Educating from the Heart

When I was a kid,  about twelve years old,  I went to a YMCA special weekend called Inward Bound (the link isn’t to the same program,  but this one is close,  and looks great!). It was for kids all over the state and we learned about ourselves,  about how we’re all different,  and got some great communication tools. One I remember distinctly was called “The Haircut” and it was an entrée into sharing critical feedback with someone else. For example,  if I wanted to tell Bruce that what he said about me to Julie hurt my feelings,  I’d approach Bruce and say “I’d like to give you a haircut.” Because he’d been trained just like I had,  he knew then that his job was to simply listen with an open heart before responding. It was great practice for how to talk with people about difficult things,  and it’s a lesson that’s served me well ever since (36 years). In part I think the experience stands out so strongly because it was so unique. Today,  enter a new book for educators:   Educating from the Heart:  Theoretical and Practical Approaches to Transforming Educationedited by Aostre N. Johnson & Marilyn Webb Neabley. Would that all my teachers had this book,  not only when I was young,  but in every class I’ve ever attended! Educating from the Heart “supports the belief that heart and spirit are intertwined with mind and intellect,  and that inner peace,  wisdom,  compassion,  and conscience can be developed together with academic content and skill.” According to the publisher,  the book is “based on the questions:  ‘What does it mean to educate from the heart? What does it mean to educate with spirit?’ It offers both theoretical overviews and practical approaches for educators,  academics,  education students and parents who are interested in transforming schools. Well-respected voices in the field of education provide a framework that includes recent findings from the world of neuroscience,  as well as fresh perspectives about traditional wisdom. Practicing educators describe methods directly applicable in classrooms. In addition,  many chapters emphasize the importance of educators attending to their own inner lives. The book encourages reinvigorating approaches to learning and teaching that can easily be integrated into both public and private K-12 school classrooms,  with many ideas also applicable to higher education. It supports an educational system based on the beliefs that heart and spirit are intertwined with mind and intellect,  and that inner peace,  wisdom,  compassion,  and conscience can be developed together with academic content and skills.” Sounds pretty great,  doesn’t it? And what’s even better is that our own Peter Perkins,  GLP co-owner and partner,  wrote a chapter in this book entitled Paying Attention to the Whole Self,  in which he shares,  among other things,  his first encounter with a holistic wellness experience “in the mountains of Old Snowmass.” He tells us that what he learned about himself and everyone else during this encounter “planted a persistent question” in his mind. “The persistent question,”  he writes,  “looks mostly like this: 

If holistic wellness is about caring for the whole person,  and if as human beings we are of many dimensions which help us to survive,  to be healthy,  and potentially to thrive,  then what are these essential dimensions, and shouldn’t everyone – parents and friends of youth,  as well as professional teachers,  counselors,  and service providers – know how to tap into them?”

I’d answer that with a resounding YES,  as does everyone else who’s contributed to this welcome book. For more on this subject,  take a look at Talk About Wellness. What have you done in your work that stresses the heart and spirit? Do share!

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