Teaching or Educating: What is the Difference, if there is any?

Someone asked me a really interesting question recently.  She asked me: are you teaching or educating a child?

My initial response made me look like a wide-eyed deer caught in the glare of oncoming headlights.  After a few clarifying questions though, I realised that her view is actually really thought-provoking, and thankfully she was OK with me sharing it here.

The way she defines teaching is as giving the child the information repeatedly until he absorbs it.  The way she defined education is as giving the child the opportunity to learn something, and the child repeats the same action until he absorbs.

My friend really felt that creating opportunities allowed for a parent to build on their children’s inherent capacities, and to eventually make up for their weaknesses.  For example, her son very early on started rolling around, but took his sweet time talking.  So, she provided him with a lot of safe space for him to roll around.  She indirectly encouraged the development of his vocabulary by naming the direction that he was rolling towards and the objects that would attract his attention.

Discipline, in each case, also looks very different.  My friend shared that discipline in the case of education is for the child to sit and follow instructions and absorb the information.  It’s something that isn’t inherent in young children.  In education, however, she felt that the inherent discipline that children have—to repeat, repeat, repeat, and repeat some more—is encouraged.

Now I have to admit that the only reason I kept listening to her was because of her own well-behaved, adventurous, curious, and hilarious children.  All three are between the ages of 5 and 12, and all three have this amazing combination of being mature children.  How was she able to raise these well-behaved children if she didn’t discipline them?

Because, she answered, they have it in them, and their father and I just brought it out. The couple always believed that each child is spiritual in nature and that a parents’ job is two-fold: to hone his inherent strengths, and to build on these strengths to develop more capacities.

My husband and I are still at the beginning of our own journey as parents, so we are focusing on what this means for babies.  My friend’s advice was simple.  Just like children, babies need a balance of both education and teaching.  There are some life-threatening things that you just have to teach your baby as soon as possible—sometimes using a physical reminder (ex: stairs are off-limits and here is a baby gate to remind you.)  But so many other things are opportunities for them to learn so much more than just an action.  My friend shared how letting her son to keep trying to reach for something on his own allowed him to develop perseverance and determination; letting her daughter to carefully examine things at her pace allowed her to develop focus and patience.

Is this going to work?  How well with it work?  And since nothing is formulaic, how will we have to adapt it to our baby?  We have no idea at the moment, and probably whatever idea we develop over the course of the next few weeks and months, well…  Let’s see how this is going to change over the next years, huh?

If you are a mom, I would love to hear about your experience of teaching versus educating!  Or even, if you think there is a difference between the two!  If you are a blogger and have written about this topic, please drop your link below with a small introduction on what you wrote about!

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What’s Love Got To Do With It? The Importance Love In Community-Building

Learning is essential for both personal development and the building of a community.  But it’s easier said than done.  When, for example, one has spent a lot of time and poured a lot of energy into one’s education, it can be quite a blow to hear that one might be wrong.  Similarly, when one identifies oneself with a certain knowledge base, it can be quite difficult when it becomes clear that this knowledge base might be, even just in part, false.

It seems that this difficulty is in large part related to our ego, which can create a formidable barrier between us and something new, even if this something new is clearly better.  The ego is what makes us defensive in the face of something new.  The ego is what can make us lash out in anger at something new.  The ego is what can aggravate us when our ideas, previously avant-garde, now seem obsolete.

Love is one of the best lubricants to facilitate learning despite the ego.  There is the love that others have for us, making of our mistakes nothing more than a passing event that does not define our inner worth.  This same love makes others never feel superior to us because they know more than we do.  This same love makes other happy when we succeed, and proud of us when we surpass them.  There is the love that we have for others, which makes us react to them in a similar fashion.

Then there is the love we should all have for learning.  When we love learning, our identity is not wrapped anymore in what we know; it becomes wrapped in learning.  Someone presenting a new and better idea to us becomes a source of joy as we are able to adjust our knowledge for the better.  Interestingly enough, this love for learning makes us love those that are learning with us, and those that contribute to our learning.

This is why an environment imbued with love is so important to learning, and therefore, to both our personal development and to the building of our communities.

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When Lady Luck Takes Centre Stage: The Importance Of Celebrating Hard Work

We tend to view the world in a fragmented way, so much so that our minds create dichotomies where there are none.  Back in September 2008, I shared my frustration at how Olympians’ achievements were oftentimes chalked up to luck; Usain Bolt’s success, for example, was apparently downplayed because of the genetics that gave him a body designed for running.

I can’t help but wonder how this attitude affects our children.  If my child has a knack for playing the piano, I wouldn’t downplay the hours of practice that make her an advanced, skillful piano player, would I?  Quite the contrary, we are often encouraged to praise the effort that our children put into learning, and not focus on the result itself.

Similarly, Usain Bolt’s success might have begun with a genetic predisposition to running well.  But to downplay the hours that he put not just into training, but also into developing the discipline required in all related areas of his life, just might stain more than just his success.

{ Sahar’s Blog is all about being in a constant state of learning.  So it only made sense for me to go back to all my previous posts and see how my thoughts on certain topics have changed over the last nine years.  In this new, ongoing series of posts, I’ll be rereading some of my older posts and reflecting on the same topic in light of what I’ve learned since then.  It’s going to be very interesting to see how things have changed! }

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Learning From The Little Ones: Daily Lessons In Perseverance

Just like so many others around me, I have been struggling with my relationship with mistakes (as reflected in this, this, and this post).  The beacons lighting the way to a better me become major obstacles to my development when they are seen as negative feedback.

Taking the time to observe a baby at play is quite a revelation.  Have you ever taken the time to watch quietly while a baby played?  I mean, really watched, like, for hours on end.  I have been doing that lately and it has hit me time and again: we are all born with a healthy relationship with mistakes.  They are a constant source of feedback that helps us achieve what we want to achieve.  A baby trying to reach for a toy doesn’t give up; he might make sounds of frustration, but again and again, he tries, taking the time between each try to consider what has happened that he didn’t get the toy, and adjusting his approach.

Sometimes he makes it, sometimes he doesn’t; as one obstacle is surmounted, another appears.  And yet the baby, despite being sometimes quite vocal about the frustration that can be felt in the face of not achieving one’s goal, keeps trying and ultimately, achieved joyous victory.

The Take Away

This is what I want my relationship to be with the process of working towards a goal.  I want to never even consider giving up; I want to vent my frustration and then go at it again, informed from my previous unsuccessful attempts.

Another important thing that I have learned from watching babies at play is this: that if you are constantly distracted from achieving your goal, you are not going to be able to put in the time and effort necessary.  When I brought this back to my own life, I realised that behind every unmet goal was a distraction.

It makes the pursuit of a voluntarily simple life all the more important.  I was talking to a very wise friend of mine who told me she had questioned everything she did in the pursuit of a simple life focused on achieving three goals: having a strong marriage, raising three healthy children, and serving the community.  She told me that by time-tracking everything she did for a few years, she came to realise that she wasted on average three hours a day on things that ultimately served no purpose within the framework of the life she wanted to lead.

So let’s learn from the babies around us; let’s simplify our lives as much as we can, stay focused on our goals, and take the feedback from all our attempts and channel them into refining our approach until we make it.

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Teaching Discipline Rather Than Disciplining

A post I wrote back in September 2008 about doing your best out of fear triggered a reflection on the difference between disciplining your child versus teaching your child discipline.  My husband and I feel strongly that we do not want to discipline our child in the sense of saying no to everything we think she shouldn’t do.

Of course, there are always situations that will warrant a no, but we hope they are an exception.

A Small Example

For example, when it comes to food, we don’t want to have to tell our child what to eat and not to eat.  Rather, we want her to be able to know how to discipline herself and make a good choice depending on the circumstances.  So this means that at home or at regular dinners, she will make healthy choices with little treats here and there, and that at exceptional events, like weddings and parties, she can enjoy all the junk food with a clear conscience.

In this context, she won’t do her best out of fear that she will hear her parents thundering “no”, but rather she will know what to do to make the best of the situation.  She will be both healthy in her daily habits and be able to make healthy exceptions that might weight heavily on her stomach but be delightful for her spirits.

Now the question is, how to achieve this…

A New Series

{ Sahar’s Blog is all about being in a constant state of learning.  So it only made sense for me to go back to all my previous posts and see how my thoughts on certain topics have changed over the last nine years.  In this new, ongoing series of posts, I’ll be rereading some of my older posts and reflecting on the same topic in light of what I’ve learned since then.  It’s going to be very interesting to see how things have changed! }

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Rape Culture: Consent in Movies

I have mentioned before how insidious the negative forces of society can be, and how something that seemed forever innocuous can actually be quite dangerous.

I realised today that there is something we as a society seem to accept wholly and fully that could just be a big part of the rape culture problem.

Picture a big, dramatic love scene between a romantic heroine and the man of the hour.  How does the first kiss usually go?  Most of the time, there is something “spontaneous” about the kiss; one of them, usually the guy, just goes for it, grabs the other, usually the girl, and plants a kiss on their startled mouth.

But guys…  He never asks her if she wants to be kissed.  He doesn’t ask because he assumes that, because she is looking at him a certain way and acting a certain way, she is asking for it.

Doesn’t that ring a large, loud, dangerous bell?

Thankfully the solution is simple.  All that needs to happen from now on is that the guy looks at the girl and asks her: “Can I kiss you?”  Then, after she has stated her consent, he can grab her almost as spontaneously as before and kiss her however way to Sunday.  And I also hope that regularly enough, the girl will say no, and the guy will step back, completely confused of course, but respectful of her wishes.

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Learning To ‘Be’ From The Cradle Up: On The Desire To Constantly Entertain My Baby

One of the elements that I have come to understand as essential to one’s personal growth—mental, spiritual, and emotional—is the ability to sit quietly and just be.  Of course nowadays, there is always something (or rather, a bunch of things!) that is clamouring for our attention, and so we are often left without a second to ourselves.

As I was watching my friends play with my daughter, it hit me that perhaps there is another reason why we are not able to just sit and be.  From the cradle, there seems to always be a need for those around a baby to constantly be in their face.  OK, that sounds bad, but you know what I mean—we are always talking to babies, singing to them, waving toys in their faces, always encouraging movement, and never just letting them be.

I was particularly struck by how there seems to be a conviction that a baby left alone is a baby that is neglected.  My daughter has had the capacity to play by herself from very early on.  And so, my husband and I have made a conscious effort to let her be when she is happily entertaining herself.  And yet, although she is fed, clean, and safe, those around us seem to be quite uncomfortable that we are leaving our baby to her own devices, convinced that good parenting means constantly entertaining her.

But it is becoming increasingly clear that we should leave our daughter to herself when she is perfectly content to do so.  Because the adults around her already have such a tough time creating a space in which they can be by themselves; isn’t it giving our daughter a leg up that, when she does find a space to just be, she knows how to fill it up with joy and wonder?

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Carbs, Garbs, and Barbs: Cooking and Community Building

There is no such thing as a dichotomy. We are noble, spiritual beings, and everything in our lives is meant to help us reach our full capacity. This is why we should challenge ourselves to understand how the various pieces of our life fit together as part of one seamless whole, rather than separate parts that live side by side.

Women are unfortunately judged for the body that we don’t have. You know the one I’m talking about: the firm, flexible, thin and toned body that graces every magazine cover. Objectively, we know what the process behind creating those images is, and we know that looking like that either takes some excellent genes or a lifestyle that many of us cannot afford, either because of a lack of time, or a lack of finances. We also know how enhanced these looks are, through makeup, lighting, the use of special lenses, and, of course, digital manipulation.  But subjectively, many of us kind of want to look like that.

Needless to say, the relationship we have with that perfect, impossible to attain body is a complex one, affecting our relationship with exercise and dieting. These two normal parts of a healthy lifestyle which should be a source of pleasure become instead a bit of a burden. If we eat too many carbs, we won’t fit into the garbs of the size we want to fit in, only to be subjected to many a barb, imagined or real.

This is a very sad state of affairs, mainly because exercise and dieting can be a wonderfully satisfying part of a healthy lifestyle. On a side note, it must be specified that by diet, I mean paying attention to what one eats so as to have good blood pressure, good cholesterol, etc, and not restricting the amount of food one eats for the sake of losing weight. Similarly, by exercising I mean partaking in an enjoyable physical activity that makes one feel energised and happy, not over-exhausting oneself only for the sake of, again, losing weight.

There are so many reasons why exercise and dieting should be a part of a healthy lifestyle, and not just because of its obvious benefits. Many of these benefits are personal, such as developing discipline. But some of them can also benefit the community. For example, when one makes the effort to cook at home with those one lives with, it helps increase the strength of the bonds between the family (or the flatmates). One can invite people over for supper, which can be participatory (pot-luck); one can even invite people over to cook. These all create great opportunities to discuss issues revolving around food, from its benefits to one’s health to the injustices permeating the current food industry.  It also creates great opportunities to develop strong and meaningful friendships.

At the time I first drafted this post, I has been filling my house with people. In the three weeks prior, I had had some 40 people over at different times.  I noticed that even with those with whom I am already good friends, something changes for the better after I willingly open my home to them. And since one of my main passions is community-building, one can easily understand why I have been collecting recipes for so long.

Another thing I did, which long time readers of my blog will not be surprised by, is watching TED talks about the topic. One in particular tickled my fancy: Jamie Oliver’s passion for the cause of better nutrition is infectious. But just as I was about to rededicate my life to it, I remembered a sobering fact: there are thousands of causes worth fighting for. So I put down the phone – I was about to call my boss and quit (OK, maybe that’s a mild exaggeration right there) – and instead, I decided to see what I could do in my day to day life to make food, a vital part of my life, contribute to my efforts to build a community.

I know how to cook. I’m no Jamie Oliver, but I can whip up simple and tasty dishes easily and quickly. I also am involved in community building at the grassroots. I cooked for all of the abovementioned forty people, many of whom do not know how to do so themselves. And a couple of times, I cooked alongside someone who had never made anything more complex than Kraft dinner.

I soon realised that I had the answer before me all along. I had been subconsciously coherent, in that my cooking was already helping the community building process I was involved in. At the simplest level, the fact that I was cooking for all these people made them feel welcome in my home. And at a level that is slightly more complex, I had been helping friends who do not know how to cook to learn this important skill. I’m sure that what I have been doing is nowhere near what I could do, but it’s definitely a great beginning. The first steps had been taken subconsciously, and now, consciously aware of the potential that cooking has in community building, I can take more steps to integrate the two. For example, I can cook with different people, both novices and experts, increasing bonds of friendship and skills at the same time.

But perhaps even when I am not cooking, I can help make eating a community-building experience. I can contribute to making each occasion involving food a festive, elevated and joyful one, from the planning phase to cleaning up after; instilling everything that has to do with food with the same joy that can be found in other aspects of community building. It’s also a fair thing I can do, since the same person bearing the burden of feeding is not really just. And also talk – reflect – consult with others about this process in the hopes of generating learning and creating a positive mindset about food.

And, seeing the importance that dieting has on both personal and community development, I refuse to let that impossible female body ruin the potential food has to better myself and the community in which I live.

Move over, Barbie, make way for an Easy Bake Oven.

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Honouring Our Parents By Parenting Our Children

It feels like whatever I do, I can never repay my parents for everything they have done for me.  And since I got married, I feel like whatever my husband and I do, we can never repay our parents for everything they have done for us as individuals and as a couple.

And—not to sound too depressing—I don’t think we ever can repay our parents, to be honest.  The only thing we can do is try.

A bunch of my friends and I have been trying for years to repay my parents with both little and big things.  Gifts, considerations, exceptions, decisions, all made with our parents in mind, with the hope that the little joys we can offer them can pile up into something worthwhile.  The process has brought us all a lot of joy, and we can tell that our parents are appreciative of it as well.  A great beginning!

As we started having our own children, things suddenly got a little easier.  It came to us through a big ah-ha moment at a coffee shop one weekend: that the best way we can hope to come close to repaying our parents is by honouring them.  And the best way we can honour them is by paying it forward—by giving to our own children what our parents gave us.

And funnily enough, it makes even the toughest times with our little ones so much easier.

When we rock our baby to sleep, we remember what our parents did for us; we think of our parents and thank them for giving us the strength to keep rocking our baby to sleep.

When we hold our baby through a crying spell, we remember our parents’ patience and thank them for being an example of patience we can uphold before our baby.

When our plans get thrown out of the window because our baby’s schedule suddenly and unexpectedly changes, we remember our much of our parents’ plans we ourselves ruined, thank them for being so understanding of our developmental needs and remember to be just as understanding with our baby.

When dietary restrictions make our diets ever so bland, we remember how our parents would deny themselves treats so that we wouldn’t be unfairly tempted, and we find sweet taste in our food.

It’s very humbling, guys, how having a baby helps us become a better person as well as helps us honour our parents.

Gosh, do we owe our little ones a lot.

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What’s Love Got To Do With It? The Importance Love In Community-Building

Learning is essential for both personal development and the building of a community.  But it’s easier said than done.  When, for example, one has spent a lot of time and poured a lot of energy into one’s education, it can be quite a blow to hear that one might be wrong.  Similarly, when one identifies oneself with a certain knowledge base, it can be quite difficult when it becomes clear that this knowledge base might be, even just in part, false.

It seems that this difficulty is in large part related to our ego, which can create a formidable barrier between us and something new, even if this something new is clearly better.  The ego is what makes us defensive in the face of something new.  The ego is what can make us lash out in anger at something new.  The ego is what can aggravate us when our ideas, previously avant-garde, now seem obsolete.

Love is one of the best lubricants to facilitate learning despite the ego.  There is the love that others have for us, making of our mistakes nothing more than a passing event that does not define our inner worth.  This same love makes others never feel superior to us because they know more than we do.  This same love makes other happy when we succeed, and proud of us when we surpass them.  There is the love that we have for others, which makes us react to them in a similar fashion.

Then there is the love we should all have for learning.  When we love learning, our identity is not wrapped anymore in what we know; it becomes wrapped in learning.  Someone presenting a new and better idea to us becomes a source of joy as we are able to adjust our knowledge for the better.  Interestingly enough, this love for learning makes us love those that are learning with us, and those that contribute to our learning.

This is why an environment imbued with love is so important to learning, and therefore, to both our personal development and to the building of our communities.

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