Sunday, September 13, 2015

unconditional teaching

This weekend I have been re-reading one of the more influential books for me as a teacher.  The book is “Unconditional Parenting” by Alfie Kohn and while I am not a parent, the insights about how to care well for children cannot be overlooked.

One of the biggest “ah-ha” moments I had while reading the book the first time was the idea of parenting (or teaching) with long-term goals in mind of what you would like your children to become and allowing those to influence present, in-the-moment choices.  What does this mean?  When trying to solve a daily problem or get through another transition from house to car to grocery store, you intentionally make choices about how your act and respond to your children that will help them become the people you want them to be – compassionate, self-reliant, responsible, respectful, kind, thoughtful, creative, loving, curious, and confident. 

In the words of Alfie Kohn – “it challenges us to ask whether what we’re doing in consistent with what we really want.  Are my everyday practices likely to help my children grow into the kind of people I’d like them to be?  Will the things I just said to my child at the supermarket contribute in some small way to her becoming happy and balanced and independent and fulfilled and so on – or is it possible (gulp) that the way I tend to handle situations makes those outcomes less likely?  If so, what should I be doing instead?”

I love this idea because it challenges me to reflect on my words, actions, and attitude when I am interacting with my group.  If I want them to be gentle and respectful of people’s bodies (our current challenge), what am I doing on a moment-by-moment basis to develop this in them?  Am I being gentle and respectful with their bodies, modeling this for them to see, feel and understand?  If I want them to be wise about their health and food choices, choosing to nourish their bodies and genuinely enjoy their food, am I modeling this same behavior when we eat meals together, providing nourishing meals and giving them a space to discover their own likes and dislikes?

At times it can feel daunting to teach like this (I can’t speak to parenting).  Sometimes we just need to get diapers changed and onto our mats for a much needed nap and that is all I can think of.  But over time, I noticed that it changes how I approach almost everything I do with my group.  Little, day-to-day moments feel bigger somehow, as they fit themselves in a bigger picture of where we are going as a group and how they are growing as individuals.  As we transition from being an infant/wobbler group to a wobbler/toddler group, I have worked to pay attention to what I am doing in the moment that will intentionally move towards bigger, long-term goals I have for them – even as I continue to revise and envision those goals.

If you have never read the book, it’s a good one to check out.  For myself, it has challenged my thoughts and beliefs I had about teaching children and as I read it for the second time, it continues to shape and challenge my present beliefs, philosophies and actions as a teacher.

“In short, with each of the thousand-and-one problems that present themselves in family life, our choice is between controlling and teaching, between creating an atmosphere of distrust and one of trust, between setting an example of power and helping children to learn responsibility, between quick-fix parenting and the kind that's focused on long-term goals.” 
 Alfie Kohn, Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason

1 comment:

  1. Dear Birgit, thanks for sharing your experience about the book. Your impression has made read it too, I was also very impressed by some controversial ideas in the book, but some of them have caught my attention and made me think about how can we change the traditional learning process in order to educate, motivate and encourage. I wasn’t surprised to see some passages in the book about using modern technologies to buy essay online and find the ways to improve one’s academic performance online. I will be looking forward to reading some more of your reviews.