Monday, 17 November 2014

The hidden work of parents and teachers

I remember taking care of some disadvantaged children on a summer holiday when I saw one of them on a fragile some fifteen feet above the ground. He was unaware of his danger. I remember speaking to him very calmly and patiently asking him to move to safety but inside I was full of a kind of terror that he would be hurt. My stomach was churning, heartbeat raised- all the signs of high stress. Yet none of that came through in my voice. Somehow I was acting a professional role and masking my inner stress.

We expect professional control in teachers and we find it in parents who may be seething inside at the arrogance or selfishness of their children but refuse to be provoked. This is wonderful self discipline. It saves situations and keeps all those involved calm and focussed through challenges. It enshrines the power of reason and talk to solve problems and teaches how to manage poor behaviour. Because it is not a gut reaction it allows respect to be maintained and the relationship preserved- it keeps things safe. But it costs.
The cost is psychological because the parent or the teacher has to split off strong emotion from the context. This inner work needs to be done consciously and reflected on later and perhaps talked about with others. The tension, anger, or disappointment needs to be earthed and the effort to control ones inner world recognised.Then the bridge between the professional/parental role and the inner world of the teacher or parent can be strengthened.
There is a hidden heroism about this work and it needs to be celebrated by parental support and strong school relationships. This is our work as educators and parents: not to share information but to build character and resilience in young people so that they can help to build a civilisation of love in the years to come.

Watch this video for a quick 1 minute description of this topic