Tuesday 16 March 2010

Teachers & Tyranny

One of the services I offer is to help people find their life purpose; how they'll find happiness and meaning in their lives. I do that through an online course and one of the exercises in it is to ask clients to record the most memorable events in their lives.

This morning I received such an exercise from a client and - yet again - one of their earliest memories was huge, negative, and from a TEACHER. This is estremely common in my practive. So this is a plea to teachers to understand what they're dealing with when they show up for another dreary day at the coal-face.

This client was three years old at the time. Today she's - well she's been an adult for a long time. Her memories of that time are of making friends and of feeling dented when a teacher shouted at her. All these years on, that memory is still with her, and so is its influence on her self-image.

Low self esteem is a major factor in limiting the lives of countless millions, and almost all of us suffer to some extent. The seeds of low self esteem are sown in childhood, by parents, teachers, and other children. Once sown, they grow in the young, fertile, innocent mind, and they sink down deep roots.These early school years are the years of person building and they are very important.

As responsible adults around children, we have a critically important role to play in influencing the self esteem of those children. Of course, it doesn't help that those young children are often utterly selfish, loud, forgetful, smelly, spiteful, cruel, unrepentantly messy, egotistical, and so on.

But recognise that those things come with the basic out-of-the-box human being. It's not their fault personally, it's (if you like) a design flaw. They are pretty much inevitable facets of our little treasures. So the challenge becomes to civilise without crushing. To guide and correct without hating. And whatever else, to pour in un-conditional love.

Far from easy, and especially difficult for teachers, who do not have the benefit of parental love to soften their approach, who sees more of your children than you do, who have twenty or so other little darlings to keep under control, and who also have to coral them through education with limited resources and in environments which are often petty and un-professional. It would be easy to abuse power, to rule with a rod of iron, and to place discipline above all else. But that would be a shame.

I'm, not a teacher, though I did look carefully at becoming one, and so understand some of the challenges. Teachers are hugely important in growing happy people and productive societies. But - because of all that's above - they are uniquely placed to smash up young egos before they get out of primary school.

So this is a plea to teachers; what you do is wonderful and precious. Please do all you can to see children as people before anything else, and - whilst doing what you need to do to get the education bit done - respect those little egos and best you can.

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