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  • Anna Brix Thomsen

What Children Have Taught Me about Teaching: DAY 65

In this blog post I am continuing with the series about communicating with children based on my experiences as a teacher.

Here are the previous parts of the series: 

The point that I will discuss here is about how children pick up on what we, as adults are experiencing. The other day I was in a lessonwith a young boy and on that day I had been a bit emotional in the morning, not really giving it much thought as I went about my day. But in the lesson the boy suddenly touched my arm and said to me: “don’t worry so much”. And it was a profound moment in that, I had not even considered how I was coming across to the child, because the experience within was not directly or overtly expressed openly. As such the child resonantly picked up on what I was experiencing through my expression in a way that I was not even aware of myself. And I have found that this happens more times than we, as adults would like to admit. Often if I go into stress about time because I have to leave one child to get to the next, they will ask me if I have to go or when I have to go. Or if I am somewhat disconnected and not fully present with the lesson, they will also be disconnected and even look at the clock asking me when the lesson is done. So as I’ve shared in previous blog-posts, I have made a commitment for myself to, as I walk into the classroom, I am unconditionally there with the child, even if it is only for half an hour. And the effects of this commitment has been profound because I am able to immerse myself in communicating with the child, where what previously seemed like a very short and rushed lesson, will be rich and plentiful in terms of me actually being able to teach the child and open up an effective and enjoyable communication for both of us.

Children exist at a much more physical level than we as adults do. They are literally more HERE than we are, because we so often have our minds scattered in all sorts of directions, pretending to others and to ourselves that we are here, when in fact we’re somewhere in our heads and not fully present with the moment that is here.

There is for example one child that I teach, a girl who is very slow in her movements – slow, compared to the hectic and rushed schedule of the school system. She moves slowly and is simply here with what she does and it has previously been stressful for me because it means that she often does not get things done in the allotted time, which means that I’ve had to rush her to get things done. So I have decided to give her time to move and to simply let the lesson unfold in every which way possible – though obviously also not letting the speed of her movement be an impediment for her learning process. Instead I have realized that I can plan the lessons and consider how she moves. In my last lesson with her she was standing and getting undressed from having played outside and I simply waited while talking to her. Another teacher came along and told her to hurry up. And I noticed how unnatural this was for her.

Small children do this all the time. I’m sure all of us has either seen or experienced for ourselves how small children will walk and move slowly through reality, looking at everything they see, stopping to pick up a leaf or gazing towards the skies to the constant frustration and irritation of their parents. And we then think that the problem is that children do not yet comprehend time or the importance of a schedule, but I would say that it is actually we as adults that do not understand the concept of time and how we exist in relation to it.

So with this student that moves slowly, I’ve begun investigating how I can meet her in her way of moving and still teach her in an effective way. But I see this point in general in how it is almost like a lottery where some children are comfortable being in the school environment and setting and others are clearly not. And it is an astounding large portion of children for whom the current school system is not optimal – specifically because we’ve created this system based on the example of the world system and the job market where everything has to be fast and efficient, quantity over quality all day long. So for a child that naturally moves slowly simply because she is more present in her physical body, school can be a devastating experience and what is even more alarming; such a child can be at the risk of not learning effectively which in turn can and will affect them for the rest of their lives. Now – if this was only one child in a class, it wouldn’t be that big of a problem, perhaps that child could go to a special needs class. But if we consider how it is virtually all children for whom the school environment isn’t effective, the consequences are far more alarming.

There are a thousand ways we could rearrange the schooling system that would be of much more support for a child to naturally learn and develop themselves, but we have created the school system in the image and likeness of the world system, literally making the school system a preparation facility for children to get ready to enter onto the job market – and because we have accepted this world system as the only possible way of living, we do the same for our children, to their detriment and to the detriment of all of us.

So when we talk about communicating with children and how children pick up on what we as adults are experiencing and sending out, it is not only our inner experiences, our bias and insecurities – it is also our acceptance of the world system as a finite way of living on earth. It is also the world system in itself that we bring with us, whether it is to the classroom or through the front door of our own house.

And what is fascinating here in terms of looking at a solution to this point is that we cannot fake authenticity or inner stability – because children are like walking lie detectors, whether they directly expose us or internalize the lies they see us make. And so to change this point, to present them with an example of a way of living that isn’t based on rushing through life in survival-mode, we are actually going to have to change ourselves for real. And this is something that will not only benefit our children but most certainly also ourselves.

Within my work I am on a tight schedule every day, all day to get from one place to another, from one student to another. It quite resembles the daily rut that most of us find ourselves in. And if I can walk into a classroom and unconditionally be present and here for 30 minutes with the result of having an enjoyable and educational lesson with a child, then every parent and teacher should be able to do the same. I’m not saying that it is easy – I’m still working on it myself. But I have seen tremendous results within doing this already in terms of the level of intimacy and mutual enjoyment that opens up, where I in no way see the child as a burden, but as a being that I can learn from and whom I can myself with and teach in a way that both of us can enjoy.

So my suggestion is the following: Do an experiment. Next time you meet a child and a moment opens up of being able to spend some time together, sit down, breathe, and stabilize yourself here. Let go of all the thoughts about where you must be, where you’d rather be, whom you’d rather be with. Let go of that nagging experience of stress and rush and simply sit down and talk. Look at the child, share yourself with them, tell them about your day, get some play-dough out of a box or get a hold of those crayons and start drawing. Even if it is only for 30 minutes, it might bring a quality to your life, you didn’t even realize was missing. It could almost be a form of therapy on its own to spend time with a child, because they will stand as an example of how it is possible to live, how to walk with one’s physical body at a natural and comfortable pace. They will show you how to be present here and how to discover the physical world anew in an unconditional enjoyment of being alive… if you let them. So instead of being so focused on bringing children into our world, we should try living in theirs for once and we might realize that we’ve missed out on the most important part of being alive, namely: Being Alive. 

I also recommend reading the following blogs:

Natural Learning Abilities blog series – a MUST READ! 

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