Monday, February 13, 2017

The Five Thought Needs: #3 - Safety

The relationship between the five thought needs is like the relationship between the senses. It is rather difficult to tease out one completely from another. This is quite true when we come to the third need, safety. Without proper control and attention, a teaching environment will feel unsafe, and, in the case of safety, feelings tend to dominate.

If you have ever had a teacher who made you feel unsafe, you understand this without further explanation. The situation may have been one in which you did not feel valued as an individual, where you felt like you had to kowtow to everything that was told to you. Maybe you felt intimidated by a powerful teacher or even an important venue.  Perhaps there were environmental conditions that caused you to feel uneasy, especially if you are a person with a high sensitivity to certain stimuli.

Despite the physical changes we can make in our teaching environment to make it safer, we are also charged to be supportive of each student's individuality in order to create an emotionally safe place. Avoid comparing students to each other. They will do plenty of that on their own! Support their good ideas, and redirect the ideas that are less helpful. While I keep a "NO!" button in my studio, I have learned to be less dogmatic and more experimental in my teaching.

If you have a big personality with lots of energy, consider how that could overwhelm the shy student. If a student won't talk to you at all, you may need to let that be a sign that the student is anxious for unknown reasons. Try turning down your personal energy a bit. This student may also benefit from more physical space between teacher and student. This student probably won't benefit from being forced to speak up! I have had students who took many months to share bits of information with me. It was worth the wait.

Some students also feel safer when a parent is in the lesson, especially very young students. As long as the parent is instructed to avoid acting like a second teacher, this can work very well. It will be obvious when the student is ready to give the parent the boot! However, a parent who wants to take charge and can't resist adding advice may increase the anxiety level.

Sometimes, of course, students create their our own unease by negative self-talk. The anxiety that comes with negative assumptions makes a student feel unsafe.  One of my students, ready to go for his recital, decided to spend the twenty minute car ride to the venue telling himself that he would fail. As you might assume, this false assumption caused him to make some major errors in performance that had never happened before. Fortunately, he felt safe in telling me this at his next lesson, giving us the opportunity to explore the whole experience rather than let it remain a dismal failure in his memory.

Emotional and physical safety tie in to the next thought need: connection.

No comments:

Post a Comment