In consciousness-based and brainsmart education, the agenda of vocational training for teachers is different, on one hand, and more varied and expanded, on the other, than in conventional vocational training for teachers and day care workers.
There are some rules of conduct and of attitude that are really different in such an educational setting, compared to traditional education. The stress is namely on consciousness, the way a teacher handles perception and expresses it, and to develop self-awareness. In this context, emotional awareness assumes a very important role in order to avoid the common projections that are rampant in traditional education.
Projections are not the result of reflection but in the contrary, the result of repression. Repression brings about regression and projection. All content of consciousness that is not embraced but repressed falls out of the cultural frame, and thus regresses into archaic behavior models, and in addition, the repressed desire or emotion is subsequently projected upon others. That means for teachers who have such an attitude that they will project their unassumed desires and fantasies upon the children with the result that verbal and nonverbal communication becomes distorted and children receiving ambiguous messages.
However, in a progressive consciousness-based educational approach, communication is a major pillar for helping children to widen their conscious perception of life and of themselves. This communication must be truthful and whole if it is to serve its goal.
As a result, teachers must learn to handle their inner trials, their contradictory emotions, feelings or desires, and their shadow self. For this task, they need to receive appropriate vocational training which goes beyond the usual vocational training provided to teachers in that it is nourished by the insights of neuroscience, child psychology and psychoanalysis.
The present approach does not go as far as the one practiced in so-called ‘psychoanalytic’ Kindergartens as they have existed, back in the 20th century, in Russia, Germany and France. For example, the famous ‘Maison Verte’ in Paris that was founded by Dr. Françoise Dolto (1908–1988), France’s leading child psychotherapist at the time, was requiring applicants for the work with children and babies to be psychoanalyzed. I visited the Maison Verte back in 1986 and subsequently was invited to interview Madame Dolto in her apartment, Rue St. Jacques, in Paris.
We had an extended talk about various subjects and my first question was why teachers or facilitators in her communication center had to be qualified psychotherapists? And Madame Dolto told me more or less what I was just writing here. She spoke about childhood hangups, repression and projection.
However, I believe that it is not needed to have gone through several years of a Freudian psychoanalysis just for developing emotional self-awareness. And I have met dozens of people in my life who had gone through years of Freudian therapy and who had absolutely not the slightest emotional self-awareness and would have been horrible teachers!
So in my view what we need is an extended vocational training for teachers, and not the transformation of the school system into a whitewash of Freudian psychoanalysis!
This being said, how should we go about to foster emotional awareness in our lives as teachers? Can we do something for it or should we wait until the vocational training for teachers has gone through a total overhaul? I believe that we can do something for it, individually, and with an effort that about everyone can deliver without adopting the sometimes ridiculous mannerisms of a ‘psychoanalyst.’
This doesn’t mean that my insights have grown in a vacuum. I am well aware of the origins of my ideas and do not hide their sources. They namely come from Eric Berne’s teaching of Transactional Analysis (TA) and from Frits Perls’ approach to Gestalt Therapy.
Both of these therapies are holistic approaches to self-healing and have developed way after the proliferation of Freudian psychoanalysis. They offer much more effective therapeutic approaches and do not ‘intellectualize’ psychoanalytic knowledge.
And there is another source of knowledge that we cannot disregard; it is Bioenergetics, the teaching of the bioenergetic logic of the body, and of human emotions, that was developed by Wilhelm Reich and later popularized by Alexander Lowen.
Many concepts and ideas around that mysterious word ‘education’ are obfuscating the simple truths of life. One of them is the insight that no real education is ever done by preaching eloquently, but by living the truth. A teacher is not a politician in the sense that truthful education is most of the time done non-verbally, not by holding speeches and still less by blame or admonition.
It may sound extreme but when a student says or does anything indecent, this is a signal not to be overlooked by the attentive teacher, a signal that says ‘Where is my part in this behavior’?
A responsible attitude requires the teacher to be sensible to perceiving the complexity of the psychological intricacies in the relationship s/he maintains with every single child in his or her class. When student behavior derails from the social code, the appropriate response is observation, and as a consequence, self-observation. In this sense, education is always also self-education, and this is an ongoing process. We are not perfect and we know that. But as educators we often overlook that ‘playing the game’ as the majority defines it means ultimately to be hypocrite; it is easy to do as if and pretending one had achieved a certain level of perfection, thereby suggesting to the child that he or she is imperfect. ‘Oh, poor thing!’
This paradigm of the old school of teaching was not even questioned as the teacher was put on the same pedestal as the father whose omnia potestas was one of the pillars of patriarchy. Authority figures were idealized yet silently feared. Carl Jung’s saying comes to mind that ‘the cabinets of psychiatrists are filled with people who had ideal parents.’ Yet to think we have put behind us all of this, as a matter of our ‘advanced psychological understanding’ is equally a fallacy. Real understanding of children comes as a result of teachers really understanding themselves, and their behaviors and reactions! This cannot be taught nor can it be learnt other than by a process of continuous self-observation.
Behold, I have not used the term self-criticism, and for good reason! In fact, self-criticism often leads to guild and toxic shame for we all have in us an inner critic who is an opponent to our healthy ego. Progress can only be made when we learn to observe ourselves passively, without the blade of obnoxious criticism that all-too-quickly tends to undermine self-esteem. As a matter of projecting repressed behavior, the person who is very self-critical is also very critical toward others, which leads to a double toxicity. The person with her self-esteem ruined by constant and outrageous self-denial will tend to deny the reality in all others around her; such a person will unconsciously undermine the self-esteem of others. An educator who is sharp toward their own self-esteem will be sharp toward the children in their care; such educators tend to be harshly critical to a point to ruin the learning motivation in the student. This is so because learning motivation is fueled by the positive emotional and affectional relationship between teacher and student.
As a teacher, responsible to keep the relationships with your students intact means to be harmonious and gentle in your overall demeanor and to be positive and encouraging, not negative and overly critical.
Lack of self-criticism is often misunderstood as lack of format, lenience and emotional indulgence. But to repeat it, we have to see the difference between self-criticism and self-observation. The first behavior is negative, the other is positive. I do not need to criticize myself, to make myself down, in order to improve my behavior and attitude; once I become fully conscious of it, there will be a change. This is so because consciousness always is self-cleaning and self-correcting. Passive self-observation is the key for any kind of personal transformation; in addition, teachers who master this technique are much more at ease in informal situations, especially in the day care and pre-school setting. They are not only more relaxed and experience much less emotional stress, but they also tend to bring over to the children this valuable technique of introspection that fosters inner peace. While self-criticism leads to inner war!
As education is an ongoing process, so is the eduction you give to yourself — also called self-education! It requires an acute awareness of one’s emotional processes, one’s inner life. All our desires and fantasies have an impact upon people around us, especially upon small children. This impact is positive when we assume our inner life, and negative when we repress it and project it.
That is why emotional self-awareness is so important for teachers. Of course, this is not really an agenda point in the vocational training for teachers and daycare workers and it is for this reason that I stress it here so much. I believe that teachers have to be trained to develop this passive self-awareness, which is why they should learn to meditate. Meditation is but that, a peaceful, stress-free and lucid form of self-observation, the awareness of all our thoughts and desires. One may argue if small children really need to learn meditation, and I do not pronounce a definite opinion here about it. There are arguments in favor and against it. I am speaking about children between the ages 2 and 6, not primary school level children. I believe that the self-regulatory processes in children that small are so strong and vital that an add-on is not needed to boost their self-awareness. This is so because small children are acutely self-aware when they are healthy and emotionally vibrant!
But meditation is well needed for teachers to learn the process of introspection with the result that fragmented and contradictory desires are rendered conscious and integrated. As already mentioned with a pointe of humor regarding Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his persecutory desires projected upon a young boy, while the whole plot was a matter of fantasy, it is a psychological fact that when sudden or transitory adult-child erotic attraction is not rendered conscious, it cannot be sublimated. Then the educator may find himself trapped in a desire he cannot possibly assume as it is against the social code. Passive awareness of the emotional streaming between educator and student suffices to handle such moments, without acting, so that the emotional safety of the child is not jeopardized.
Last not least, self-education also means that teachers are constant learners; it is barely conceivable how teachers can come over as vibrant and charismatic if they think of themselves as wisdom dispensers for undeveloped youth. Education is not a one-way street if it is to be effective.
When children perceive their teachers are stagnant on the intellectual level, they are not really motivated to participate in the wisdom quest. I have seen it over and over again, in schools that those teachers are given the greatest love and respect who are humble enough to learn together with their students! These teachers also score highest in learning output per class, and per student, if this can at all be measured! It is in this sense that I feel education and self-education really hang together, for one is the reflection of the other, and both are but head and tale of a coin.
In this sense, a great learning institution is one where all and everybody learns, not just the students. This is an idea that today is even discussed in management training, not just for the management of schools but for all kinds of businesses. It is called a ‘learning culture.’ I would go as far as saying that if this is true even on the general management level, it is certainly an inseparable element in the curriculum of a progressive pre-school.