In this season of giving, we have been exposed to not so generous actions on behalf of a good deal (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_adgG8Ba2Q). Many of us shook our heads in amazement and utter dismay, but we have all taken advantage of the sales. Whether it was on Black Friday or some other day during this season, we have all worked hard at some time or another to give the perfect gift (at a ‘good’ price). What we as a society may have forgotten is that true giving comes in the form of truly loving and accepting someone for who they are. Wait! What does this have to do with learning? Well, a heck of a lot if you think about it.
I was reminded of this when one of my students in my math class was having difficulty doing simple multiplication problems in his head. Throughout the class, I have encouraged him to use his calculator to do these, but have consistently asked him to learn them without that crutch. As the term came to an end, I asked him what was going on in his life during the second and third grade when he would have learned his multiplication tables. It was during this time in his life that he was removed from his home for the first time and put into foster care. And that is just the tip of the iceberg of all that was really happening. For this student, multiplication tables have been imbued with emotional trauma that prevents him from learning or memorizing them like many of us did back at that age. The disruption of feeling loved at that time impeded his cognitive development and today he is still feeling those effects.
David Richo in his book, How to be an Adult in Love, uses a common experience of coming home and showing our work to a parent. Remember, doing an art or science project in class, or maybe it was a spelling quiz. You get home and say, ‘Look what I have done!’ In that situation he argues, we were expressing our desire for the five A’s: attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allowance. In this common anecdote, we were communicating, “Pay attention to me; accept me; appreciate what I have done; show affection; and allow me to go on doing this without interference or interruption.” If we did not receive these important affirmations, then they express themselves in our adulthood whether through our personal relationships, or as in the case of my sweet student, in simple multiplication.
So in this season of giving, I would like to encourage you to give the best thing you can give that no dollar, euro, or peso can buy – the gift of the five A’s. You may never know how deeply it may impact that person. But if you find them learning new things with joy and vigor, then you know you have created a nourishing ground of love and acceptance.
Happy Holidays to all.