Tuesday 14 August 2012

Educational coaching and fear

Here in South Africa I'm picking up an interesting vibe: if you're a teacher in the department of basic education, the system wants you to be scared, very scared. You must do exactly what you're told to do, down to the last detail of task, rubric and mark. You must do this because the system, if obeyed in this slavish way, will save the department from being accused of anything, and the educands cannot do anything except flourish. Teachers, don't use your minds, don't even think about thinking, just do what the system requires. Do all tasks, fill in all rubrics, and please present you file neatly typed out and with everything in the right order. Don't look for sense, reason, motive or meaning, just fulfill the requirements of the system, and you will be fully supported in this endeavour. On the other hand, if anything is missing or can't be verified, your work is questionable, your professionalism suspect.

I'm exaggerating a little, just a little, to make the point.

Christian Nationalism worked this way, too. Even if your thinking didn't tally with what the system wanted, you'd be walking either a tight-rope or the plank.

Fear. The hallmark of a system, any sytem, from a currricular system to a theological system to a financial system being manipulated for purposes that prefer not to be challenged. Yet education and intimidation do not go together very well. If education is about freeing the human spirit to perform with excellence in human affairs - which is what I think and feel it to be - natural fear has little motivating influence here. I don't like fear. If anyone tries to intimidate me, my automatic, instinctive response is to kill. I don't go that far, of course. Emotions can be extremely volatile, and while coaching has numerous ways to tame fierce emotions, formal education can do little other than study the behaviour of the neuron and neuro-transmitters. You can't take out a tyrant by writing a thesis. One of the simplest, most pithy statements I've come across says "Power is taken".

I'm afraid that South Africa will soon see more and more of a bullying attitude from the top. I'm told that Zuma is a charming, firendly man when you're up close, and I can believe it. I'm told how P.W.Botha sent defence force generals packing from his office in tears, and I can believe that, too. I remember well the continuous sense of threat that hovered over the South Africa that I knew before democracy, and I begin to feel the new teeth that would prefer wisdom and clarity to back off. If you work for government, just do your job, keep your head down, be thankful for your pay, and don't try to stand up for or against anything that would make government uncomfortable.  A bit like peasants in mediaeval centuries. So much for formal education. In fact, educated people will soon find no welcome in state schools. They won't fit into the system, and thus the system won't want them. This is one reason why educational coaching has a great opportunity to grow in South Africa, and I encourage teachers who want to have more fruitful influence than CAPS offers to study NLP, to practise biofocusing and apply this to learners. You actually don't apply NLP and biofocusing, you invite and participate. You're a willing partner, not a paid employee.

The system that uses fear - and there are plenty of them - needs the Irish retort. My Irish friend told me all about it. "What did the first Irishman say when he landed in Ireland?" he asked me.
"I don't know," I said, expectantly.
He beamed at me. "Tell us what the system is, because we're against it!"

I'm angry about what I see happening in formal education, especially in respect of the department of basic education. The truth, unpalatable as it may be for some, is that before democracy, education in the nation was a matter of oases in the desert. Democracy has not helped the development of education one bit: soon the oases will have vanished, and the desert will be be the sole reality. Try to prove water from a graph, grow food from baking sand. Cranking up marks while lowering standards and ignoring actual and critical  social situations do not produce highly - performing individuals.

Fortunately, educational coaching is a clear way to counter this dismal future by addressing what's actually present with what actually works. I can't see this happening in state schools, so I expect private strategies and innovation to help the educands to get to where they need to be. Biofocusing is one of these options.

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