I recently had the chance to share with students completing their student teaching some of the things I have garnered throughout my career that have served to inform my teaching. It was satisfying to be able to pull together these thoughts. The ensuing discussion was rewarding. I hope to capture them in a series of blog entries.
Lesson One- this is a recent experience for me that speaks to the power of the subtle messages we communicate with our students. My daughter, Anna, and I have a chapter in a book coming out this spring exploring the intersection of equine assisted therapy and the urban classroom. I won’t go into detail here (have written a bit about it earlier), but will focus on several important themes. My daughter conducts equine assisted therapy with clients inside the horse arena using the EAGALA model of therapy. The evolutionary history of horses makes them uniquely situated for this role. Horses have evolved as an animal of prey. Their survival has depended on their ability to “read” other animals’ intent. They do this by paying close attention to stance, positioning of ears and tail, focus of eyes, auditory intonations, and the subtle reading of energy emitted. Over time, they have become very perceptive and skilled at this. Anna speaks to the ability to look to the behavior of the horses to help her interpret what is going on in the lives of her clients. If they are feeling anxious, the horses know it and will respond in kind. The same response if they feel fear, judgment, hostility, timidity, etc. Through therapy the client learns to recognize those feelings they are unknowingly projecting, and, once known, project a new, known sense of themselves.
The classroom is not unlike what happens in the arena. Students are very good at “reading” the energy being projected by the teacher. If the teacher projects anxiety, the students also feel anxious and will act in kind. If they feel judgment, they will keep a distance, if they feel timidity, they will take control. I could walk into most classrooms and watch the students. It wouldn’t take long to know how the teacher is doing by just reading the behavior of the students. Not unlike the client in the arena, the teacher needs to become aware of their emotions and the energy they are projecting. If the teacher projects calm confidence, relaxed students are able to join in the adventure of learning occurring in the life of the classroom. If the teacher begins to feel fear, judgment, or anxiety, they need to gain the skills to refocus their energies and return to a sense of calm confidence. In doing so, they effectively create an environment that can maximize learning.
Lesson One: Be aware of yourself. Your emotions have direct impact on those around you. Learn to project a sense of calm confidence. Your students will read you, appreciate it, and respond in kind.