Pride

My grandma will often quote the aphorism that “pride cometh before a fall”. Culturally, we’re encouraged to avoid being too proud. We call a group of lions “a pride”. LGBT Pride is celebrated in many countries around the world and can be an important part of the calendar for queer people. We also encourage our students to take pride in their work. Like many words, pride means different things.

Among the many challenges I encountered when I started studying Spanish was that not only does it have two verbs which translate as ‘to be’ (ser/estar), but depending on which is used, adjectives can have different meanings. For example, ser rico = to be rich, whereas estar rico = to be tasty. This is very confusing at the outset, but I’ve come to see it as a useful way to colour different shades of meaning: listo means ‘ready’ with estar, but ‘intelligent’ with ser.

Anyway, this diversion through Spanish grammar serves to illustrate a difference with English grammar, which doesn’t use this trick. Like Spanish, we have adjectives that can mean more than one thing, but we rely on context to convey meaning. Obviously, context is much more listener/reader-dependent than the speaker/writer choosing a different word. ‘Pride’ is one such adjective and, incidentally, Spanish uses its verb trick to indicate whether it is being used with its positive or negative meaning. In English, if I say “He is a proud man”, you need more information to determine what I’m actually trying to tell you about him.

What does pride have to do with education? I think two things. First, we have to teach our students to be proud of their accomplishments. While they should always be aiming to realise their full potential, falling short of perfection is not failure. Achievements can look like very different things to different people. I’ve met too many students who are so driven by perfectionism that they do not celebrate and enjoy their achievements. I confess, I was one of those students. Second, we have to teach our students to have pride in simply being who they are as human beings. As educators, we have to help each and every one of our students to see their inherent value and be proud of themselves.

In the end, I think my grandma has a point: too much pride of the negative type can blind a person to the obstacles on the road in front of them. However, not enough pride of the positive type can prevent a person from setting out on that road in the first place.

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