
Here’s what the principal wrote:

My son starts to school this week.

It’s all going to be strange and new to him for a while, and I wish you would sort of treat him gently.

Up to now he’s been boss of the backyard. I have always been around to repair his wounds, and I’ve always been handy to soothe his feelings.

But now …

Things are going to be different.

This morning he’s going to walk down the front steps, wave his hands and start on his great adventure that probably will include wars and tragedy and sorrow.

To live his life in the world will require faith and love and courage. So, teacher, I wish you would sort of take him by his young hand and teach him the things he will have to know.

Teach him, but gently if you can.

He will have to learn, I know, that all men are not just, that all men are not true.

Teach him that for every scoundrel, there is a hero. For every crooked politician, there is a dedicated leader. Teach him that for every enemy, there is a friend. Let him learn early that the bullies are the easiest people to lick.

Teach him the wonders of books. Give him quiet time to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun and flowers on a green hill.

Teach him about the world of work. Teach him that it is far more honorable to fail than to cheat.

Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells him they are wrong. Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone else is getting on the bandwagon. Teach him to listen to all men, but to filter all he hears on a screen of truth and to take only the truth that comes through.

Teach him to sell his brawn and brains to the highest bidder, but never to put a price tag on his heart and soul.

Teach him to close his ears in a howling mob and to stand and fight if he thinks he’s right.

Teach him gently, but don’t cuddle him, because only the test of fire makes fine steel.

This is a big order, teacher, but see what you can do. He’s such a nice little fellow, my son.

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