I was recently offered an amazing reflection from my dog, Dood, which seemed to me to reflect the impact that loving care has on learning. Being a teacher, I have observed that children learn much more easily when they have a good connection with their teacher. This experience with my dog clearly and simply validated my observation that the relationship between teacher and student is fundamental and foundational for supporting student learning in all subject areas, especially in the area of basic self-care.
Dood spends his days outside in our extensive yard and on the verandah. He is allowed inside at night to sleep on his personal armchair. Dood usually sleeps on top of his pink blanket on his chair and I then place it on the verandah for airing during the day.
A few weeks ago winter hit unexpectedly, bringing with it cold winds that had a definite bite in them. This caused overnight temperatures to drop to the level of bitterly cold. So each night during this cold snap, I would tuck Dood in very lovingly to make sure that he remained warm overnight. I made sure his blanket cradled his whole body and pulled it up over his head to keep him snug, cosy and warm. Sometimes, I would sing as I did this and our nightly ritual always ended by my planting a tender kiss on the top of his head. Dood often sighed contentedly as I did this. This ritual ended when the cold snap passed.
A week or so later, we experienced the same winds during the day. Dood’s pink night blanket was as usual on the verandah fence airing, and his day bed, a cushion-y mat, was on the verandah floor. I had been in a room at the back of the house, however as I came back into the kitchen, my jaw dropped, as I noticed what Dood had done to keep himself warm from the bitter winds.
He had placed his day bed next to the dining chairs to shelter it. He had then removed the pink blanket from the fence where I had placed it for airing and had positioned it in a perfectly symmetrical way on his bed: somehow he had folded it in half straight down the middle so that it covered the bed squarely. He had then taken the top half of the blanket and used it very precisely to cover the whole of his body as he lay on the mat. Even his head was covered in the identical manner in which I had covered it the preceding week. And he was fast asleep, content and snug, just as he had been when I tucked him in myself during our nightly ritual.
I marvelled at the precision of the placement of the blanket and how he had managed to fold it meticulously in a straight line down the middle. Had he really accomplished all of this just by using his teeth?
As I reflected, I realised that ‘how he did it’ was possibly not as remarkable as the fact that he had done it, and that he was confirming the role of loving care in learning. Dood’s a dog and he has accomplished this skill with such ease because of the tenderness I was bringing to this task, and to him, every night for a week. He appreciated that and so could then master this skill, one of loving self-care, all by himself, under this shared impulse of warmth, tenderness and care.
Now, if a mere dog can master such an unlikely skill simply because of the care he felt, how important is loving care in supporting the learning of our children in schools?
I would say it is foundational and I question what we are all missing out on by not having care, love and tenderness as integral to our education system. What effect would this level of connection and inspiration have on the student–teacher relationship and so, ultimately, on learning and on the quality of ambient energy in schools?
Thank you, Dood, for providing this lesson in loving care.
Dedicated to all those who make life about Love and Truth and who reflect what true education is and what is possible through loving care.