By Alia Aurami for Enlivening Edge Magazine
Introduction by Jean-Paul Munsch, Guest Editor of EE Magazine’s Education edition:
This piece leaves me wide awake. Intrigued by the warm tone that is set from the very beginning, I’m struck by the human depth and the kindness of the questions. What looks like a checklist for educators is much more than that: it is a rich and stimulating source for all of us. With increasing consciousness, I ask myself while reading mindfully: Which question strikes me most? Which one triggers me most? Which question do I like most? And which one touches me most—and why?
If Teal as a stage in the development of consciousness transcends and includes all previous stages, then any situation created for the learning/education of children, which purports to be from Teal consciousness, must, it seems to me, involve the healthy inclusion of all stages represented in the children. In other words, all these aspects of being human, would—to the extent they were present and accounted for in the design of the situation—optimize the learning possible for the students.
These are my interpretations, based on my decade of study of Spiral Dynamics (link is to an overview of the book) stages; my words are meant to stimulate your own interpretations. At the least, we might consider these stages as dimensions of any educational situation, that could be used to evaluate it for completeness, effectiveness, and healthfulness.
These suggestions are meant to pertain to children of any age. And to any educational or learning context, whether that be a daycare, school, home-schooling, a training program, a class, a course, an apprenticeship, etc. For every child of every age in every situation, all the following elements could be present. It takes Teal consciousness to design such situations, and to creatively implement and keep refining them.
Of course, there are a huge number of other characteristics of educational/learning situations that would follow a developmental trajectory, and this is one simplified framework to help us spot gaps that might usefully get filled!
Are the children kept warm, rested yet exercised, clean, and well-fed? Do they feel safe? Are their needs for movement and expressiveness given adequate scope? (Hint: children do not normally learn from listening while sitting in chairs.) Do they have adults they can cling to, retreat to, feel taken care of and supported by? Are they allowed to “run in packs” and engage in other behaviors like the young animals they are? Is their natural curiosity fed and encouraged?
Are they allowed to experiment and make mistakes that are regarded as ways to learn? Do they learn the basics of socializing behaviors, and the basics of social rules as well as laying foundations for the innate capacity for empathy? Is their environment stimulating but not over-stimulating, and is it at least esthetically pleasant if not beautiful?
Are they outdoors a lot of the time? Are they NOT subjected to harmful pollution of any kind, electromagnetic included? Is their sheer joy in being alive and active and aware, supported? What direct and respectful experiences do they have of other living creatures, plants, and other aspects of Nature?
Are their natural learning styles and preferences built on as strengths? (For example, do they learn best from visual, auditory, or kinesthetic cues, are their handedness preferences respected, etc.?)
Do the children have a basic sense of belonging? How integrated is their family into the educational/learning situation? Is their sense of the wonder and mystery of life supported? Does each child have tasks and responsibilities and roles which help them feel part of a group? How exposed are they to folks of all ages? Are there sufficient routines, rules, and rituals to provide them with a healthy sense of stability, predictability, and mastery? Are they given glimpses of a larger world, enough to draw their curiosity but not so much that they feel helpless and overwhelmed? Do they learn to function in groups with differentiated roles? Are their unique natural talents and gifts encouraged to be exercised and flourish? Are they supported to laugh together, dance together, create together?
Are they taught to take responsibility for and to exercise the authority of their own wellbeing, to the extent they are able? Are they allowed and encouraged to begin to meet their own needs? Is every aspect of their individuality respected and evoked? Are they allowed to begin to exercise leadership and influence with others? Are their long-term interests fostered such that they become experts at something? Is their unique creativity evoked and amplified? Are their quirks accepted?
Are there clear and consistently maintained boundaries, both physical and social, they must learn to respect in order to have safety and enjoyable human interactions? Are they encouraged to form relationships based on perceived similarities (rather than as previously, on the givenness of family or the unquestioned relationship of sheer physical proximity?) Is their ability to see similarities and differences in more abstract ways, amplified?
As appropriate for their age:
Are they encouraged to set their own goals and work toward their own definition of success? Are they encouraged to find their own role models to emulate? Are they helped to understand that they have potentials and possibilities they can move toward? Is their scope of caring and concern encouraged to expand beyond even people who are similar, so they begin to form a respect for all of humanity that gets translated into caring behaviors? Do they learn to organize their activity toward a purpose, and set priorities based on the purpose?
As appropriate for their age:
Are their natural empathic capacities encouraged and supported? Are they taught some simple basic conflict-resolution strategies and encouraged to experiment with developing their own? Do they learn to really listen to others? Are they helped toward “emotional literacy” and supported in their natural growth toward self-understanding and self-acceptance? Do they receive both modeling of and instruction in considering the perspectives of others? Are they provided with experiences to differentiate power-over and empowerment?
As appropriate for their age:
Are they supported to see something valuable in views they oppose? Are they helped to use purposes to set priorities and hierarchies of value? Do they receive experiences to perceive that internal consistency of values is important and feels good? Are they supported in perceiving not just relationships but systems, and in predicting the consequences of any change or action for every part of an affected system?
What questions would you add, and where would you put those? Are you thinking already about an educational situation and mapping the above questions onto it? How’s it mapping, and what is creatively arising in you from this exercise? What can you contribute to the usefulness of this kind of exercise? How useful would these practices be in the learning/education situations you have influence on?
Alia Aurami: I came across Spiral Dynamics Integral in 2006, and immediately absorbed it as a terrifically useful perspective on the development of consciousness in individuals and groups. It also facilitates expression of my sacred life mission: to amplify our human capacity for living, working, and relating within shared higher consciousness. Within Enlivening Edge, I energize a variety of roles to satisfy the variety of my life experience. This article emerged partly from my years teaching kids and grownups, and being a clinical psychologist.