I remember very clearly as a child feeling invisible in a sea of grown ups. It was an odd kind of anonymity. You could happily wander around large gatherings like weddings or church and simply not be noticed! Stranger still was the feeling that when a grown up did notice you they would talk at you or through you or down to you, missing you completely. Until…
…Until there was someone who would suddenly come in to focus. It was such a relief when it would happen. In a sea of blurry faces and muffled conversation there would be a person, a grown up, sometimes a complete stranger, crouching down next to you, making eye contact, somehow understanding, connecting, talking WITH you, not at you or over you. Everything else would go quiet. For a few moments you were not alone, you were not invisible. It felt safe, and strangely familiar.
It was the same at school. The grown ups who made a difference were the ones who connected, made contact, saw me, talked with me, not at me. They were the ones who took the ‘school’ out of learning. Suddenly you were interested in something, caught by something because the way they talked about it. They wouldn’t ask you questions, not directly. They were asking questions out loud – to life, to the universe! It was irresistible! You couldn’t help joining in!
It’s really as simple as that. Have you noticed as a parent and/or teacher that the real learning magic happens when you’re not facing the children, not confronting them with what you want them to learn or what you know, but when you are facing life and learning together with them?
It’s an attitude. It’s a kind of empathy. It’s human! To come up next to the children you parent or teach and jump into the territory with them! Be a student right alongside your students. It’s the best way to teach! Besides, soon enough they will work out that you are not an authority. Or at least they should. If we are doing our jobs right as educators, they will soon realize there are more unanswered questions than answered ones; that the human race is barely a toddler in the great journey of discovery and learning.
More importantly, we want them to ask the un-asked questions!
The key is not facing them. It’s facing life together with them!