Guest post: Teaching from the Heart by Denise Keene

As a special education teacher living in the United States, my job is to apply specific teaching techniques to educate children with special needs. The work is not easy. There is a lot of personal struggle on the part of the students. Many of them display frustration with themselves (and with you, the teacher) on a daily basis. Verbal communication is often difficult to understand for both the students and the teachers, as many of my students have delayed language skills. The classroom is often a storm of chaos.

However, within all this confusion, there is a silent understanding between myself and my students. This understanding is made possible not through words but through actions and feelings. As many know, human beings can and do communicate with one another through the energy we give off and the body language we use. Although my students never look me in the eye and say, “thank you for teaching me, Mrs. Keene,” I know that they appreciate me. Their happy energy and unexpected hugs tell me so. And although I can’t express to them how much I care through words, I know that they understand my love for them, because I remain positive that they will eventually learn everything.

We are able to have this mutual understanding, because I practice teaching from the heart. This is an action that sounds like it is difficult to master, but it is actually quite simple. All it means is that you leave behind all your pre-conceived notions about learning. It also means that you refrain from thinking of yourself as a master of the subject you are teaching and more of a nurturing guide. Instead of just repeating information to your students, you guide them to the information through hands-on, self-operated activities. This is especially important for teachers of special needs children, because most students with special needs don’t respond to long informative speeches or verbal directions. They are visual and active learners.

For me, teaching from the heart also means throwing scheduled “learn by” dates out the window. This is a practice that is very difficult for people to accept, because we have been brainwashed to believe that all humans should be able to learn at the same rate. This is not true in special education, and it isn’t true in regular education, either. The saddest thing is to see a child who has been made to think they aren’t smart, because they didn’t learn to complete a certain task by a certain date. This kind of learning is based on pressure, stress, unwarranted feelings of defeat and more attention given to the performance rating of the overall school than the education of the individual child. These things do not happen when you teach from the heart.

In a nutshell, when you allow your heart to guide your teaching practices, you create a more nurturing learning environment for your students; an environment that produces a more positive response from students and excites more interest in learning.

Denise Keene has been a Special Education teacher for 15 years and likes to write articles about various related topics. She also owns the site <a href=http://www.mastersinspecialeducation.org>Masters In Special Education</a>.

Hang on to your seats… here we go with home schooling!!!

This poor neglected blog has been sitting idle for so long that it is growing cobwebs… and my dashboard tells me that the maximum viewers I have had in a day for more than a year is about 6. Today i posted a link to the home schooling network I have just joined here in Pakistan, and my stats have shot up to over 80 views in a day!!! MashAllah! What that tells me is that perhaps there is a good reason to start writing again, since home schooling is my new passion and is clearly the passion of plenty of other people around.

So here I go…. back to the blog inshAllah!!

We have been back in Pakistan for almost 4 years now, and that has involved 3.5 years of screaming at the Pakistani schooling system that says that the best way for kids to learn is to cram information down their throats and see how well they can regurgitate it. After 3.5 years of this torture (I am a bit slow really) I finally and very suddenly decided that enough was enough, and i was going to yank my kids out of school and start home schooling. While I was screaming all those years, my kids were crying with frustration at the same school system – the 10kg bags they had to lug to school every day, the 30 minutes drive to and from which in summer was nigh on unbearable, the insensitivity of the teachers, the stupidity of many of the kids, the massive waste of time that went on nearly every day when teachers were absent or busy etc etc etc. Not to mention the inordinate amount of stress heaped on the kids to do exams every 2 months, maintain their performance, come first in the class blah blah blah.

I am sorry, but this is not MY philosophy of education.

I have long held a private dream to start a school called ‘Love of Learning’…. but i never realised it was going to be with my own kids! I believe that school should teach children to learn rather than shove information down their throats. I believe that if kids learn at their own pace and the things that they want to learn, then there will not be a dread associated with it, but rather a love. I also believe that the basis of all learning for Muslim kids should be Islamic character. What does it really mean to be a Muslim… how to behave, how to treat others, how to think and how to relate to Allah, because as we all know, Islam is a complete way of life. Why is it then that in school it is just one tiny subject, and taught in such a boring way that everyone dreads it from the earliest days of school until the end?

So we are home schooling, and of course it is not as easy as it looks!! In fact the first month was filled almost entirely with horseriding (which we now finally have time to do). The second month is so far about me getting my act together as a teacher and deciding how much of the school curriculum we should be doing, and how much of our own projects. Does it matter that the kids are getting behind their school friends? Are we doing enough? Should we be working towards the O level exams or just doing our own thing? Should I stop them playing on their computers?

So far the biggest sign of success is that the kids don’t complain about school in the mornings. I wouldnt say we are ‘loving learning’ just yet… give us another few months for that!! But we are certainly ‘liking’ it a whole lot more, and that is a significant victory. Al Hamdulillah!!!

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