“What Do You Teach?” was the title of a presentation I gave many years ago as a corporate “diversity” session I volunteered to do. It has remained my all-time favorite presentation both preparing it and giving it.
I created the presentation around the concepts of self-fulfilling prophecy and tacit learning. I put to use some of the research I had done in my master’s program when I was getting certified to teach. These two concepts seemed key to me in understanding how we learn. Having left the teaching profession and re-joined corporate America, I had the realization that each of us teaches every day of our lives whether we realize we are teaching or not. We are teaching each other what is “normal,” acceptable behavior. What is tolerable and intolerable. What is right and wrong.
Somewhat ironically, it wasn’t the master’s program that brought home to me the nature of how we unconsciously teach one another, it was the need to retrain a dog who had dog aggression issues. In that experience so many years ago, I learned all the things I was doing that were telling my dog to behave in ways I didn’t want her to behave. In coming to understand how dogs interpret our behaviors, I gained insight into how fellow humans interpret them as well. This was one of the big “ah-ha” moments in my life and I need to revisit it because I seem to have strayed from the path of thinking about what I am teaching on a daily basis–in particular, what I am teaching myself.
Each time I skip a meal, eat junk, skip a workout, or engage in other unhealthy choices, I teach myself I am not deserving of care and maintenance. The underlying message is “these other things you do are more important than your own basic needs.” I would never ask anyone to skip meals because of something I wanted them to do, why do I expect it of myself?
Every time I allow myself to worry on something I cannot change, I am teaching myself that my energy is better wasted than on being used productively. I would never ask anyone to think about something over and done beyond considering the lesson from the experience and deciding how that applies to the present and future. Why do I ask myself to replay the same scene over and over again ad nauseum?
Each time I call myself “you idiot,” I teach myself that I do not deserve the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them. I cannot claim that I would never call someone else an idiot (inside my head or while driving, anyway) but in general, I am far more tolerant of someone else’s mistakes than I am of my own.
In thinking about treating myself the way I would treat a cherished loved one, I realized I have done no cherishing of me at all. Time to create a new lesson plan.