Keep Learning!

When a rocket gets launched into the space, the whole world gets excited about it (regardless of which country sends it ‘up’). Everyone is eager on obtaining up-to-date and detailed information about the voyage. People follow every move and development of the space shuttle in the TV and newspaper until it returns to earth once again.

Scientific breakthrough, great and small, draws the attention of many. New knowledge and discoveries in the fields of natural and physical sciences, psychology, medicine and health, and business are received and celebrated with enthusiasm. They are indeed appreciated and more such discoveries are encouraged from time to time.

Sadly, the aforementioned experience does not hold true for educators and others in the school system. New ideas and discoveries to improve teaching and learning in the classroom are either discarded, or heavily criticized. Usually, innovation in the field of education is dismissed as being ‘nothing much than idealistic scheme with no apparent positive outcomes’. This prejudice precedes an attempt to investigate the validity and effectiveness of a new idea proposed. In the end, many such useful thoughts for significant educational reformation and advancement are completely ignored and prematurely rejected.

Although education in general makes ‘believers’ out of people, teacher education has successfully made ‘skeptics’ out of teachers. These teachers are narrow-minded and unwilling to learn. They are afraid of exposing themselves to new ideas. Often, they give excuses. They rationalize (a form of defense mechanism) saying that they have enough to do, they are not interested because they are learning something else, they almost retiring, they have tried it and didn’t find it useful, they can’t afford it, the administrators are not supportive, etc. These excuses are baseless. They reflect a childish approach to dealing with the profession of teaching. They echo the following internal dialogue of an apathetic teacher:

“I am satisfied with what I am doing now. Don’t trouble me. I am too lazy for anything new!”

The underlying attitude toward continual learning makes the difference. If teachers hold a positive attitude toward life-long learning (not just for personal growth, but also to improve teaching), they will not waste their time and energy formulating these excuses in the first place. Instead, they will spend the same energy to investigate and learn new things to enhance teaching, on a daily basis.

Caring teachers are passionate about familiarizing themselves with innovative ideas that could significantly address and solve various problems in teaching. When they are unsure about a new method or theory, they give themselves some time and try it out anyway. They do not dismiss the method or theory before testing it in actual classroom settings and evaluating (for themselves) the effectiveness and usefulness of such innovation. In other words, caring teachers are true learners!

Unlike other teachers who would rather choose to go on with existing ill-practices and conflicts in the classroom, caring teachers continually seek for ways to make changes and take advantage of latest educational inventions (in the form of ideas, principles, theories, materials, methods, etc.).

Some teachers are indifferent to educational innovation because they fear success. These teachers know that learning and implementing new teaching practices will result in constructive experiences at school (for both the teacher and students). Success in teaching usually means more responsibilities. A teacher who holds the ‘I don’t care’ attitude toward his/her profession does not accept additional responsibilities, even when he/she knows that his/her contributions are needed and appreciated. He/she would shun responsibilities and do as minimum as possible as a teacher, simply because he/she fears that his/her accomplishments might make him/her more useful.

There are others who reject new ideas and suggestions to improve teaching on the basis of pride (the number one cause for a teacher’s downfall). Although teachers do not directly voice their abhorrence (toward learning something new related to teaching and learning) in the public, meeting and talking to many teachers (across the world) have helped me realize that teachers (especially the ‘not so effective’ ones) engage in the following internal dialogue:

“I know it all. I have been teaching for many years now. Who are you to teach me about teaching?”

When I first heard about Highly Effective Questioning (HEQ), I was arrogant too. I thought to myself: “Why learn and use another method, a rigorous one for that matter, when we already have many nicey-nice methods?”

Later, after learning about HEQ in detail and utilizing it several times, I was amazed at how students were encouraged to learn and think for themselves using systematic and progressive questioning. Had I dismissed HEQ as merely another idealistic thought, I would have remained ignorant about a very powerful tool that makes learning intentional and effective. Moreover, my willingness to learn HEQ has brought much personal and professional reward. More importantly, it has given me the privilege of acquaintance and friendship with the founder of the method itself (Dr. Ivan Hannel) – which for me, is the most valuable reward of all!

Ivan Picture 717.jpg

Personally, I have learned through several experiences that being open-minded to new learning is essentially more fruitful than deciding to avoid new territories of knowledge to improve classroom practices. However, we are beings of choice. Thus, no one can actually force you and me to do this. All I want to do is to encourage you to learn new things as you go on with your profession as a teacher.

If you truly desire to become a caring teacher, you will choose to do what I have chosen to do, over and over again…learn and keep learning!

Copyright May 2006 by Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan, www.affectiveteaching.com

Intrapersonal Intelligence and Affective Teaching

multiple-intelligence.jpgIntelligence has been the most important predictor of success at school and work. However, the traditional viewpoint about intelligence has come under attack in recent times. The traditional concept of intelligence has lost its significance. Intelligence (previously defined and measured as an index of abilities in linguistic and logical-mathematically reasoning) is no longer viewed as a ‘singular’ factor that influences accomplishments in other areas of life. This change in thinking was further bolstered by the theory of Multiple Intelligence, proposed by a Harvard University professor, Dr. Howard Gardner.

Today, intelligence is seen as a composite of a range of abilities and talents that work interdependently toward ‘humanizing’ an individual, in various settings.

Without doubt, we can easily recognize the types of intelligence teachers possess. Some teachers are strong in one or more areas of intelligence compared to others. Nevertheless, each type of intelligence interacts with one or several other type(s) to make adjustment and improvement (in teaching and life in general) possible. Sometimes, a particular area of strength complements another strong point.

To begin with, all teachers possess a fairly good level of intelligence in the following areas (a combination of a few of them):

  1. Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”):
  2. Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)
  3. Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)
  4. Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
  5. Musical intelligence (“music smart”)
  6. Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
  7. Intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”)
  8. Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)

Most of the types of intelligence listed above make a teacher effective. However, a caring teacher possesses two types of intelligence that makes him/her essentially affective. They are the interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence.

Although most of us possess average or above average interpersonal intelligence, the same is not true for intrapersonal intelligence. A teacher might possess different types of intelligence that would make him/her effective. He/she might even score high on an interpersonal intelligence scale, making him/her relatively affective. However, intrapersonal intelligence is something everyone, born as humans, struggle to attain in spite of being successful in other areas of life. This is because it is difficult, if not impossible, to improve something as intimate and personal as one’s own ‘self’ (inability to conquer ‘self’ is the greatest challenge posed to any human; making the ‘self’ one’s greatest enemy). Nevertheless, a truly affective teacher is one who possesses a high level of intrapersonal intelligence, along with other types of intelligence.

intrapersonalintelligence.gif

What is intrapersonal intelligence? It refers to having an understanding of yourself, of knowing who you are, what you can do, what you want to do, how you react to things, which things to avoid, and which things to gravitate toward. It indicates our cognitive ability to understand and sense our ‘self’. Intrapersonal intelligence allows us to tap into our being – who we are, what feelings we have, and why we are the way we are.

A strong intrapersonal intelligence can lead to high self-esteem, self-enhancement, and strength of character that can be used to solve internal problems (pre-requisite for dealing effectively with external problems). Conversely, a weak intrapersonal intelligence can lead to negative self-image, apathy, lack of motivation, low need for achievement, neglect of mental health and a variety of unsound behavioral and psychological experiences. These negative experiences prevent one from relating ‘humanely’ with others.

Clearly, a caring teacher’s role to initiate and continue to encourage the positive development of self-esteem, self-enhancement, and strength of character in students cannot be accomplished if he/she does not possess these qualities. Naturally, students are attracted to a teacher who possesses a high level of intrapersonal intelligence. Students are pulled toward a teacher who understands him/herself and tend NOT to ‘put a monkey wrench in the works’. This type of a teacher knows what he/she can do and what he/she cannot do. He/she is happy with who he/she is and does not attempt to please everyone for external approval and recognition (the unrealistic and unhealthy desire to please everyone is one of the major causes of misery and happiness in many people).

Caring teachers do not suffer from low self-esteem. They do not talk ill about others. They constantly attempt to look for the ‘good’ in people. They hold an overall cheerful and positive view about life. They are in touch with their inner selves. In the face of a problem (even a personal one), a caring teacher does not engage in defense mechanisms, such as avoidance, denial, repression, etc. He/she owns the problem and responsibly addresses the issue at hand right away.

Further, a caring teacher does not fear making mistakes because he/she always learns from them and moves forward. He/she is not threatened by others’ comments about him/herself. However, he/she is smart enough to pay attention to suggestions that help to improve his teaching and relationship with students and colleagues. A caring teacher is not threatened by others’ successes. He/she does not get jealous. Instead, he/she constantly seeks to share in others’ victories and sincerely encourages them to become ever better.

A caring teacher’s intrapersonal intelligence is noticeably reflected in the way he/she deals with his/her students. A caring teacher engages in deliberate thought patterns and behaviors that demonstrate compassion, understanding, trust, and respect for his/her students in all teaching-learning situations. A caring teacher might experience the worst difficulty in life and still handle his/her students with a big (genuine) smile. This is possible because he/she has spent substantial time examining who he/she is and what he/she values as a teacher!

Our beloved Mother Teresa could condescend and help the destitute because she personally ‘saw God in every human being’. When students are viewed in this manner, it is difficult to decide NOT to become a caring teacher! Mother Teresa is listed as one of the few who possessed an extraordinary level of intrapersonal intelligence. She made use of this ability to make a difference in the lives of thousands of children and women. Similarly, caring teachers aspire and strive to become ‘self-smart’ for the sake of providing maximum benefit for students!

Copyright May 2006 by Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan, www.affectiveteaching.com

The Golden Rule vs. Meetings Students’ Needs

The Golden Rule

The golden rule, “treat others as you would like others to treat you” is applicable and necessary in a variety of settings. However, when it comes to teaching affectively, the principle does not fit the ‘job description’.

I came to this conclusion after much reflection. I say this because there seems to be a contradiction between a prominent educational thought that says: “teachers need to look into the individual needs of every student and address them” and another equally significant ideology that promotes the act of “treating others as one would like to be treated”. Personally, I feel that it is inappropriate to attempt to uphold both these principles concomitantly. As caring teachers, we either endorse the former or the latter.

Although teachers can perform both the tasks mentioned above simultaneously, the outcome of such a practice is not helpful. An illustration would help us understand this proposition.

As a person, I do not like to be forced to do things. I shun those who impose rules and regulations on me. I keep a distance from ‘law-makers’. This does not mean that I do not appreciate procedures and orderly way of functioning. However, when things are imposed rather than discussed and agreed upon, I feel overly controlled, and psychologically bullied.

Further, because I love myself, I protect ‘me’ from the presence and influence of such people. By staying away from them, I am doing a favor to my ‘self’ (that I love dearly)!

Can I treat students the way I would like others to treat me? In this case, I would not ‘require’ students to do things (that they dislike or not used to doing) because I wouldn’t appreciate anyone else doing that to me. However, when it comes to teaching and learning in the classroom, there are things that students ‘must do’ (like engaging in useful educational experiences!). It is a teacher’s duty to make sure that EVERY student benefits from such experiences, in spite of their unwillingness to do so.

But if I treat them as I would like to be treated, then I might become comfortable with the fact that I have upheld the principle of “treating students as I would like them to treat me” (I feel proud that I am not ‘forcing’ them to do things that they don’t like), and in the process, thoughtlessly overlook the principle of “meeting the students’ need” to acquire useful educational experiences. One such ‘useful educational experiences’ is the experience of engaging in active questioning.

Not long ago, I had the privilege of attending a series of workshops conducted by Dr. Ivan Hannel, the founder of Highly Effective Questioning (HEQ) teaching method. The workshops were held at different schools in the state of California. Teachers and administrators who attended these workshops seemed to be happy in the thought that they were caring toward their students. Their care was supposedly reflected in the decision not to ‘push’ students to engage in questioning if they didn’t want to. (Sadly, I held similar a view until I met Dr. Hannel and learned the importance of questioning!)

Ivan Hannel - HEQ

However, Dr. Hannel repeatedly warned the audience at the workshops that students need to be engaged in highly effective questioning to train them to become critical thinkers and take responsibility for their own learning. This is an essential skill required in the new millennium. Every student graduating from the school system needs to be a critical thinker if he/she is to survive in a highly knowledgeable global society.

A caring teacher knows what is good and right for his/her students. A caring teacher steadily works toward providing and instilling in students constructive educational experiences in spite of all odds. Most often, a caring teacher’s behaviors do not reflect the principle of “treating others as one would like to be treated” because this principle clearly compromises the more important task of teaching; fulfilling every student’s educational and socio-emotional need(s), in a way that prepares them to face the challenges of the future!

Copyright April 2006 by Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan, www.affectiveteaching.com

‘Understanding’ Students

It’s easy to say, “Teachers must understand their students and fulfill their needs on a daily basis.” But what does the act of ‘understanding students’ entail? If it is as easy as it is taught and learned in teachers’ training colleges, why is it still seen as an uncommon practice at schools?

Being understood gives rise to a sense of acceptance and belonging. It is an essential human need for survival and growth. It removes the frustration of being misperceived.

On the other hand, when people misunderstand us, their construal of ‘who we are’ become distorted. The image that we want to portray to others is inaccurately projected. Consequently, the feeling of being misunderstood creates an acute discomfort and the desire to remove oneself from social situations.

Understanding Students 2

Therefore, ‘understanding a student’ is only possible when a teacher accurately perceives and accepts the student’s true self. This is a challenging task, especially if a teacher is required to ‘understand’ twenty or more ‘selves’ all at one time, on a daily basis! Nevertheless, it is a task that a caring teacher performs, steadily!

According to Social Psychology, humans attempt to reduce the usage of mental energy while engaging in social interactions by utilizing mental shortcuts known as ‘heuristics’ (to ease social cognition). These mental shortcuts serve as ‘rules of thumb’ to help people construe meaning from a myriad of social situations and stimuli they are exposed to. Heuristics are used to accomplish the following, in social interactions:

  1. Making judgments about an individual’s group membership (e.g.: “Indians eat spicy food. You are an Indian. You eat spicy food.”)
  2. Making judgments about something or someone with whatever information that comes to mind easily (e.g.: “Tsunami affected Indonesia very badly. Indonesia is still recovering from the aftermath of the Tsunami.” – we tend to forget other countries that might be facing similar difficulties because the news media rigorously publicized the effects of Tsunami in Indonesia, and failed to feature the problems in other countries affected by the Tsunami)

Although heuristics are useful for human functioning, taking the effects of such mental shortcuts for granted, and engaging in them without a deliberate reflection, can pose adverse repercussion for the people involved in an interaction. When a teacher solely relies on mental shortcuts to learn about and relate to his/her students, the teaching-learning relationship does not involve true ‘understanding’.

There are no short-cuts for wanting to genuinely understand students in the classroom. Teachers need to take the time and make the effort to get involved in the process of familiarizing themselves with students and their lives in order to understand and cater for their every need. Unwillingness to do so will only communicate indifference and a lack of care on the part of a teacher!

Teachers who rely on mental shortcuts to make decisions (or form judgments) about ‘who their students really are’ might engage in prejudiced thinking, discriminate, and display biases in all aspects of teaching. This is dangerous because a classroom characterized by prejudice, discrimination and bias is a classroom that students fear to attend and learn.

A caring teacher carefully ‘studies’ each student and construes meaning about his/her ‘self’ as accurately as possible. A caring teacher does not engage in and conform to stereotypical thinking patterns that are usually unfounded and negative.

Understanding Students

Understanding students involves ‘knowing’ them. Genuine knowing is possible when teachers learn to relate to students in a more personal way, without relying on their mental shortcuts (to save energy that would be wasted anyway?). Instead, a caring teacher, lets time and relationship reveal ‘who a student really is’ and appreciates him/her as a person!

Examples of instances when heuristics work against relationships in the classroom:

  1. When a teacher concludes that all students from low socio-economic background would not do well in the classroom
  2. When a teacher associates ‘intelligence’ with good looks
  3. When a teacher judges a student’s personality traits based on his/her ethnic background
  4. When a ‘male’ teacher decides that no amount of effort would help a ‘female’ student to excel in science or math
  5. When a teacher conveniently punishes ‘male’ students because they are supposedly ‘violent’ and aggressive by nature

Copyright April 2006 by Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan, www.affectiveteaching.com

Does ‘Caring’ Make a Teacher Popular?

Research Designs Class

In life, we do many things to secure the attention of others around us. This attention indicates that we are accepted and appreciated. It further tells us that our thoughts and actions are approved and recognized as being worthy of notice. Similarly, a teacher does many things in the classroom to get the attention of other colleagues, administrators, and students. This is a natural tendency of any teacher. In fact, it is a ‘growth need’ that must be fulfilled for meaningful living. It is not unusual for teachers to expect to be appreciated and approved of their classroom practices. The positive attention given to teachers serves as a motivator to help them find meaning for being a teacher!

Some teachers expect more than just simple attention. They strive to become the ‘center of attention’ in the classroom and at school. They desire to bask in the undivided attention and adoration of everyone in the school toward themselves. They do everything possible to attain this goal and keep it that way. Sometimes, all other goals as a teacher become less important than the need to have everyone’s attention on oneself and gain popularity!

However, the effort to become a caring teacher does not lead to popularity. The path takes a teacher to a place where something more beautiful than popularity comes to view.

Popularity requires that teachers let go of some of their deep rooted principles and compromise in giving students and others ‘what they want or desire’ (with no apparent benefit for them or others). However, a caring teacher doesn’t give students and others with what they want or desire. Instead, he continually strives to provide them with ‘what is good for them’ (clearly beneficial and uplifting for them and others). In other words, a caring teacher pushes students and others to do the ‘right thing’. He does not do things to please each and every member of the school to gain popularity.

Where does all this take a caring teacher? Well, although the path does not lead a caring teacher to become popular, it does lead him to become a RESPECTED individual.

Respect is gained when popularity is sacrificed! A caring teacher strives to gain the respect of his students and others around him. He doesn’t worry about popularity and pleasing everyone to become the center of attention. By doing so, a caring teacher upholds principles and truths that are universally empowering and permanently affecting people to uphold ‘humanity’.

Respect gained in the classroom, by a caring teacher, is a more stable indicator of positive teaching/learning experiences and greater academic achievements at school. Popularity on the other hand, dies as quickly as a teacher loses his temper and decides that he is tired of pleasing people and fulfilling their ‘silly’ needs.

Copyright April 2006 by Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan, www.affectiveteaching.com

The ‘Rose Model’: Caring for Students is Possible!

Do we have the Time to Care for Students?

Teaching poses a variety of challenges. Teachers are responsible and accountable to many people, institutions, and organizations, be it formal or informal. They have to plan for, prepare, and implement a myriad of demanding tasks. Instructing, grading, reporting, disciplining, supporting, and communicating are few of the many tasks expected from a teacher. if this is the case, where do teachers find the time to care for students? As we know, care is a deliberate, effortful, and timestaking process. If teachers are not relieved from some of their existing responsibilities, can they be expected to become caring toward their students?

Perhaps the problem lies in the question itself. Can teachers be relieved from their existing responsibilities? It is evident that responsibilities only add up. Any teacher would agree that the demands to engage in more and more responsibilities at school are inevitable. So, this is not an option to consider. In fact, if a teacher fails to perform any of these, he is likely to be reprimanded and possibly fired! Reducing work load isn’t a clear way out from this situation.

The act of caring shouldn’t be seen and considered to operate at the ‘periphery’ of the act of teaching. It would be wise and practical to integrate the act of caring for students in ALL THAT A TEACHER DOES, whether it is inside or outside of the classroom. As I said in the book, “How to Become a Caring Teacher”, students will not trust a teacher who teaches something and does something totally contrary to what he teaches. The act of caring should color every activity, every atmosphere, every person, every responsibility, and every interaction in and outside of the classroom

This is possible through the “rose model” to classroom teaching and interaction. If you take a closer look at a rose flower, you will realize that the petals are closely intertwined. A daisy, on the other hand, has petals that are separated and distinctly visible. So, in the daisy, one sees each petal; whereas, in the rose, one sees the whole flower without regard to individual petals.

A caring teacher’s responsibilities (like the many petals in a rose) are coated with his ability to care for his students. Every act and effort made in the classroom are marked by the intention to cater to the ‘humanity’ of an individual student. Thus, following the rose model, ‘care’ is at the core of everything a teacher does.

Does caring for students take time?

Yes it does, if a teacher considers ‘caring’ as one of the many responsibilities (the daisy model) imposed on him.

Daisy Model - Considers Caring for Students and Added Burden

No it doesn’t, if a teacher considers ‘caring’ as the ingredient that holds all other responsibilities together and give meaning and efficiency to them!

Rose Model - Provides Time to Care for Students

The choice…is YOURS!

Copyright April 2006 by Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan, www.affectiveteaching.com