Holistic Teacher Development

Holistic Teacher Development

All education depends upon the educator. The best teachers emphasize relationship, not management. Although adults always have the power to coerce children, true caring for the nature of the child requires trust (Miller 1990). Authenticity of the educator means the willingness to question himself or herself and move beyond control or management into genuine relationship. Dillon (2002) offered a great example from his research about a teacher who heard the voice of her own parents coming through as she spoke down to her students. With self-questioning and a willingness to be authentic in the moment with her students, this educator moved beyond control into conscious relationship. She said: Last year we had this day where the kids can bring into school music they like and talk about why they like it. Most of them brought all of this “gansta rap” stuff. I just did not appreciate it very much. It was offensive. I got all over them about it. I was like; you kids don’t know what good music is. Motown, now that’s good music. While I was saying this I thought, oh my God, I sound just like an old person, and I’m only 29! This was exactly what my parents would say to me when I listened to my music. In that moment I sort of saw myself in them and I felt very close to them. They helped me think of myself as a kid again and not a crusty old parent. (p. 271) The role of each educator is as facilitator, guide, or counselor (Rogers 1969; Montessori 1995). Teachers need to be deeply interested in each student. Support for the child’s developmental well-being must involve the re-education of each teacher to the child’s developmental needs. Educators who see them- 20 ENCOUNTER: Education for Meaning and Social Justice selves as learners who work with the whole child — body, mind, and spirit — are of great value to the society. Engaging in serious professional development must be regarded as essential to keeping our teaching practice fresh, alive, current, and relevant to our students. It’s Always about Relationship Research has discovered that teachers and parents who nurture the child’s developmental needs simultaneously develop as adults (Dillon 2002; Luvmour, 2010b). Individual choice, coupled with planned action to learn something new and practice it, leads to positive adult development. We know that adult change involves a re-evaluation of priorities and then a rearrangement of those priorities (Brandtstädter & Lerner 1999). Adult Development Adults develop throughout life. As we grow, we can develop new perspectives on life and new ways of being. Everyone accepts that the adult influences the child, but few realize how much the child changes the adult. Being in relationship with the child’s developmental markers often brings a parent or educator face-to-face with understanding his or her own unresolved childhood issues, such as Dillon’s teacher observed about herself above. There is a body of literature demonstrating the role of the child in adult development (Demick 2011; Dillon 2002; Luvmour 2010b). Research demonstrates that children play a large and often underappreciated role in adult and family development (Dillon 2002). For example, my research has shown that as adults interact with children and make an intentional effort to nurture their development, these adults become more cognitively flexible, shift their values, increase in self-knowledge, make new meaning of self and world, increase in well-being, and develop spiritual qualities such as gratitude, presence, authenticity, and wisdom (Luvmour 2010a). Because meaning is formed in relationships, sustained effort to be in relationship to the child’s developmental moment allows the parent or educator to access greater trust, to engage in the process of selfinquiry, and to make new meaning throughout life.

My research has demonstrated that caring for the child’s developmental markers promotes optimal well-being in the child while simultaneously benefitting the adult’s well-being and wisdom (Luvmour 2010b). Children are always telling us what is happening for them and what they need through their actions, behaviors, and ability to use language. It is incumbent upon the adult to understand the child’s developmental language and communication abilities. With the right developmental information, educators can nurture the organizing principle in the child. A Call for a New Educational Organization Historians have identified the origins of traditional education as a set of ideals inherited from the beginning of the industrial age (Miller 1990). Today’s challenge isn’t about making broken educational organizations slightly better; it’s about building better organizations in the first place (Haque 2011). In Portland, Oregon, a group of professionals have come together with me to form the core of a new learning community with the focus on the consciousness of the developing child. Each member of our core group has expertise that spans the fields of holistic education, sustainable family relationships, development of adult and child together, and practical applications that support emergent consciousness. At the center of our work is an agreement that education is for the optimal development of the whole person and that this serves humanity as a whole. This principle is what this educational community is attempting to bring forward within the child’s network of relationships in a new organization. The Vision of Summa Institute Summa Institute is striving to change education with a three-part synergistic vision of educating the child, parent, and teacher together. The executive director of Summa Institute described herself as “building a bridge to an educational organization in which we care for our children and ourselves by being in relationship to consciousness” (Kara 2011). It is not a top-down vision but rather collaboration among students, their parents, and educators. Using the principles discussed in this article, at Summa we are co-creating an educational environVolume 24, Number 4 (Winter 2011) 21 ment that nurtures the physical, social, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual development of our students with active participation from their families. Our aim is to influence positive development and well-being in children, families, and a community of educators. Our goal is education with a focus on developing the child’s innate capacities at every level (e.g., psychological, intellectual, emotional, spiritual). Implementing this learner-centered, family supportive learning community is what we believe is necessary. Education must provide many opportunities for the emergence of self-knowledge (Luvmour in press). Education at Summa is intended to create opportunities for the emergence of self-knowledge at every age and stage of development. Our focus is for each child to be sustained by a network of relationships that nurtures the organization of innate capacities. Our acknowledgement of the importance of this in education is evidenced by the involvement and participation of educators, family, and community.


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