Bird Droppings May 8, 2022
Life and acceptance are often getting over fears.
As I stepped outside into a beautiful morning, we were hoping for a bit of sunshine, but rain is in the forecast and the humidity is hanging in the air. The grass was like walking on a sponge soggy and wet but then again it could be from my wife’s pressure washing the porch and sidewalk. I was thinking back to one of my recent classes actually what should be the easiest class was the hardest to teach. Kids that could do but do not are much harder to work with than kids who have physiological or psychological problems. These kids choose to not learn and a group of them feeds off each other and then you have acceptance of that do-nothing norm. My premise is that this does nothing is based indirectly on fear. In education, it could have started as a fear of failure or lack of self-esteem but relegates itself to doing nothing rather than risk ridicule.
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” Carl Rogers
As my days go often in opening a book or researching a thought quote or statement I am curious about, I find ideas and inspiration that lead me further in my endeavors. It was two years ago about this time I was thinking about being retired and having just completed four surgeries and got a clean bill of health, I was getting ready to go back to teaching after a long break. I missed the clamor of the hallways and interactions with students I got to thinking, I find I draw energy from the communications and feedback. I found a statement that for many reasons drew me to it. I found more as usual. I am working on an idea that deals with a student’s depression and so often getting that student to open up and talk about their issues aids in overcoming the withdrawal and educational barriers of depression.
Rogers’s statement is not a paradox as much as a truth. In 1967 Carl Rogers wrote, the interpersonal relationship in the facilitation of learning, in which he emphasized three factors. The first factor is realness in the facilitator of learning, the second prizing which is acceptance and trust, and the third is empathetic understanding. As I went through graduate school and came back to teaching I had been looking for explanations on how and why my teaching style worked. Amazingly I see this in Rodger’s three points. Yesterday I was discussing why some teachers are so much better than others and it was these three issues.
“When the facilitator is a real person, being what she is, entering into a relationship with the learner with out presenting a front or a façade, she is much more likely to be effective. This means that the feelings that she is experiencing are available to her, available to her awareness, that she is able to live these feelings, be them, and able to communicate if appropriate. It means coming into a direct personal encounter with the learner, meeting her on a person-to-person basis. It means that she is being herself, not denying herself.” Carl Rogers
Looking back nearly fifty years, pronouns for teachers were consistently she and her and I recall a dear professor at Eastern College telling me there should not be men in elementary or special education. As I look at Roger’s words teaching and education could be set aside and life reinserted. We should enter into all relationships without facades and utilize ourselves as human beings not trying to be someone we think we should be instead. Our best visual aid is ourselves and we are the example for life and others.
“There is another attitude that stands out in those who are successful in facilitating learning… I think of it as prizing the learner, prizing her feelings, her opinions, her person. It is a caring for the learner, but a non-possessive caring. It is an acceptance of this other individual as a separate person, having worth in her own right. It is a basic trust – a belief that this other person is somehow fundamentally trustworthy… What we are describing is a prizing of the learner as an imperfect human being with many feelings, and many potentials. The facilitator’s prizing or acceptance of the learner is an operational expression of her essential confidence and trust in the capacity of the human organism.” Carl Rogers
I have written about trust so many times, it is in accepting people and trusting people inherently that we find difficult. Almost twenty years back for my former professor in Human Development, Dr. Udhe at Piedmont College I did a paper on the development of Trust. I had researched the concept of faith and found faith and trust synonymous in definition and development. Dr. James Fowler a professor at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology wrote a book on the development of faith borrowing from educational developmentalism including Piaget and Erickson. As I read Dr. Fowler’s work and looked at others I found parallels in the development of trust and evolved over several months a chart.
Watching my grandkids as they grow up I am seeing this now as they are acquiring the ability to choose through their little responses to life. Only a few years ago they would cry when hungry or wet. Last weekend as I played with them I had been noticing how they will use words to describe and words to clarify what they wanted but still occasionally here and there and then little whimpers that escalate if they do not get their way. It may be they want to sit differently or want their momma, or a specific toy. They have learned this ability rather quickly. Last weekend on one occasion as one of them whimpered and turned towards her momma from my lap she pouted her lower lip and whimpered her mother said to come to momma and picked her up and she looked over her shoulder right at me and smiled her impish little smile. That is acquired learned behavior at its best.
The Bird development stages of trust
Stage 1 – Unconditional Trust – a baby’s view of trust as totally unconditional
Stage 2 – supportive Trust – a child begins to feel trust in the support of family and parents
Stage 3 – Learned Trust – venturing out the learn and acquire trust
Stage 4 – Experienced Trust – trying and experimenting they experience trust
Stage 5 – Questioned Trust – first love and friendship and questions arise
Stage 6 – Answered Trust – slowly we work through events and answer questions
Stage 7 – Universal Trust – As we mature we find trust is there
Stage 8 – Unconditional Trust – very few come back to unconditional trust
The graphic that I did is very colorful, and I have put into comparison other developmentalism in various fields including Kohlberg and Gillian. We do move through these stages as we go in life, some fixate at one point and never move past. But in Roger’s statement acceptance is paramount to trust. The third component of Rogers’s thoughts is empathy.
“A further element that establishes a climate for self-initiated experiential learning is emphatic understanding. When the teacher can understand the student’s reactions from the inside and has a sensitive awareness of the way the process of education and learning seems to the student, then again, the likelihood of significant learning is increased…. [Students feel deeply appreciative] when they are simply understood – not evaluated, not judged, and simply understood from their point of view, not the teacher’s.” Carl Rogers
Nearly ten years ago I ended a paper on my philosophy of teaching with the idea that empathy was a key element. There is an aspect to life that some people have and many do not. I have watched my wife with patients as a nurse practitioner understand where her patient is coming from and then able to better deal with that person’s illness. Years back reading a sales book by Harvey McKay I recall a secret of his. When walking into an office of a customer take notice of what is there and build a repertoire. Do you see University of Georgia signs, bulldogs, and or logos? Where did they graduate from college and high school? Building a relationship was McKay’s secret and then he made notes for the next meeting. As I am sitting here remembering from way back when I still keep notes on people. Today when I meet a new student or anyone I try and find a common ground to start with. I try not to prejudge and push aside but try and find where we are similar. Sometimes in life, this is hard but understanding goes far and empathy is also a powerful tool in life. As usual, looking for Harvey McKay’s book I found another aspect of Mr. McKay’s writing of his daily moral or quote so for today coincidently.
“Teachers strive not to teach youth to make a living, but to make a life.” Harvey McKay
Far too often we get caught in the trying to make a living and lose the three elements of Rogers thoughts and that applies across the board not just to teachers but to parents too and friends. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and as the great Sioux Chief and Medicine man Sitting Bull offered to always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)