The Emerging Me Through Natural Education

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By Christopher Tydeman

In my former life, I was a teacher. I taught a range of ages from 7 to 12. I taught reading, writing, mathematics, history, science…et al. While I was teaching I was wondering if I was really teaching anything at all. I mean, yeah, I was helping with some basic fundamentals that are the building blocks of an education. But the content was a mixture of somewhat useful and interesting to downright drab and boring. I tried my best to bring in something meaningful and engaging but, to be honest, it was a lot of work. It all had to tie into the “Standards” of the prevailing curricula. Oh yes, the Standards.

We want our children to be “competent” so that they are “successful in today’s highly competitive world.” As a former parent to a school-aged child, I bought that with half my heart and all my mind. I passed that down to my students and their parents and care-givers. If they could demonstrate “proficiency” they would have a much better chance of “making a better life for themselves”.

I agree that my use of quotes is a bit tongue and cheek seasoned with sarcasm. That is my intention. Even while I was buying and selling those words, I could feel how devoid of humanity they really were. The Standards System, or Core Knowledge, or whatever the hell they are calling it now, is nothing more than a conveyor belt by which the Industrial Machine can create its submissive robots. I couldn’t participate in that system anymore without being guilty by association.

Why am I writing about this now? Great question. It has been two years now that I have left my teaching career. I am also now just learning what real education is all about…self-sufficiency, emotional awareness and fluency, and a place to discover and nuture our Divinely-given gifts. I guess I just realized I am in school for the first time since I was a child, where learning happened through creative play and experimentation. As an adult, I can add a lot of physical work to that list. This was the education I wished I could have given my daughter and my students. This is the shit that really matters. I knew it mattered because my students went crazy for nature, food, play, and art. They, as well as us older children, were born with the Divine Fingerprint. The desire to be with what we need most as human beings.

Somewhere we forgot that along the way. Convinced ourselves it must be more complicated than that. But as I sit here in Mexico with gardens literally popping out the ground from our own research, intuition, play and labor, I can tell you it isn’t. Granted, it is hard work. I have worked hard before, but this is for our food. Our sustenance and currency. Our hearts and our souls. You can’t get more real than that. I am learning more about myself and nature, as Mother intended. This is the real classroom.

So, I am back to being a student again. That is hard for the Industrial part of me who thought we had it all figured out. Put in the time and retire in peace. But once you feel your true, wild, natural self you can’t stay in the System without feeling the rub, the pain. The un-naturalness of it all. The insanity. This part of me is becoming more aware of how much happier he is now than he was then. I am beginning to feel a new me arising from this transition from teacher to student. From Industrial Self to Natural Self.

At some point I see myself teaching again. Not sure what that would look like, but I know what it wouldn’t. Been there, done that. I see being a part of a new reality for education. One that will emerge from the collapse of the old. For now, I am enjoying the ride of sitting in the student seat. Learning from my SoulFullHeart family, the ranch workers, the animals, the plants, and the Divine. They are the best teachers I have ever had. Time to rewrite the standards from the inside out.

Emotionally Conscious Education: What’s Possible Between Adverbs and Algebra

By Chris Tydeman

I was invited by Jillian to write an article about emotionally conscious education and how our current school system supports or does not support it.  I am a third grade teacher.  My experience for several years has always been with children between the ages of 7-11.  An age I feel is ripe for setting a foundation for the turbulent world of the middle school years.  In this age range, children are more open to be honest and receptive to authentic emotional guidance.  If they like their teacher and see them as a real human being rather than an authority figure alone, they will “hear” us rather than just listen (if we are lucky!).  In this case, “hearing” is an aspect of feeling what I am saying.  You feel me?

I spend many hours a day with a population of children who come from a wide range of family dynamics. I chose not say cultural or economic dynamics because both of those, in my opinion, are included within the family dynamic as a whole.  At this age, they are beginning to form the early stages of their relationship to the outside world.  Their assumptions and feelings of themselves and others begin to take shape.  These formations are greatly impacted by their family dynamic.  If a child is neglected emotionally at home, they come to school depressed, angry, or needy.  What they need more than math is love.  More than cursive, is a place where they feel safe to express themselves.  Others come with a “what’s in it for me?” formation.  What they need is to feel empathy for others and the joy received from lending a helping hand or an encouraging word.

As a teacher, we call these “teachable moments”.  Unfortunately, they are not units or even lessons.  Just moments.  As someone who is becoming emotionally conscious, I find it my desire to be as authentic as I possibly can.  Just doing that, I hope to provide a model for being an authentic human being, not a robot.  If all teachers could be that, it would begin a shift toward an authentic respect from the students.  They would “buy” into us.  From that point, I try to provide a space where the students feel comfortable to express themselves in a way they ache for.  To be heard, understood, and felt.  Not judged or punished.  I let them know they can come to me if they need to.  The more students feel comfortable with me, the more willing they are to share.  It is imperative I be there “with” them during these times or I lose that trust.  When they do come, it is a great time to get the children to express their feelings.  This takes a long time, as it is foreign to them and to most of us.

During the school day, I have my students applaud other students for being brave at sharing their writing or math problem.  This hopefully supports and acknowledges self-worth.  When they have to cooperate, I must continually act out how they can respectfully communicate and how to bridge differences.  This is REALLY hard!  Probably the most difficult lesson to teach.  Their opinions of each other are so definitive that it is a challenge to deal with sometimes.  But with any challenge comes opportunity.  However, by this time, most teachers are so emotionally drained themselves, we lose our own patience.  It is a daily workout, but one that can bring the gift of a child hugging you for no reason other than the desire to show you that they love you.

As I began to write this, I was prepared to conclude that emotionally conscious education is a false hope.  But after reflecting on what happens on a daily basis, I feel it is possible and have experienced myself in moments.  For it to truly have legs, there would need to be more emotionally conscious teachers and administrators.  The curriculum doesn’t need to change, just our relationship to ourselves and our students.  It is possible because emotionally conscious education is what can happen in the moments between adverbs and algebra.

Note from Jillian: Children represent the young parts of ourselves. In loving and feeling them (whatever our role in their life is), we are also loving these young part of ourselves. Also, the more we create an emotionally conscious relationship with young parts of ourselves through journaling and having them felt by us and during sessions, the more our self love overflows to the children in our lives. Chris, who is engaged with the SoulFullHeart process, is growing in capacity to love and feel his parts, which opens up his heart to feel and care for his students in a deeper and more emotionally authentic way  beyond just teaching them academics. What shifts internally impacts our external world as well.

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