My friend, Pam, knew the secret of educating. She used to speak of educating the “whole” child.
She was one of those teachers that took kids out to play no matter the weather, so they could get fresh air in their lungs. She took them on field trips and stopped at nice restaurants where they had to go in, sit down and order from a menu, because some of them had never had that experience. She wanted them to experience culture.
She exposed them to plays and songs from around the world. She had them participate in the Hefer Project at Christmas rather than exchanging gifts, because she wanted them to experience the joy of changing a life rather than simply receiving another gift.
Soft-spoken and intellectually gifted, Pam was unconventional and always, above all else, an advocate for her students. She went toe-to-toe with superintendents, board members, policy makers, lazy co-workers, and anyone else who wanted to put their government policy, personal agenda, pocketbook, comfort or ideas above the welfare of her students.
Pam understood the secret of educating, one to which many people are oblivious.
So, What IS the Secret to Educating?
A person is a tri-part being and each part is made up of multiple systems. To truly educate a child, you have to address the needs of their body, soul and spirit.
A human being is like my three-legged Art easel. If I don’t stabilize all the legs, the whole thing falls over. I give the legs that stabilize a person the following names; they are body, soul and spirit.
Leg 1: The Body
The body is the physical vehicle that carries us from place to place in this world. It requires nutrition, exercise and rest. It is made up of many systems, parts and organs.
Without proper rest, nutrition and exercise, it lags and malfunctions. If a child is hungry, it’s hard to learn. If a child is being beaten at home, it’s hard to care about Math at school. If a child is sick and in pain, it’s hard to pay attention during Reading group time.
So, children need to be fed nutritious meals. They need to go outside, to run, walk, climb and play–everyday. They need to go to sleep at about the same time each night, without an iPad, iPhone, television or computer readily available. I can’t count the kids I’ve had through the years who couldn’t stay awake at school because they had a television in their room and watched TV all night! The light from electronic devices can hinder sleep, ESPECIALLY IN CHILDREN!
Leg 2: The Soul
The soul, like the body, is comprised of numerous parts and systems. I will focus on three: the minds, personalities, and emotions. Without going into lengthy detail at present, suffice it to say that the soul is created by the union between body and spirit. It is our sense of self in this world.
Like the body, the soul must receive food, exercise and adequate rest. Food comes in the form of emotional validation, mental stimulation and personal inspiration.
The mind needs problems to solve, things to figure out. It needs challenges that it can work through and overcome. However, a continuous onslaught of taxing, stressful problems can become emotionally overwhelming. There needs to be some stability in a child’s life.
A long stream of school activities that ignore the child’s background, belittles or slights their cultures, etc., sends the child a subconscious message that they don’t matter as much. Growing up as a child from a socio-economic challenged family myself, I know from first hand experience that when the teacher always calls on affluent children to run errands, pass out papers, empty the pencil sharpener, fill the teacher’s coke machine, etc., that it sends a message to the “poorer” kids that they just aren’t quite as “good as” and aren’t as deserving. No teacher that I know of does this on purpose yet I know that it is done, because I experienced it. There has to be some stability in a child’s life. A child’s life structure doesn’t have to be strict, simply consistent and reliable.
King Solomon once said to train up a child in the way he/she should go and when he/she is old they will not depart from it. In the original Hebrew that denotes something more akin to “teach a child in the way that he or she is naturally bent, nurture their natural gifts and talents….” So often we try to fit every child into the same mold, ignoring the differences in cognitive inclinations and preferences.
This is where cognitive personality types come into play. We can not teach all children like cookie cutters. We can’t just teach to the children whose personalities click with our own. It’s WELL WORTH studying cognitive mind types. If we understand that the little girl whose mind is so far out that she gets lost on her way to the bathroom is an INFP, we might discover a way to help her with Math. If we understand that the drama queen is an ENFP, then we might realize that drama is a fundamental key to helping her with her Science.
This can also go into the emotional realm of the soul, as well. If we understand that Tommy is an INTP, then we might help him through the bullying issues that he’s facing. Who knows? We might prevent a future catastrophe by reaching out to the whole child. In my opinion, if we work in education or counseling, in ANY capacity, it behooves us to understand (at least on a rudimentary level) a little bit about cognitive personality types, not in a way that tries to fit people into a job mold, but in a way that helps us understand how they might perceive and process knowledge, emotions and events. I personally believe that the Jungian Cognitive Processes and the Theory of Multiple Intelligences are excellent, as is Cynthia Tobias’s The Way They Learn.
Emotions are a part of the SOUL of a person. Children who are emotionally distraught of stressful situations at home will be hampered in their learning. When kids are constantly belittled by parents, relatives or other children their learning is hampered. Emotional and verbal abuse can be crippling in a child’s mental and psychological development.
A kid who just saw his dog hit by a car may need time to rebound. The kid whose parents are going through a divorce may be hurt and angry, the kid with the baby sister in a wheelchair, the one whose brother was burned in a fire, the one who was just kicked out of his house or taken away and put into foster care. The list goes on.
Let me first make a disclaimer, realizing that this may not resonate with some people. The spirit, to me, is very real. It is that part of us that is not bound to time and space, that transcends the physical and exists after our bodies expire. I’m not alone in my belief that there is a part of us that is eternal, that has always been and shall always be. Billions have in the past and currently believe in a spirit realm, in life after death and that we do not end when our bodies expire. The Spirit is the life-giving force that animates a body and carries with it, after exiting this temporal existence, all the experiences gained through the body and soul, but with full knowledge and understanding. The spirit is that eternal part of us that transcends time and space. So, how do you educate a spirit?
- Be fair–equity does not equate to equality. Do what each child needs, not just what fits across the board.
- Be kind–even when you discipline, let there be kindness in your heart and in your voice. Children listen to your tone far more than to your words. They may forget what you say, what you do, but they NEVER forget the way you make them feel about themselves. When I ask people which teachers they remember they always mention the ones who made them feel happy and loved.
- Be forgiving–if a child makes a mistake today, don’t remind them of it tomorrow. Don’t keep hanging it over their heads until they feel they are “bad” kids.
- Be merciful–realize that human beings, especially kids, make lots of mistakes. They misunderstand lots of things. They are not tiny adults. That’s why they need you.
- Be understanding and empathetic–and listen to them when they talk to you! One of my co-workers is so loved by her students, not because she’s the best Math or Reading teacher, but because she LISTENS to them.
- Be joyful–young spirits pick up on your joy and if it’s there, they know. If it’s not, they know. A seventh grader recently asked me why so many people become teachers who apparently don’t even like kids. I told him I’d been asking myself that for decades now! Trust me. KIDS KNOW WHEN YOU ENJOY BEING WITH THEM AND WHEN YOU DON’T.
- Be encouraging–never put a child down, not even in teasing. Find something positive about every child and highlight it. When a child does a good job, even on a small thing, let them know.
- Be loving–which means allow them to know you appreciate them, you value you them. I know one educator who calls all of her students, Friend. I know another who uses the term, Wonderful Ones, with her class.
- Be honest–if a child asks you a question, phrase it so that it’s on their level but tell them the truth.
- Choose to discipline, not punish. Discipline is a form of love. Notice I said discipline, not punish. There’s a huge difference. Discipline speaks to the spirit and seeks to empower a student to be the best version of himself or herself. Punishment wearies the soul and wounds the spirit; it causes a child to feel like they are a “bad” kid.
If we want our children to grow up to be all they can be, then we must learn the secret to educating and that secret is to recognize and teach the WHOLE child–body, soul (intellect, personality and emotions) and spirit (that eternal part that responds to the laws of the spiritual universe–empathy, compassion, forgiveness, joy, love, patience and mercy.)
*Darlene Franklin-Campbell holds a Masters in Education and is a veteran teacher of over twenty years. She is currently an Art teacher but has taught self-contained multi-age classrooms, Latin and Spanish to fifth through eight grades, self-contained third grade and fourth grade, self-contained first grade, music and creative writing. She has worked both in private and public education, speaks three languages, has served as an English Language Learner liaison, a translator, a site-based council minority representative, and is involved heavily in Indigenous cultures of North America, working to preserve languages and customs. Darlene has spent countless hours researching cognitive development and preferences. She has been previously certified through the Association of Christian Schools International and is currently certified through the Kentucky Department of Education.