A question I often ask of new teachers is “Do you know yourself?” This is commonly met with a quizzical and puzzled look. Yet knowing who we are, how we think, what we believe, how we respond, and how we present is fundamental to being an effective teacher.
I just returned from Level Two EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) training. Within the EAGALA model, horses serve as active members of the therapeutic/instructional team. The actions of the horses in response to what we bring into the arena speak volumes of what is going on with their human partners. In the last several thousand years, horses have evolved as prey animals with a keen ability to ‘read’ the emotion, energy, and intent of other animals around them.
A significant portion of Level Two training revolves around the importance of awareness of the “stuff” we bring as facilitators into the arena. An EAGALA therapy or learning session is meant to be about the client/participants’ experience allowing them to draw meaning for themselves. Without awareness of our own stuff, we stand to unconsciously influence their experience. It is our role to provide an environment that is clean of our stuff – eliminating the disrupting influence of our stuff on our participants’ ability to make meaning from their experience. We need to be aware of and understand the verbal and non-verbal, conscious and unconscious, messages we project. Once aware, we can seek to set our stuff aside and allow the focus to remain on our clients and students – the place where it is meant to be.
The same is true in the classroom. Our job is to provide a rich learning environment for our students to learn. Our goal is to build our students’ intrinsic motivation with a strong internal locus of control. We want them to own the learning. Deep learning is not about pleasing or placating anyone but their own desire to learn. The classroom should not be focused on the teacher. It should resolutely focus on student learning. We facilitate that process and step back. The adage stating teachers should be “the guide on the side, not the sage on the stage” holds so true.
This takes work. We bring ourselves into relationship with our students. We share with them who we are. Yet as professionals charged with shepherding the learning process of our students, we need to be vigilant about allowing the stuff we may be working on as people to remain harnessed while in the classroom.