Building Cathedrals Not Walls

building_cathedrals_mockup_webBuilding Cathedrals Not Walls is a collection of ninety Kids Talk essays to inspire you in your work with children, whether you are a parent, a teacher, or other adult in the life of a child.

Cathedrals endure as symbols of vision and dedication from the Middle Ages. During this time in Europe scores of cathedrals were envisioned, funded and built taking generations to complete, enduring plagues, wars, lost funding and more.

  • In today’s world who embarks on a project that requires generations to complete?
  • Who begins an endeavor while lacking the engineering know-how to finish it?
  • Who has a plan and a vision for something that will last for a thousand years?

An architect visited a construction site on his vacation. As he walked around he asked the brick masons what they were building.

“Mister,” the first worker said as he slopped mud onto a brick, “can’t you see I’m building a wall?”

Every worker he chatted with, no matter if the chore was laying brick, shoveling or mixing cement, told the architect they were laying brick or stacking a wall.

One worker offered a different version of his labors. As he stood upright and smiled, the man said, “Look. I’m building a cathedral.”

If asked what we were doing during our day-to-day toils and challenges of parenting and teaching, we might be apt to answer, “Can’t you see I’m busy with the kids?”

If we shift our perception and develop the art of the long view we should discover that we are part of a group who is building humanity. We are part of a group who strives to build a better world, task by task, day by day, year in year out, generation by generation.

When we have a plan and a vision, we understand that, indeed, we are building cathedrals, not walls. The mundane becomes the magnificent.

And that makes all the difference.

The essays in this book, I hope, will inspire you to see that we are working on something bigger than ourselves. Much bigger.

Many schools have used Building Cathedrals Not Walls for book discussion group with their staff members and families. Download ideas for a study group below. 

building cathedralsWhat Readers Are Saying…

Inspirational! This book is a real find. It is full of practical advice! Each essay is short but contains significant food for thought and or discussion.

I am a great fan of this author. Her writing is always clear, succinct, yet filled with depth and wisdom. The advice offered is backed by sound educational theory, as well. There is much to be learned and applied here — and it is always presented in a way that inspires, rather than overwhelms. Highly recommended!

I had borrowed this book from a library and loved it so much that I had to buy my own copy. It’s a great reminder that there is a bigger picture. I like that it’s a collection of essays, which allows you to dip into it whenever you need to. No lengthy chapters or jargon. Just nice simple messages in very readable language. I recommend it to any parent.

Lead or Manage?

— Excerpt from Page 80, Building Cathedrals Not Walls

As parents we lead and manage our children. If we lead without adequate management skills, logistical problems arise. If we manage without providing clear leadership, we may travel a long road to nowhere.Leadership focuses on developing people, empowerment, doing the right things, direction and principles. Management, on the other hand, concerns itself with taking care of things, control, doing things right, speed and practices.

If we are leading in the wrong direction, does it matter how well-managed the journey is? Conversely, when our leadership can’t manage to do things right, control outcomes and practices with a modicum of speed and sense of delivery, is our leadership effective?

Leading is an art. Managing is more about skills and organization. Parenting is the delicate balance of knowing when to guide and when to supervise.

Paul was a time management guru and didn’t go anywhere or do anything without consulting his Daily Planner. For Paul, it came naturally to schedule time everyday to develop new skills. Fitness training was inked in from 5 to 6 a.m. everyday while Paul listened to tapes to learn French. Dinner was from 6 to 6:30 p.m. After dinner, every 15 minutes in the Daily Planner included activities for Paul to oversee with his children. Piano practice, reading books, yoga exercises, bath time, tooth brushing and prayers. Paul scheduled every minute of his day. Paul planned his wife’s activities. Paul’s children’s events were in the book. By golly, Paul said, in his family they got things done. The Daily Planner organized everything.

As Paul’s children began to enter into the independent stage of the older child, around age six years, small actions of rebellion and deception began to appear in the children’s behavior. Dawdling at the dinner table in order to miss piano practice. Going to get a drink of water in the kitchen when it was time to brush teeth. Hiding the reading books. The children’s passive acts of rebellion sabotaged Paul’s Daily Planner.

Paul made the mistake of managing his children when they needed his leadership for vision, moral direction and personal development. For Paul the balance of leadership and management tipped completely towards taking care of the schedule, controlling time and practices and being efficient.

When we become overly concerned with controlling things and people, instead of empowering others to manage and control themselves, we may find ourselves surrounded by indications of low trust. Some of these symptoms, but by no means all, are escapism, anger, fear, chaos, in-fighting, back-biting, hidden agendas, withholding of information, poor-me attitudes and people saying one thing and doing another.

To effectively manage we must lead. To lead we must effectively manage. So the dance begins.

Our job as parents and teachers is to have a clear direction on how we are going to help our children learn to lead and manage themselves, so later they may, in turn, lead and manage others.

Otherwise, we may end up in a place we never intended, using a map to obscurity but running right on time.