by Uta Stolz, Mentor with focus on learning therapy, Germany
Are we suddenly thrown into the digital world or are there other pathways to bridge distance in our relationship with students?
To which extend can we ask for cooperation of parents? When do we strain them with all the tasks and ideas of a daily schedule?
How can we create not only the road from teachers to learners, but most of all from learners towards teachers and amongst them?
Each learner is different and in these times of crisis each one lives in his own field. A field that may be rich of resources but also can be shaken by tensions and conflicts or manifest indifference.
As (class-) teachers we are used to generate the connecting, nourishing and healing field every minute of our presence in lesson. So all the differences can merge within the community as a departing point for learning.
This root note is missing now. Independent of age, subjects and capacities we are facing the question how to foster this field from distance. We are forced to change direction and thus perspective.
- From community towards individuality: now from the individual towards the group
- From intense perception at the beginning of a period as a first learning process: now to a rich perception of the harvest at the end
- From a clearly defined today to an open tomorrow
We are all caught in this situation. „Connection“, „Nourishment“ and „Healing“ are global issues. We all are in a process of redefining our roles.
How does this reflect on our educational task! How can we communicate with each of the learners in a connecting, nourishing and healing way?
Claus Otto Scharmer (Theorie U) describes four forms of listening highlighting as well four ways of teaching.
- „Downloading“: habitual learning from the past in terms of traditions, claiming „one truth“, focused on input and teacher-centered.
- „Factual listening“: rational learning taking in new facts, aiming for output and performance.
- „Communication“: learning occurring in the community of children, parents and teachers with regularly feedback always trying to take into consideration the actual insights, feelings and needs of everybody.
- „Cocreation“: learning in collective creativity building a new future for everyone, learning form the future.
He emphasizes, that listening and acting on level 3 or especially 4 strengthens, vitalizes and inspires our whole being.
Giving suggestions, instructions or tasks to our students we evoke a domestic learning process. However we can hardly encourage them or cheer them up from the distance the way they might need it. Courage for „the tomorrow“ has to come from the future. That is why it is so important to focus on the common product at the end of the learning process:
The first graders have been listening to many fairy tales their teacher was telling them. Now they are preparing together a fairy tale event with their grandparents or parents, perhaps with neighbors and friends. The children are looking for story tellers: „ Do you know a nice fairy tale that you could share at school, when we will meet again?“ Listening to theses tales by which means of distant communication ever the children know: we are creating a common future, our fairy tale party. They draw pictures, they collect matching objects or they themselves make up their own tale. Not only the children but also a wider community will participate at this future. The teacher will be watching in wonder as he does not know that future either.
Inventory: „We are making a number book for the next second grades!“ The children are asked to investigate their homes, to organize all kinds of objects, to stack and pile them up, to put them in rows, to take photos and draw pictures.
„Estimate how many books there are in your shelf, how many plates in the cupboard, how many screws in the box. Arrange these objects in a way you can see instantly how many there are without counting.“ Bunches of five or ten are helpful, but the children might find other solutions. They are keeping lists about all theses processes. The parents can take advantage and the cellar can be tidied up. So many domestic object cover the space from one to one hundred. Structuring activities call upon our will, the drawing of arising patterns and rhythms work on the feeling realm and writing numbers awakens thinking. Everyone is exited about what the common number book will look like.
Professions during time and back to our ancestors: After talking about crafts professions of grandparents or great-grandparents could be a topic for the third grade. There is a lot to tell! The children learn to put the right questions to open the narrative flow. And they retell what they have heard. After the shut down they will take a photo album, a workpiece or something relevant to school. In an uncertain future the common experience in classroom will stretch deep into the past of each learner. On top of all the topics of the fourth grade will be soundly prepared.
It starts with a letter, relict of past times. Perhaps there are some letters at home in old boxes in the attic. May be again the children have to ask their parents and grandparents. Who is able to read that letter? Do we know the handwriting? Who writes to whom, where, what and why? A whole realm is opening and the family can plunge into new discoveries of the old. Perhaps the topic „letters“ matches the book the fourth graders are reading these days. What makes a letter readable? The learners could find out. They collect special and unknown words. And again a thread is woven from the past into the future. Everybody will take such a letter to school during the next common period and will tell the story behind.
Is there anything more beautiful than listening to stories, to immerse oneself in a world of inner images? This pathway sometimes is obstructed by outer pictures. Practicing together with family members can be worthwhile. At the end the teacher will be a listener.
The bridge to the world at this moment are the learner’s relatives. Without them things become difficult. The teachers can address personally those students that remain alone at home or have to stay in an uninspiring surrounding. Some of them might need daily phone calls. Less than ever worksheets and daily workloads are substantial to help the students and their families through these times.
Distance learning in our times means as before: relationship! Let’s look forward to the harvest when we all meet again.