I want to think about why we are motivated to learn and why being told to learn on command only works to some degree and with some kids. Why approval and good-regard are effective and why any form of negativity can destroy a child's interest in, or liking for, a subject.
I have now come to know that my wanting to be a musician was because of my grandmother`s love for me and her passion for music. My sense of rightfulness and my compassion come from her too along with my love of nature.
Of course, when one is in such a relationship one doesn`t notice that one is copying someone else out of love, still less that we come to hate things because of someone negative in our lives, but just as we copy behaviours, we copy ideas, attitudes and experience of pleasures. My delight at seeing blossom in the spring is more than just me experiencing pleasure on a sensory level, my experience is loaded with my grandmother.
When I see the beauty of apple blossom, the pleasing shape of a tree and its branches and take a closer look at the delicate form of the tiny flowers, my shift from the macro to the micro is my grandmother appreciating the detail of nature and, second hand, my mirrored wonder.
So why do we follow someone else`s passion or hobby, someones liking or pleasure? First comes love with its approval of us, then comes a reciprocal copying of ideas and pleasures. When someone loves us or gives us positive regard, we will do anything to please them. Sharing their pleasures is our reciprocal approval, a sign to them that they are loved too !
On the other hand, when we receive disapproval from the folks around us it has the opposite effect. We invariably, especially in our formative years, come to dislike what they do or what they stand for. The power of disapproval is immense. At its extremity we take on a disapproving parent`s bad regard for us into ourselves, being to ourselves our own criticiser, pulling ourselves down and destroying ourselves from within. This we can see in a small child where they have experienced and hold onto bad regard and therefore have a bad regard for themselves: "I cant do it because I`m useless at things." Children take into themselves negative ideas about themselves expressed by others. This does not just take the form of direct criticism, it can be merely where a parent communicates a dissatisfaction with their behaviour or endeavours in terms of body language. We don`t know the threshold for an amount of criticism that is "too much" or a severity of criticism that is "too invasive", these are subjective, but it is for this reason that we must endeavour to be careful when we criticise children. Particularly damaging is criticism in education.....
Remember that disapprobation will lead a child to feel unhappy about a subject and their own abilities, this may be transitory or PERMANENT. It is fragile indeed to be responsible for a child`s education in any form at any age because both overt signals of disparagement or covert body language can take away a child`s confidence, their self regard and their willingness to learn. Most teachers, within a classroom environment, disregard, probably don`t think about, the impact of the manner of their relation towards their pupils. Are we surprised by this?
Well, I for one am not, a classroom is a group function, a group organism, as such it is not concerned with individuals or the wellbeing of individuals EXCEPT where their unhappiness might effect the viability of the whole organism. Harsh, sad, but true. In a group a teacher cannot pay attention to individual needs, the aim is to take as many of the group towards a rote standard or examination, not to cherish and nurture everybody according to their needs. I think that given this obvious fact, it is necessary for a teacher to morally compromise themselves. Certainly, we can see evidence for this in a teacher`s need to employ a guilt-shift upon hapless pupils who do not conform to the needs of the teacher and the class as a whole. Just as we saw in regard to the dumbing-down medication of old people in old folks homes, we see teachers willing to have their charges medicated for unwanted behaviours as in the case of the invented illness of A.D.H.D.
The very fact that the children who are disruptive, who do not follow the model of the classroom, are labeled with psychological diagnoses tells us that this is indeed a symptom of a group dynamic that labels the misfits in order to shift responsibility from a survival of the fittest teacher-led group, onto the child who doesn`t conform. As often when we human beings need to disavail ourselves of guilt, we see here the use of psychiatry to make certain that the misfit child gets a label and, better still, medication. Sadly, the teacher needs to escape the guilt that being part of a runting process would bring them, and this is why so many teachers support the medication of children who exhibit unwanted behaviours.
So to return to my second paragraph, let`s round up some fundamentals for achieving learning... We know that positive regard is essential when dealing with children of any age. We can see, too, that a classroom and all its dynamics, will bestow upon kids who fit in, learn to the required formula and keep up with the group, an ongoing approval. Necessarily, then, kids who do not will receive a comparative negative regard. This puts them at an instant disadvantage. This is why classrooms in mainstream schools do not work. It is simply not possible to make sure that ALL children receive the necessary attention to ensure that they think positively about themselves and that the nature of the classroom does not deleteriously effect their learning.
Love, positivity, praise, all engender attention, assimilation and eagerness. The most positive way to learn is with the facilitation of an adult who gives lots of positivity. Any sign of negativity, disrespect, or ill -couched criticism is absolute poison to learning.
In my next blog I want to take a look at why we eat animals......