Tag Archive for 'Alfie Kohn'

Teaching Is A Mirror

A wise old man was once sitting beside the road. He was asked for advice by two travellers at different times. The first traveller said: “Old man, in the town up ahead, what are the people like?”

The old man said: “What did you think of the people in the last town?”

“I found them to be rude and ignorant.”

“Then you will find those in the next town to be the same.”

Some time later, the second traveller happened upon the same spot and asked: “Old man, in the town up ahead, what are the people like?”

And the old man said: “What did you think of the people in the last town?”

“I found them to be friendly and positive.”

“Then you will find those in the next town to be the same.”

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How easy it is to assume that some (many) other people around us are rude and ignorant. Perhaps it also has something to do with the way that we interpret the situation when we are with them.

I ask you: When someone is helping you in some way (selling you a TV; arranging a dental appointment; pouring you a coffee), and they are vibrant / inspiring / supportive, don’t you invariably respond in the same way?

On the other hand, when that person is rude / disinterested / sloppy with his or her efforts, don’t you end up feeling less than inspired by the interaction?

Now think about this with teaching. I occasionally hear a teacher complaining about the disinterest or even poor manners of particular classes. Now don’t get me wrong here. You’ll sometimes end up with a group of students who can have horrendous manners (I know, because I’ve been there, done that). That’s not always your fault.

However, be aware that many classes will reflect back to you, the very way that you respond to them. When I see an inspiring teacher who energetically relates to a class, I notice that they often have fewer ‘motivation’ issues with the students.

So here’s an experiment for you. Just for one day (or for the rest of your life if you wish), make a very specific effort to look for the best in everyone you meet. It’s truly not that difficult to do. And watch the way that most people will respond in kind.

This does not mean that you gush with sentimentalities, and tell everyone how wonderful they are (read some of Alfie Kohn’s material if you’re not sure what I’m talking about). I’m simply indicating that you choose to be optimistic and genuinely inspiring with whatever you do.

A word of caution. Be authentic with every engagement. Children have the best CDs in the world (ie Crap Detectors), and will make a judgement accordingly.