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Teaching Holistically

Teaching Holistically

“A child is not a vessel to be filled, but a lamp to be lighted”


Teaching and learning are two sides of the same coin. The formal learning situations at school or other places of learning, usually deal with the ego. It is the brain of the individual that learns and develops knowledge; the body that learns skills; the personality that learns to interact with others.
Few life experiences are as intense and systematic as teaching at formal learning situations.

The teacher and student in a school, college or institute are clearly designated. Yes, they say that teachers learn from their students as well; but much of the learning is one way. It is definitely meant to be one-way. It is the adult of one person teaching the child of the other.

But of course, we continue to learn all our lives. Life does not always make a teacher-learner distinction. In life, learning can be to the child in us, the adult in us, and sometimes even to the parent in us.

Think of the good teachers in your life. Was it in school? Driving school? Music teacher? Sports coach? A tutor?

Why are these teachers good? Among other things, because they could see the ways in which we are similar to others, and the ways in which we are unique.
Teaching holistically implies teaching the student as a whole: taking into account their levels of skill and ability while drawing up expectations and rewards or punishments.

‘The essential thing is for the task to arouse such an interest that it engages the child’s whole personality’ (Maria Montessori – The Absorbent Mind: 206).
Is this possible? A challenge that can be met or an impossible task?

With the mix of students in a classroom, each class is also an entity, with its own identifying characteristics. The teacher can more easily respond to these, than to the characteristics of each student. Recognising that smaller students need more individual attention, enlightened educators have postulated smaller class sizes for pre-school and elementary children.
It appears that younger children have to be cajoled into studying, and adjusting to formal learning situations.
A high school student or college student, on the other hand, is expected to willingly pursue learning rather than have it pursue him or her!

The Teacher-Learner : an interactive unit

Every teacher knows that children of an age or in the same classroom have different abilities, skills, levels of concentration and understanding. These express themselves in questions, greater attentiveness or puzzlement, hyperactivity or indifference.If you teach more than one group of children in the same class or grade, you find
yourself going at a different pace with each group.

Teaching in this manner is invigorating as students and teacher
exchange positive energy, rather than drain it out of each other.

dolphinIn life we come across teachers both in people and in situations. This learning takes place whether or not we are aware of it. Learning itself will, however, raise our level of awareness. The more aware we are, the more open to learning experiences, and the better we can assimilate them. In the same manner, others learn from us, whether or not they – or even we- are aware of it.

These learning experiences take place at different levels:
dolphinAt one level, there is an exchange of knowledge. Though this seems to be a simple exchange of facts, yet at a deeper level, the facts are transformed in the giving by the learner’s own past experieces. These influence which aspects of the knowledge is attended to; how it is perceived; and where it is assimilated.

dolphinAt another level, there is an exchange of impressions. There are impressions that are formed about the teacher which may also be learnt either positively [“Let me be like that”] or negatively [“I must try not to become that!”]. Often there are feelings of a teacher liking or disliking the child. Mis-communications can result. These influence the acceptance of what is taught.

If learning is not assimilated it is a burden. Like undigested food, it does not nourish, but instead takes energy away.

Do we need to look for the right teachers, the right knowledge, the experience that is right for us? Isn’t it true that it is not a decision that we can make? Perhaps the answer lies in ourselves: it is we who have to be “the right student”; willing and open to learning; discriminating between appropriate and inappropriate perceptions in ourselves; rather than judging the behavior of those sent to guide us.

How is this discrimination achieved? By self-knowledge. This provides a framework for learning to be assimmilated without causing us to be closed to new experiences.


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