Vessel or Lamp?
‘A child is not a vessel to be filled, but a lamp to be lit’
by Janice Ross (revised, originally published in 2010)
Suitable for Key Stage 1/2
To consider that we all have a unique part to play in our own learning.
Preparation and materials
Display the following Hebrew proverb: ‘A child is not a vessel to be filled, but a lamp to be lit.’
Have available a new schoolbag, some large books, some jotters, a dictionary, an atlas, a microscope, a calculator and some pens.
You will also need an oil lamp or a candle lamp.
Read out the following statements to the children.
- Some people think you go to school to learn things.
- Some people think you go to school to cram lots of facts in your head.
- Some people think you go to school to pass tests and exams.
- Some people think you go to school, then go to college and then go to university so that you can get a good job and earn lots of money.
Repeat each statement one at a time and ask the children what they think about it.
Listen to a range of responses.
Display the Hebrew proverb.
Read it aloud: ‘A child is not a vessel to be filled, but a lamp to be lit.’
Show the new schoolbag and then stuff it with the books, jotters, dictionary, atlas, microscope, calculator and pens.
Hold it up and say, ‘A child is not a vessel to be filled . . .’
This proverb is saying that you don’t come to school with a head like an empty bag waiting to be filled with stuff, even if that stuff is called knowledge!
Show the lamp, and then light it.
Finish the proverb by saying ‘. . . but a lamp to be lit.’
This means that you come to school with great potential inside you. There is something unique within each of you, and it is your job and your teacher’s job to discover it and allow it to burst into flame.
Your unique potential might be an interest, a skill or a creative ability. Some of you may know what it is already, whereas others may not. That is what school is about. In school, there may be a teacher, a book, a computer programme or a course to help you develop that interest, skill or talent. You have that great potential to shine within you.
Time for reflection
Ask the children to reflect on the proverb quietly for a few moments: ‘A child is not a vessel to be filled, but a lamp to be lit.’
Ask them to think about a skill, talent or interest that they would like to develop in the next few months. How can they set about achieving this?
Thank you that I am unique.
Thank you that I am created in your image with creative ability and talent.
Give me a desire to learn and to make the most of my education.
Thank you for my school.
‘Give me oil in my lamp’ (Come and Praise, 43)