Parents, worrying about your kids is counterproductive

MOTHER: As an adult I have a responsibility to protect my child from harm. If my son develops an addiction to video games, don’t I have a responsibility as the parent to stop this?

DAVID: Many parents operate from the premise that children – especially young children – cannot be trusted to figure things out for themselves. By virtue of them being adults, they believe they know what is best for the child and it is thus their ‘responsibility’ to point out the error of their ways. From my perspective, it is very clear that the child is free to make his own choices on any given subject and that parental interference is unnecessary. The parent who chooses to ‘worry’ about the unwanted behaviour observed in a child energises and reinforces the problem (which exists only in the mind of the parent) through the power of her attention – in which case the “problem” amplifies. In all my years of experience as a teacher and life coach I have yet to meet a single child who had (seemingly) ‘gone astray’ who wasn’t fighting against some perceived threat to his ability to make his own choices (i.e. who wasn’t reacting to the interference of a fearful adult).

The only reason a child would develop an “addiction” to video games is because he has forgotten who he is; because he is out of alignment with his natural state of happiness and well-being. He is attempting to fill a perceived void by pursuing a dead end. But the behaviour itself is not the issue. The issue is his lack of alignment. The child wants to feel better. If you think about it, the only reason for doing anything in life is because we believe that in the doing of it we will feel better. A child who consistently feels good about himself (i.e. who is aligned with the love, approval and joy that resides at the core of his being) is not going to develop an addiction to gaming… or to alcohol or to sex or to any other form of escapism because these are all examples of instant gratification: transitory (and thus illusory) happiness.

How does the parent worrying about the child’s interest in video games in any way contribute to the child returning to his natural state of happiness and well-being? Many adults have decided that it is their responsibility to worry about their children. I do not see this as the function of parents. The only reason a parent could be observing her child’s lack of alignment is because she herself is out of alignment. Since it is not possible to change another person (regardless of their age), the greatest gift the parent can offer the child is to demonstrate through the clarity of her own example her willingness to strive for alignment with her own authentic self. In so doing the parent inspires the child to seek his own alignment. If the child is aligned, he feels good. If he feels good, he does not look to video games to fill a void… because there is no void to fill.

Kids Create (September launch)

KIDS CREATE is an initiative designed to bring young people together at a local community level for the purpose of collaborating on ‘real life’ innovation projects of their own choosing. It is a vehicle through which they can channel their innate passions and imagination into creating real value in the world. Whether the intention is to launch an awareness campaign, create a positive news channel on YouTube, coordinate a litter picking exercise in the local park, organise a fund raising concert, film a documentary or provide blankets to the homeless, this is a place where young people’s voices are honoured and heard, and in which they are trusted and empowered to take action on their ideas.

Each project takes place within the framework of a safe and supportive Creative Learning Space (CLS), set up and held by specially trained adult facilitators. Characterised by its three defining values of Play, Trust and Collaboration, the CLS is more an “energetic” space than a physical location. As such, project teams are free to move wherever their projects take them. Depending on their chosen goals, they can be expected to operate in a variety of different contexts and environments – coffee shops, community centres, parks, libraries and museums – and to interact with a wide range of individuals, businesses and organisations in their local and wider communities.

Last week I met with Linda Anne Anderson, owner of The Kitchen Croxley, an independent coffee and cake shop situated between Watford and Rickmansworth, with a view to opening the UK’s first KIDS CREATE community space in her shop. We’ve decided to get the ball rolling by inviting a group of eight children (ages 10-13) to the shop on Thursday 8 September, 4.30-6.30pm. This will be an opportunity for the attendees to begin sharing and discussing their ideas for creating a better world. What will they discuss? What will they choose to focus on? That’s up to them to decide……

KIDS CREATE was born in 2013 when a small group of home educated children in Newport Pagnell announced their desire to create a ‘Prom for Kids’. I offered to support the group in turning their vision into a reality. During the course of the next four months, this team of youngsters took responsibility for all aspects of the Prom’s planning and organisation. They chose the theme. They decided on the dress code. They worked out the budget. They phoned and visited potential venues – and negotiated to get the best deal. They agreed on the food arrangements. They organised sound and lighting equipment. They decided on the song list. They wrote and sent emails to parents. They went shopping for plates and cutlery, comparing prices at different supermarkets. They sourced fairy lights to match their chosen theme. They planned and rehearsed a performance of acoustic songs. They prepared thank you speeches. They decorated the hall on the day, including a red carpet for the entrance and neon lighting for the Mocktail Bar. The ‘Moonlight Prom’ was a thoroughly enjoyable experience for everyone who attended. However, it was the journey rather than the destination that truly mattered. The project team developed life skills and learned invaluable lessons that will serve them as adults.

I believe that KIDS CREATE has the potential to evolve into a nationwide enterprise such that thousands of projects are running in local communities up and down this country at any given time. With the help of Chris Ogle and the Link4Growth network, my goal is to see the idea rolled out to independent coffee shops all over the UK.

The biggest challenge to the evolution of this idea is identifying and training adults who are ready to hold space. This is a completely different approach to working with kids. It revolves around trust. Our ability to trust children is determined by the extent to which we trust ourselves. Most adults do not trust children because they were taught, as children, that they could not be trusted. They were schooled into viewing themselves as limited and the world around them as frightening. Breaking out of this framework of fear is not an easy task; it took me seven years of conscious inner healing work to undo the effects of my social conditioning.

The ability to hold space is more a state of being than a skill. To step into the role of KIDS CREATE Facilitator requires an internal paradigm shift to have taken place: out of the Box of Fear (in which the teacher-knows-best school system exists) and into the Garden of Trust, which is a child-led, innovation-oriented approach – free of adult agenda and unnecessary interference. My job is to convey to kids, through my example, the message, ‘I trust you’. For me, there is no greater gift that any adult can offer a child.

What we’re talking about here is a paradigm of education with the power to redefine learning, childhood, parenting and life itself. Propagating this idea is certainly not a job I can do on my own! So I’m looking to pull together a peaceful army of conscious adults who are ready and willing to support children in creating a better world for us all.

Children have the answers to all of the challenges we are facing on this planet. Our job as adults is to listen, empower, trust and follow their lead.

The Eduspire Paradigm (Aug 2016)

What I am sharing here is the culmination of almost 20 years of experience teaching, mentoring, coaching and holding space for young people in a variety of educational settings, along with extensive reading, researching, writing, travelling, networking, innovating, alone time in nature and much soul searching.

I am co-founder of ROOTS, an outdoor creative learning space in the Bedfordshire countryside (UK), which supports young people of all ages (5 through 18) in connecting with their natural selves through a variety of nature-based sensory awareness games and activities. I am also founder of KIDS CREATE, which holds space for young people as they collaborate on creation and innovation projects of their own choosing. I demonstrate my definition of education (see P4 below) as a professional singer, actor and recording artist.

Eduspire stands for education infused with spirit. It is a child-led and innovation-oriented approach to learning and education. Children are not ‘educated’ in this new paradigm; consciously awakened adults hold an energetic space in which children are ‘eduspired’ – i.e. inspired to go within and educate themselves. Eduspire sees children themselves as the key to the creation of the New Earth and our job (as adults) as being to Listen, Empower, Trust (LET them be) and follow their lead.

The Eduspire Paradigm operates within the wider context of a New Paradigm for Living and Being, which is characterised by self-sovereignty, self-sufficiency, connection with nature, ecological awareness, collaboration, community spirit, shared abundance and contribution through the pursuit of personal passion.

The following list of presuppositions are designed to provide a conceptual framework for this new paradigm of education.

THE EDUSPIRE PRESUPPOSITIONS
P1: Every child is a unique, divine spark of unlimited creative potential.
P2: The simplicity and wonder of childhood is real life.
P3: Learning is as natural as breathing; it is a by-product of living.
P4: Education is the pursuit of passion.
P5: The purpose of life is to be your natural, authentic self.
P6: Every child has an inner guidance system.
P7: We are all equals, co-learners and co-teachers, regardless of age.
P8: Nature is our greatest teacher. The purpose of technology is to enhance human experience, not define it.
P9: Failure is feedback; we always succeed in achieving an outcome.
P10: The only constant in life is change.
P11: Play, Trust and Collaboration are the defining values of a Creative Learning Space.
P12: Education is a collective responsibility of the whole community.

Smacking children

PARENT: When is it appropriate to smack a child?

DAVID: Never.

PARENT: But there are times when my son oversteps the boundaries. For example, I can not and will not stand by and let him swear at me, his father. He needs to understand the importance of respect for his elders.

DAVID: There is no conceivable circumstance in which hitting a child is justifiable behaviour. The “adult as authority figure” approach to parenting belongs to the old paradigm of education and childrearing. The need for control over and unquestioning obedience of children is based in fear, not love.
Physiological age is irrelevant; the child is a human being. Human beings are equals. Children are equals. Children are to be treated as co-learners and co-teachers; afforded the same respect as any adult. To teach a child respect for others, you teach the child to respect himself.

PARENT: How do I do that?

DAVID: By treating yourself with respect. A parent who hits their child is lacking self-respect. A parent who hits their child is not in tune with the unconditional love that is who they truly are. A parent who hits their child has inner work to do.

PARENT: What kind of inner work?

DAVID: Smacking a child is a clear sign of an adult who does not understand their emotions and is acting out their own childhood pain. There is unconscious, dysfunctional conditioning to be brought into the light of their conscious awareness. This childhood conditioning needs to be looked at, questioned and released.

PARENT: But you don’t understand how angry he makes me sometimes.

DAVID: Nobody makes you angry. You make yourself angry by virtue of your perception of a situation and your choice of response. Projecting anger towards a child in response to their behaviour is saying, “I have no control over my internal state of being”. Physically acting out that anger by hitting the child is saying, “The outside world is responsible for my internal state of being”. This is simply not true. Such behaviour disempowers both parent and child and serves only to strengthen the wall of resentment between them.
Love is the answer. Love is always the answer. In order to respond to a child with love, you must first become your own source of love. It is the only way.

PARENT: I don’t understand why my child is so rude to me.

DAVID: Perhaps he is giving you an opportunity to look in the mirror…..

Self-trustful parenting

MOTHER: David, what is the best way to raise my child?

DAVID: Listen to your intuition every step of the way. The best way for your child will always be the best way for you.

MOTHER: So there is no formula to follow? You can’t recommend any books?

DAVID: Every child is unique. Every mother-child dynamic is unique. We are so quick to seek answers in books. Our society has ingrained us with the belief that the answers are ‘out there’. No, the answers are in here [points to mother’s heart]. Contrary to institutionalised wisdom, the experts do not know best.

MOTHER: You are suggesting I should simply trust my instincts?

DAVID: This is how it was for hundreds of thousands of years.

MOTHER: What happened?

DAVID: The modern, “civilised” world happened. Parents stopped trusting their instincts because they were taught, as children, that they couldn’t be trusted. Unthinkingly, they passed this distrust on to their own children, who grew up believing they couldn’t be trusted either.

And now we have a generation of mothers who, rather than taking a moment to quieten their minds and tune in to their innate wisdom, turn frantically to Facebook parenting forums requesting advice on what to do about their child’s runny nose.

MOTHER: So what is the answer?

DAVID: The answer is to learn to listen to ourselves again.

MOTHER: How exactly do we do that?

DAVID: By cultivating inner silence. By taking a few deep breaths. By regularly taking time out to clear the mind and expand the space between thoughts. In this space, in this stillness, in this silence are all our answers.

MOTHER: But you are a man. How do you know this to be true?

DAVID: I am the Silent Life Coach. Silence is my greatest friend.

www.SilentLifeCoach.com

Introduction to my forthcoming book

An excerpt from my forthcoming book, ‘THE EDUSPIRE PARADIGM: A blueprint for education and life outside the box’.

—————-
INTRODUCTION
—————-

“I’m trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.” ~ Morpheus, in the movie ‘The Matrix’

The purpose of this book is to speak my truth. That is, to share my unique perspective on the Truth, based on my own life experience. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “My life is my message”. I agree. This book is my best attempt to convey in words what my life’s journey up to this point has taught me about children, learning, education and life itself.

I am not overly concerned with what you get out of this book. The question is, what does the book get out of you? The door to the Truth remains eternally open. And there is a place deep within you that is eternally connected to this Truth. A Truth that has been obscured by the confusion of a dysfunctional world, itself born out of humanity’s attachment to a confused collective mind. Perhaps this book will serve to clear away some of the clouds of confusion blinding you to your own experience of the Truth.

Although some people have chosen to believe otherwise, Truth cannot be captured in words. Truth is the unchanging and ever-present backdrop against which the mind paints it pictures and creates its dramas. Truth is an intuitive knowing spoken directly to you through your feelings. It has to be felt in order to be known. It cannot be mentally comprehended or understood. It exists beyond words and beyond the mind that forms those words. Words can be such clumsy, cumbersome creatures, open to the subjective interpretation of the individual, who attaches meaning according to his own set of life experiences and corresponding perception filters – his beliefs, values, memories, attitudinal set-points, etc. Take the word “education”, for example. For many (if not most) people, this word is immediately equated to another word: “school”. This is – quite literally – a world away from my understanding of the word. And that is because I live in a completely different paradigm of life to most.

So do not focus too much on the actual words used in this book. My words are best viewed as signposts to the Truth. It is the state of being from which those words emanate that matters. I invite you to focus instead on the feelings that the energy behind my words generates. How do you feel in response to reading each sentence, each paragraph, each page, each chapter? There is no greater barometer of Truth than your own feelings. Trust those aspects of my message that resonate with you personally and disregard all those that do not.

This book culminates in me presenting an alternative vision for the future of education on this planet. It is my belief that a new approach to education can only emerge within the context of a new approach to life. So this book is about far more than just learning or education. It is about the creation of a new civilisation. The Eduspire Paradigm is to be viewed within the context of an already emerging civilisation that operates according to an entirely different “map of reality” to that in which the majority of humans are currently living. To attempt to evaluate the ideas herein presented through the eyes of the prevailing worldview would be a major mistake. Hence, my challenge is to offer you insights into the nature of reality from my perspective; to give you a glimpse of the universe through my eyes.

Again, my messages regarding learning and education are inextricably linked to my own life path and experience. I cannot separate the two for they are one and the same. My life – my personal example – is both my greatest message and my truest teaching. I am my own researcher. And my research method is called living. Consequently, those looking for scientific or academic research to back up my messages will be sorely disappointed by this book. In fact, to include any such supporting “evidence” would be to betray my truth and to dilute the potency of my message. We have – as a species – allowed the research of so-called “experts” to take up such a valuable space in our lives. It is valuable to the extent that we give it value. I teach on the basis of my personal experience alone. I feel no need to defend or validate my truth with the findings of others. I am seeking neither your approval nor your acceptance. Either you are inspired by my example, or you are not. Either way, I remain unattached and unaffected. Truth requires no proof; it is self-evident. I am living and breathing proof of all that I share in this book. I am my message.

Although I have no biological children of my own, I have always felt myself to be a cosmic parent to all children. I strive to view every child through the eyes of unconditional love and trust. For me, there is no greater gift that any adult – parent or otherwise – can offer a child.

Thank you for being here. Thank you for being you. You are loved.

David

Luton
July 2016

Dear Parents

Dear Parents,

Your children are your ultimate mirrors. Anything that you perceive as a “problem” in your child is actually inside of you. If the energy weren’t inside of you, then there would be no emotional reaction to the external stimulus provided by the child. In reality, there is no problem. The “problem” is nothing more than a label that you have assigned to a neutral situation. Since you created the problem out of the situation, it is your responsibility to deal with it.

Do not misunderstand me here: I am NOT saying that you are to “blame” for your child’s behaviour. Blame is futile. Blame is destructive. Blame is disempowering. You are not to blame. Your child is not to blame. No one is to blame. The situation is always a co-creation between you and your child. The situation is what it is.

However, you are 100% responsible for your (energetic) CONTRIBUTION to the interaction between you and your child. You are not responsible for your child’s behaviour. You cannot change your child. You cannot change anyone outside of you. All you can do is “own” your part in the co-creation. Your power lies in your response. You always have the ability to choose your response. Choosing to respond by viewing the situation as a “problem” is a sign of internal confusion. If you are not responsible for this confusion, who is? If you are not response-able for your perception of the situation as a “problem”, where is your power to do anything about it?

Be grateful to your children for behaving in ways that provoke internal discomfort within you. They are doing you a favour. They are drawing to your conscious attention unresolved confusion within your psyche. The mistake is to make this discomfort “wrong” or to label it as a “problem”. No, it is an OPPORTUNITY for personal growth and evolution. The emotions attached to the discomfort are there for a reason. They represent confused aspects of your own psyche that are seeking clarification regarding the Truth. They have come to the surface to be seen, acknowledged, witnessed. They are seeking your acceptance, not your disapproval. They are seeking your love, not your judgement. Once they have been “seen”, they start to dissolve. Darkness (confusion) is nothing more than the absence of light (Truth). Once you shine the light of your conscious awareness upon the darkness, it ceases to be darkness! Once these confused aspects of your psyche have been “seen” and welcomed home to love, your children will stop presenting you with opportunities to deal with them. If the confused energy is no longer inside of you, there is no need to see it reflected in your children.

I call this the “REFLECTION & RESPONSE APPROACH” to emotional mastery, personal freedom and harmonious family living. I specialise in supporting and coaching parents and their children in “owning” their respective contributions to the situations that they are co-creating. Having cleaned up most of the confusion lurking in the shadows of my own unconscious being (or what Eckhart Tolle calls “the painbody”), this is my contribution to the creation of a more peaceful and harmonious planet. Please do not hesitate to reach out if my words resonate and you feel your family could benefit from my assistance. I am here to serve you.

All my love,

David
The Silent Life Coach

http://www.silentlifecoach.com/

The truth about bullying

The aim of this post is to offer parents, teachers and children a fresh and empowering perspective on bullying.

I will begin by confessing that I have experienced the effects of bullying myself, both as a child and an adult. I still carry the psychological scars from my childhood of being picked on for being underweight. To this day, I am still unable to put on a pair of shorts without feeling conscious of my “skinny” legs. (However, having applied the perspective on bullying that I am about to articulate, I’m very close to resolving this issue for good).

For roughly two years of my teaching career, I allowed my life to be turned into a living hell by one particularly overbearing female line manager. I would regularly drive home with angry tears streaming down my cheeks in response to the way she had treated me. This woman was an expert at making me feel small and worthless. She knew exactly what to do and say to get under my skin and was occasionally prone to humiliating me in front of my students. Back then I didn’t have the courage to stand up to her. I chose the weak, passive-aggressive approach whereby I would take her shit and then bitch about her behind her back.

This line manager enjoyed making unreasonable demands and setting “impossible” tasks for me to complete, such as expecting to have on her desk by the following morning a summary of the outcomes of all my one-to-one meetings with target pupils since the start of the year (I was responsible for overseeing the academic progress of twenty such pupils), claiming that she was carrying out the orders of the headteacher. Not realising that she was deceiving me (the penny did eventually drop) – and being a particularly conscientious individual who hated letting people down – I would dutifully fulfil her requests, even if this meant forgoing a night’s sleep. I must admit there was an element of satisfaction in meeting her unrealistic expectations (the surprised look on her face the following morning was always worth the effort), but this woman knew full well that paperwork was my biggest weakness. I always placed more importance on the quality of my interactions with kids than on the standard of my paperwork. Indeed, this was the secret behind my success as a teacher. She skilfully identified any such chinks in my armour and inflicted attacks on these areas with brutal accuracy, and to tremendous effect.

In hindsight, I can see that I spent two years giving my power away to this woman. Although it was an unconscious decision, I had cast myself in the role of “victim”. In truth, my line manager was reflecting back my feelings toward myself. She was incredibly hard on me because I was incredibly hard on myself. She was providing externalised feedback on how I was treating myself internally. You see, from my perspective, I felt incredibly guilty about my paperwork deficiencies. I would regularly beat myself up over this issue. My guilt and internal condemnation was an energy that my line manager was picking up on and feeding off. From her perspective, she was jealous as hell of my ability to connect with and relate to children. Her bullying behaviour was more a reflection of her feelings toward herself than her feelings towards me, even if she was not consciously aware of this. While she maintained high standards of discipline through authority, fear and manipulation, I did so through authentic connection, respect and offering choices. The truth is, she felt insecure and inadequate in comparison to me.

BULLYING AS A CO-CREATION

In reality, there is no such thing as a “bully”. Bullying is a behaviour. Behind the behaviour is a person. And behind the person choosing the behaviour is fear. Similarly, there is no such thing as a “victim”. Victimhood is a state of consciousness, behind which is also fear. The person wearing the “bully” mask and the person wearing the (less visible) “victim” mask are two sides of the same coin. They are co-creators of the situation that exists between them. They share exactly the same problem: they are both confused about their respective powers. The “victim” has an (unconscious) belief running that he deserves to be treated as a lesser being. The “bully” has an (unconscious) belief running that she is lacking control over her life and uses the “victim” as a means of expressing her resentment toward this. She is attracted to the “victim” like a magnet because the “victim” is radiating energy that says, “Pick me!”

It goes without saying that no one would consciously invite attack upon themselves. Did I “deserve” to be treated so despicably by my line manager? No, of course not. Nobody deserves to be treated like that. Was I responsible for her bullying behaviour? No, not directly. She was responsible for her own behaviour. However, the point I am keen to stress is that bullying is not a one-way street. We can’t just blame it all on the “bully”. I was 100% responsible for my contribution to the situation, both the energy that I was emitting and the way I was choosing to respond to her behaviour. Not being consciously aware of something does not abdicate us of responsibility for it.

BULLYING IS AN OPPORTUNITY, NOT A PROBLEM

The bullying dynamic is an opportunity for personal growth within BOTH individuals. When a child tells an adult they are being bullied, punishing the perpetrator and plastering “Say no to bullying!” posters all over the walls is not the answer. This surface-level response is an act of disempowerment that reinforces the “victim” mask (potentially setting that person up for a lifetime of victim consciousness) and avoids dealing with the true source of the issue. When we take the time to look beneath the surface, we discover that bullying is an opportunity to clean up some confusion within both the “victim” and the “bully”.

From this new perspective, my line manager’s bullying behaviour could be viewed as a gift. That gift was the opportunity to reclaim my own power – by changing my thoughts and beliefs about myself. In truth, I was the only person standing in my way. As you think (consciously or unconsciously), so you attract. What you attract into your experience always matches the signals you are sending out. You are a victim for as long as you believe you are a victim. As long as your thoughts are supporting the idea that you are a victim, the people around you will continue to treat you like a victim. The “bully” is always offering you a gift. That gift is the opportunity to sharpen the lens through which you view yourself; to remember who you really are.

In order to empower a “victim” of bullying, we show him how to bring the limiting unconscious beliefs that he is holding about himself (fuelled by painful memories) into the light of his conscious awareness. Once the beliefs have been consciously identified, they start to dissolve. There are numerous techniques from the world of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), all inherently simple, to assist with this process.

Insisting that schools get tougher with “bullies” is morally reprehensible. The “bully” is in pain. She is confused about her power. What she needs is love and compassion. Yes, love is the answer, not punishment. The “bully” is as much a victim as the “victim” in the sense that she, too, is a victim of her misperceptions of herself. We can empower the “bully” by showing her how to bring the limiting unconscious beliefs that she is holding about herself into the light of her conscious awareness.

ENERGY FLOWS WHERE ATTENTION GOES

Of all the well-meaning but hopelessly misguided things I see going on in schools today, the “anti-bullying” culture has got to be about the most harmful. Contrary to institutionalised wisdom, you don’t solve a problem by shouting “NO!” at it. Anti-Bullying Week encourages and perpetuates bullying in schools by reinforcing misunderstanding of the real issue. Does this shock or surprise you? It shouldn’t. What is everyone thinking about during Anti-Bullying Week? Bullying! You don’t solve a problem by focusing your attention on that which is not desired. All we are doing when we march around with our anti-bullying placards is drawing attention to and energising the problem. Energy flows where attention goes. What do we want instead of bullying? How about peaceful relationships?

Several years ago, I was working in a freelance capacity as pastoral coordinator and life skills coach at a school in Bedfordshire. For the reasons outlined above, I made the (albeit controversial) decision to boycott Anti-Bullying Week. Instead, we had a “PRO-PEACE WEEK”. On Monday morning I held a whole-school assembly for students in which we explored bullying from its true perspective. I talked about the need to separate the person from the behaviour and to view the “bully” with compassion. I talked about the need to view the “victim” as a contributory factor in the bullying dynamic. I elicited from my captivated audience possible underlying beliefs driving the thinking and behaviour of both individuals. Rather than focus on bullying, I asked the students to spend their week looking for and recording examples of peace and kindness, both inside and outside school. The kids felt the truth behind my words that day, as evidenced by their spontaneous standing ovation at the end of my presentation – a hitherto unheard of occurrence at this particular school. To this day, that assembly remains the pinnacle of my public speaking career. You may be interested to hear that, following this assembly, the funds were withdrawn from my post and I was asked to leave. Apparently, it was completely unacceptable to disregard a national initiative and “children should not be standing, clapping and cheering during assembly”. (As I stated in my previous post, conditioned, institutionalised servants of The System can’t cope with the truth so they shoot the messenger instead).

The anti-bullying culture in schools is counter-productive. If we want bullying-free environments, then we focus on what we want instead: peaceful relationships. In order to cultivate peaceful relationships, we support everyone in attaining greater levels of peace within themselves.

SUMMARY OF KEY POINTS:

(1) There is no such thing as a “bully”. Bullying is a behaviour, not a person. Similarly, there is no such thing as a “victim”. Victimhood is a state of consciousness, not a person.

(2) Bullying is not a one-sided affair. It is a co-creation between two people, both of whom are confused about their power, both of whom are 100% responsible for their contribution to the situation.

(3) Bullying is not a problem. It is an opportunity for personal growth within both individuals. Both the “bully” and the “victim” are to be viewed with compassion and empowered to identify the false beliefs driving their confusion.

(4) An anti-bullying culture encourages and perpetuates bullying by focusing on the problem. A focus on peaceful relationships with others and within ourselves is the way forward.

My daughter is not normal! (Part 2)

Originally published Feb 17, 2013:

View Part 1 here

[10 minutes later…]

Kathy: Yes, is everything OK?

David: Everything’s fine. Emily would like to show you something.

Emily: Mum, do you know how to spell parallelogram?

Kathy: Err… hmm, I’m not sure. I think there are two L’s next to each other in there somewhere…

Emily: I can spell it!

Kathy: You can?

Emily: Yes! P – A – R – A… L – L – E – L – O… G – R – A – M!

Kathy: Wow, that’s impressive! How did you teach her to do that in ten minutes?

Emily: Mum, can you spell parallelogram backwards?

Kathy: Backwards? Ooh, I’m not sure about that! M… A… errr… G…. no, R…

Emily: M-A-R-G…O-L-E-L-L…A-R-A-P!! [beaming smile]

Kathy: How did you do that so fast??!

Emily: E-S…U-A-C…E-B! Do you know what that was?

Kathy: No, I…

Emily: That was the word “because”, spelt backwards!

Kathy: I don’t understand. How are you doing this? David, this is unbelievable — Emily has struggled with spelling all her life!

Emily: Look Mum, this is how you spell quadrilateral [Emily picks up a marker pen and — with great enthusiasm — writes QUAD RILAT ERAL on the wipe board that sits on the table in front of her]

Kathy: I am completely lost for words. How are you getting the letters in the right order??

Emily: Oh it’s easy! David showed me how to do it…

David: Emily can spell and she can write. She simply requires a different teaching approach – one that matches her preferred learning style. You talked about the school following a new phonics programme.

Kathy: Yes…

DavidThat is the problem… not your daughter! Emily is a predominantly visual learner. So I have shared with her a simple visual technique for spelling. The phonics approach to literacy relies on “sounding out” words. This is a complete waste of time for someone like Emily. Everything being taught to her in school is — quite literally — going in one ear and out the other! You said you wanted me to help Emily to see sense. Believe me, she is already “seeing” sense! But her teachers are trying to make her hear sense. Since we’ve established that Emily can spell, I’ve suggested she forget about the dyslexia thing – she won’t be needing that label any more.

Kathy: But why don’t the school know about this?

David: Well, like you said, they’ve invested a lot of money in their government-approved phonics programme. It’s a one-size-fits-few situation… like a lot of the things going on in schools.

Kathy: But that is unacceptable! Why would the government push a project that doesn’t work for all students?

David: A very good question…

Kathy: All this extra work Emily has been doing in school and you mean to tell me that there was nothing wrong with her in the first place?

David: Absolutely nothing. Your daughter is extraordinary… aren’t you, Emily?

Emily: Errr… haha… yeah, I guess so!

My daughter is not normal! (Part 1)

Originally published Feb 10, 2013:

Kathy: Thank you for coming today, David. I’ve been tearing my hair out over what to do about Emily. You’re our last ray of hope! We hired a tutor to work with her last year… lovely woman, retired English teacher… but that only lasted a few weeks because Emily was so uncooperative. I’ve told her she has no idea how lucky she is to have parents who care about her education; and not all parents can afford private tuition either. But everything I say seems to fall on deaf ears. When I read your profile – the section about the kind of students you work with – it was such a relief… it was almost as if you were describing our Emily!

David: I hope I can be of some assistance.

Kathy: As I said in my email, Emily is 12 years old. But the school have told us she has a reading age of 6.28, one of the lowest scores in her year group.

David: 6.28, wow, that is so… precise.

Kathy: That’s her NFER level. We had Emily assessed by the school’s ed psych last November who confirmed that she’s dyslexic. And she’s on the school’s SEN register as MLD.

David: MLD?

Kathy: Moderate learning difficulties. Her writing level is 2B when she should be at least 4C according to the Fischer Family Trust data. I regularly look through her classwork and her spelling and organisation is atrocious! Michael and I have been up the school on several occasions to express our concerns. To be fair, they’ve always been very supportive. She’s been attending an additional lunchtime literacy class since September… but we’ve seen little, if any, improvement.

David: I see.

Kathy: All our attempts to help her at home have failed. Just to get Emily to sit down at the dining room table is a monumental struggle! The mere mention of the word literacy and her face turns to thunder. Michael has been very patient but I’m at the end of my tether. To be honest, I am worried sick about Emily’s future! How is she to cope in the real world without basic literacy skills? I feel like we’ve somehow failed her as parents. We’ve obviously gone wrong somewhere.

David: Don’t be so hard yourself, Kathy. You’ve done — and are doing — your best.

Kathy: Mrs Marsden, the school’s SEN coordinator, has been sending home additional worksheets and resources for us to support the work Emily is doing in the classroom. But we’ve got nowhere with them. Emily seems to resent us for wanting to help her. She’s a stubborn little madam at the best of times. Takes after me, I suppose. But we can’t seem to make her realise how short-sighted she is being. How can her reading and writing improve when she refuses to even try? We’re hoping you’ll be able to get through to her, to make her see sense at last.

David: My role is first and foremost to let Emily know that I accept her just as she is. What kind of worksheets and resources are we talking about?

Kathy: The school have invested a lot of money in a government-approved phonics programme. It’s called ‘systematic synthetic phonics’… or something like that. Mrs Marsden explained it all to us.

David: That sounds… complicated.

Kathy: It’s all part of the school’s drive to raise standards in literacy. I’ve got a letter about it somewhere in the kitchen drawer. I can dig it out for you…

David: No, no, that won’t be necessary. Thank you.

Kathy: OK. Well, here are copies of Emily’s Year 6 school report and the ed psych’s report.

David: That is very thoughtful of you but I won’t be needing those either.

Kathy: You won’t? [looking confused]

David: No. As I said, my priority is to let Emily know that I accept her just as she is. Today is about establishing a bond of trust between us.

Kathy: Oh… right……. but surely it’s important for you to know about her learning difficulties?

David: To be honest with you, I don’t believe in learning difficulties. Learning differences, yes. But not difficulties.

Kathy: Aren’t they the same thing?

David: Well, no, not in my eyes. ‘Difficulty’ implies there is a problem; a judgement has been made. ‘Difference’ is neutral; it carries no judgement.

Kathy: David, don’t get me wrong. I know Emily will never be a high flyer academically. She’s in the bottom sets for English, Maths and Science… and that doesn’t matter to me in the slightest. But she’s got to learn the basics! As her aunt was telling her the other night, it’s just not healthy for a girl of her age not to be reading. She gets teased a lot, by the more ‘popular’ girls in her tutor group. And when she talks about not fitting in at school… it just breaks my heart. I want her to lead a normal life like other kids. I want her to be happy.

David: Normal and happy do not always go hand in hand, Kathy. For some people they are mutually exclusive.

Kathy: What do you mean?

David: Take me, for example. I’m not normal. I never fitted in as a teacher — as an adult — within the school system. That’s why I’m here doing this. I left the teaching profession because I didn’t have the freedom to work with kids in the way that I knew worked best. I wasn’t happy because I couldn’t be myself. Senior management were more interested in the standard of my paperwork than they were in the quality of my interactions with children in the classroom. But I didn’t enter the teaching profession to fill in spreadsheets or to follow strict lesson plans; I wanted to work with people.

My teaching methods and classroom management strategies were very different to my colleagues… but they worked. Students enjoyed coming to my lessons, so much so that I didn’t need to rely on the schools reward system, which required me to dish out merits and achievement stickers for good behaviour and work. Instead, I taught my students that the truest reward in life is the internal satisfaction of a job well done. I let them mark their own classwork and give themselves written feedback. I encouraged them to pat their own backs when they perceived themselves to have done well on a given task. I wanted to cultivate independence and self-reflection within my students because these are crucial skills in today’s world. But this — along with so many of my other “alternative” ideas — caused problems for my line managers because they couldn’t tick the boxes that needed to be ticked in order to justify their positions within the hierarchy. I was summoned to the headteacher’s office on more than one occasion due to the “lack of teacher ticks and comments” in my students’ class books, and ordered to comply with the school’s marking and assessment policy. There was simply no place for someone like me within such a tightly ordered system. And everyday I observed children — just like your daughter — suffering a similar fate. Children with even less room than me to express their individuality. It broke my heart.

So, you see, I don’t want to be normal, Kathy. To me, there is nothing natural about being normal. Extraordinary is natural. I aspire to be extraordinary. Your daughter may not be normal. But that does not have to be a bad thing.

Kathy: Thank you for sharing that, David. I’ve never thought about it like that…

David: Is it time for me to meet Emily?!

Kathy: Yes, of course. I told her to wait upstairs until we’d finished talking. I’ll go and call her now…

[To be continued…]

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