I feel exceedingly grateful that I got to work next to people who asked themselves the question "what is essential in this present moment for this child?" Usually we are bound by words and constructs like "core curriculum" and "no child left behind" among many others across the globe, concepts that reduce human beings to a common denominator usually missing the mark on what the essential learning is for that person at that particular time.
There is a formula, that of mind, thought and consciousness - that governs all human functioning and, when our filter is through these principles we are starting in the right place: the essential place; the underpinning; the foundation. When we get a glimmer of knowing this for ourselves, we begin to see it as the place to start – the place where we are indeed, all the same. It is the common ground.
This brings to mind a wee girl who came to school unwashed, hair askew, filthy clothes, teeth unbrushed. Of course, social services was aware of the situation but when the child came to learning assistance for help with reading, the teacher, Erna, asked herself the big question "What is essential here?" And, she knew what to do. Task #`1: create a cradle of caring in which the child could grow.
How can a child learn when she feels ugly, is dirty, stinks and nobody wants to be near her? How can that feel when you are six and longing to belong?
Erna knew that this was about empowering Paulette, helping her to find confidence from inside-out, not about “fixing” her, and so she set to work. Each morning Erna had a routine that she kept with Paulette. When she got off the bus, her first stop was the spare staff washroom. This had been set aside as a learning space, a novel one, but a learning space nonetheless. It was about learning life skills. Here Paulette was taught how to have a "birdbath" in the sink, what soap and a washcloth were for, how to brush her teeth, to wash her hair in the sink and comb her hair. Erna made sure that the bathing and changing of clothes was done in private – demonstrations were provided in “how to” and then Paulette was left with the privacy to do it herself. Each day there was a clean set of clothes for Paulette to put on and eventually, she was taught how to wash her own clothes in the school's washing machine.
Erna found the courage to be honest with mom and tell her what she was doing. No judgment, just respect, acknowledging mom was doing the best she could and presenting this as a learning experience for Paulette. This in itself spoke volumes because this very young and troubled mom became a learner too. Abandoned when falling pregnant at 13 she was a needy nineteen year old herself.
Before too long, huge strides had been made and the morning routine was no longer necessary because it was happening at home. Both "girls" had grown and with the help of some of the community, an old washing machine had been found, a clothesline rigged up and clothing shared. Life had shifted to a more positive one for mom and Paulette.
And reading? Once the essential learning "in the moment" had taken place, the story in Paulette's head was rewritten and our wee girl flourished. Before long, Paulette was a competent reader and writer and she was now an accepted classmate. “Thought creates reality,” as Mr. Banks so often would say.
Many years later I came across the now-adult Paulette. She is living her life in a state of mind that is confident and healthy - a competent and successful businesswoman. A life transformed by caring and compassionate people who helped Paulette uncover her inner wisdom and change the story in her head.
Another “everyday miracle.”
"This conversation (about the Three Principles) is just a description, a description of how it is as human beings for us, all 7 billion of us, all operating through this system, like gravity, it's dependable....when there's certainty, the plus is it's off your mind. The word that comes to mind is trust, trusting there is a system."
Peter Anderson, Headteacher and Three Principles Facilitator, UK
Supermind Ed Talks, January 13, 2016