Schools spend many hours managing students’behaviour. In some cases, doing so can starkly eclipse much of what ought to be going on during a school day. At the root of poor classroom behaviour is a lack of awareness of the effects one person can have on others. ‘Happy people don’t shout’, as the saying goes; if people are misbehaving, it’s because they are in pain… and it’s my belief that instead of adding to that pain, schools should take time to understand whence it is coming.
Loving Classroom, of which I am the founder, is an international schools programme to help young people aged 12 years and older cultivate a lifetime of good relationships: at home, with friends, in school, at the future workplace, within communities and eventually between cultures and nations. The programme is based on training teachers to facilitate and develop eight lessons in their classroom: Respect, Compassion, Listening, Kindness, Gratitude, Love, Care and Friendship. In addition, by accentuating the positive, there’s a natural reduction in the negative: bullying, anger, disruption, selfishness and apathy. After completing the initial course, classes will be linked with other schools of diverse backgrounds, locally and internationally, in order to cultivate a loving world.
Across the divide
As a team, we visit schools to help them implement Loving Classroom and evaluate its impact. While doing so last month I asked a class of 14-year-olds, “So what do you think of Loving Classroom? Maybe learning about love is too gooey and boring…?”
A girl at the back spoke up, “I’d like to answer. Please understand, many of us here are growing up in unhappy homes, and this is the first time I’ve experienced what it’s like being in a loving group. This is more than a class. It’s life! It’s what it’s all about.”
Meanwhile, in a private, London-based school I asked the headmaster whether he thought that the programme was really relevant in such a well-heeled environment. He pointed out that wealth and privilege don’t protect young people from bullying and unhappiness, adding, “We need loving classrooms. We don’t want our students going out to the world selfish, caring only for their own needs and desires, rather, we want them genuinely to care for both themselves and the rest of society.”
The course is built on 4 Hs:
The Humanity Being
Just like a human being is made up of various parts, together producing the ‘onederful’ human experience, so too, in the ‘humanity being’, the goal is for all the unique parts of humanity to work together in harmony. Throughout the course, we have all sorts of stories and exercises to make the small and big ideas real and exciting.
This is about what it takes for people of diverse backgrounds and opinions to want to caringly communicate, to dialogue (win-win) as opposed to debate (win-lose).
This part is about recognising and feeling that everyone we come into contact with is a precious part of the humanity being (we also deal with understanding how the challenges of terrorism fit into the model).
Finally, we cover converting good thoughts and feelings into action.
The process of training to run the course effectively is simple and cheap:
a) Read the book
b) Watch the 18-minute training video on lovingclassroom.com
c) Have a Q&A meeting with us, in person or via a computer video conference.
From all the definitions of love that are presented in the book (from diverse sources around the world, showing how all our cultures are bottom line wanting a loving world) my present one-line definition was inspired by Confucius: “To love a thing is wanting it to live”, or as I put it, to love a thing is to want it to be fulfilled. In Loving Classroom, we train to feel that for all we meet. In short, it is my firm belief that:
1. ‘Loving people’ is a skill that can be learned, like a sport, profession, driving or wine-tasting.
2. When people care for one another, they’ll both want to and find a way to overcome any conflict.
3. A flourishing 21st century can be built on ‘Loving People’, inspired by relationship education in schools worldwide.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Geffen holds a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from Leeds University, and is the founder of Common Denominator Israel and Loving Classroom International (lovingclassroom.com)