Today I will write about a personal choice that influences my teaching style: the choice of contemplating reality through an integractive vision.
We all see and build reality through a concrete vision. No one can avoid that. It is very important to be conscious of how we see and construct reality, especially if you are a teacher, because teachers help their students to realize their own vision. What are my principles for building my vision of reality? How accurate is my reality perception? How integractively coherent is my reality? What is the point of view of my reality? These are all very important questions that usually are not assumed consciously. Let’s answer each one of those questions.
What are my principles for building my vision of reality? I have a very concrete foundation for building my vision of reality: integraction, or personal formation’s growth. That’s why I call my vision an “integractive vision”: the foundation of my vision of reality are the human growth processes, or how the person grows, humanely and ecclesially, until becoming who is meant to be. In everything I see I ask myself how this or that helps people’s personal growth, how it informs, conform, transform and reform the whole personal formation, how it helps the person to be the best person he or she can be. With “integraction” I do not mean my own personal formation’s growth, but personal formation’s growth according to truth.
How accurate is my reality perception? With “accurate” I mean “non-ideological”. I will explain what I mean with “non-ideological”.
Usually our reality’s vision is perceived as “liberal” (left direction) or “conservative” (right direction). In integraction, the left and right directions (emanations) of the integractor are interpreted in a very different way: one direction is meant to be actuality and the other direction is meant to be potentiality. This is a very different notion of “right” and “left”: it is not an “ideological perception” but an “integractive perception.” The direction of the integractive perception depends on the actuality and potentiality of personal formation’s growth, not upon “conservative directions” or “liberal directions. This can be very hard to understand to people that are used to perceive everything as “conservative” or “liberal.” Having an integractive perception of reality means that it is perfectly possible to affirm both “conservative directions” and “liberal directions”, because it all depends on what helps the whole person to be, to do, to grow and to radiate until becoming the best person he or she could be. There are some “liberal directions” that inform, can conform, transform and reform all the personal formation’s growth, like defending the poor and standing for immigrants and refugees. At the same time, there are some “conservative directions” that also can inform, conform, transform and reform all the personal formation’s growth, like defending the life of the unborn, defending religious freedom and defending a strong economy. There are “liberal directions” that are against the integraction, actual or potential, of the whole personal formation of everyone, like promotion abortion, and there are “conservative directions” that also are against the integraction, actual or potential, of the whole personal formation of everyone, like promoting the use of guns. The integractive perception relies on whatever helps the person, potentially or actually, to be, to do, to grow and to radiate as the best person he or she can become, no matter if it may come from the “conservative direction” or from the “liberal direction”. From the integractive perspective, the conservative and liberal issue really doesn’t matter at all: both can be right sometimes, and both can be wrong sometimes. What’s right is right no matter which ideology proposes it; what’s wrong is wrong no matter which ideology proposes it. What matters in the integractive perception is the actuality and the potentiality of integraction, of the personal formation’s growth processes. Whatever breaks or hurts any of those processes is wrong, not matter if it comes from the conservative side or from the liberal side.
One particular detail on this conservative and liberal issue: it is usually understood that the “creative” side are liberals and the “traditional” side are conservatives. I am both highly creative and highly traditional (yes, you can be both at the same time), but I do not define myself as liberal or conservative, but as integractive. It always surprises me when people can’t conceive another perception beyond “liberal” and “conservative”. I really don’t understand why being creative and being traditional should be perceived as opposed to each other, as some insist to promote. Let me be clear: there is absolutely nothing wrong in being conservative or being liberal, I am no one to judge anyone. However, there is absolutely nothing wrong in not perceiving reality with a “liberal direction” or a “conservative direction” neither. The constant war between conservatives and liberals, even inside the Church, is a waste of time and cognitive energy for me. I pass of having an oppositional perception, I choose to have an affirmative perception. I prefer to invest my cognitive energies and my time in affirming the best personal formation’s growth possible, potential an actual, for everyone. As you may guess, due this I have been seen as an “opposition” by both conservatives and liberals. My intention is not opposing anyone, I really don’t need to oppose anyone. I only need to oppose to whatever hurts or breaks personal formation’s growth processes, whatever hurt or breaks human dignity. I merge “pro-choice” and “pro-life” in a single expression: “pro-growth.” I am “pro-choice” in the sense that I affirm that everyone is entitled, just for being human being, to the choice of grow, including the unborn. I am “pro-life” in the sense that I affirm that everyone is entitled to a life of growth. For me, both “pro-choice” and “pro-life” can mean “pro-growth.”
What is the difference between an ideology and an integraction? Ideology is based in a system of personal values. Integraction is based in a system of personal formation. The personal formation includes values, but it doesn’t force a certain set of values, as ideologies does. An ideological perception models the personal formation processes according to values. An integractive perception models the values according to the personal formation processes. This is what I mean with “integractive perception”, in its both directions, actuality and potentiality. For concluding this I am departing from both ecclesial and human integration: spiritual/organic-intellectual-social discernment (contemplation/observation-ponderation-interaction). Answering how “accurate” the reality perception requires to integrate all of those kinds of discernment. How integractively coherent is my reality? This refers to how integration, action, realization and projection are in harmony between them, forming a whole unity, and also refers to the universality of the growth’s affirmation. For example: if I affirm the best growth possible for everyone, the same applies to the unborn and to those who identify themselves as LGBT, and the same applies in my action, in my realization in my projection, it is not only an “intellectual idea”, a “social construct” or an “organic image”. If you are integractively coherent, the affirmation of the best personal formation possible for everyone must be equally consistent in all the personal formation growth processes: in the integration, in the action, in the realization and in the projection. If you are integractively coherent, you can’t act affirming the best personal formation of everyone but not project yourself affirming the same. For example: you can’t act promoting the best growth possible for everyone and project yourself with an abortion or not respecting those who identify themselves a LGBT people. Something is wrong in the integractive coherence if that happens.
What is the point of view of my reality? The best growth possible of everyone, not only mine. Is not merely and “I” point of view: it is the point of view of the “I” and the “we” in communion. No matter how “alone” someone could think he or she is, I write “alone” that way because I believe that if we grow we are necessarily growing in communion, with God and with the other, as brothers and sisters of the same human family. Human being is that way, only grows in communion. That’s the point of view: communion, “personal giftedness” (the self-giving to others as a gift), both humanely (human fraternity, helping to be, to do, to grow and to radiate as the best person we can be, becoming living signs of humanity) and ecclesially (sacramental fraternity, helping to be, to do, to grow and to radiate as incarnated sacraments, becoming living signs of God’s Love).
There is a very important issue about reality that must be considered consciously too: no human being can control reality, only God can. No matter how much information about a person’s life we may have, even if we manage to access very sensible information about his or her most intimate spiritual conscience, only God can control his or her reality. Many ideological influences may seem to try to control reality through several methods (for example: through control of conscience, or through control of information), but at the very end, only God can control it, and He always amazes everyone with His Love’s surprises. God’s Love, being loved by God, is human being’s most evident reality: everything else is radiated from that Love. There is no brighter clarity in reality than contemplating how we are loved by God and there is no deeper mystery in reality than confessing that God is Love, so our humanity is created by Love, for Love and with Love.
All this means that progress, for me, is not an ideological progress, the progress of propagation of some values. Progress is the unconditional promotion of the best personal growth possible for everyone, no matter in which developmental stage the person is and no matter the sexual diversity, the political diversity, the functional diversity, the gender diversity… Progress is learning to recognize ourselves as growing persons with equal dignity, with all the consequences that this implies. We are very far away of accomplishing the best growth possible for everyone. We are very far away of achieving a better understanding, recognition and promotion of all the personal formation’s processes in every person. We still rely the worth of the person in ideological values, instead of valuing ideologues according to the worth of the person. Humanity needs true progress and true tradition: humanity need the best personal growth possible for everyone, not only to those who seem convenient according to a certain ideology. We need to learn how to embrace our whole personal formation and help each other to become the best person we can become just because we recognize each other as human family, not because someone stands my own ideological values, so it is convenient to me to helping him or her to grow. Not recognizing every human being as a person unconditionally worthy of growth, denying the personal formation’s growth of some human beings, is the biggest injustice of our times.
How all these details about my integractive vision influence my teaching style? Well, first of all, for me teaching is a radiation of Love. Actually, the whole personal formation’s growth is a radiation of Love that creates communion, family and community. No matter what, the student must know that he or she is unconditionally loved in every growth stage, including when he or she commits a mistake. Although I never had the need to talk about God’s Love in any of my English classes (no religious theme has been discussed in any of my English classes), I try and pray for the grace of letting each student know through my English lessons how unconditionally loved he or she is, in the same way God let me know how unconditionally loved I am and I will always be, no matter how dire or hurtful the circumstances could be. That is my way of “evangelizing”: radiating God’s Love through my being, my action, my realization and my projection, even if I do not expressly pronounce the word “God” with phonemes.
A second influence of my integractive vision is I never try to control my student’s reality, and this means a lot of things. I let them be and let them grow respecting their dignity, their integrity, their whole personal formation’s processes. What I do try to keep in control and try to help my students to learn how to keep in control is behavior, what is very different than try to control someone’s reality through an ideological vision. For example: it is not the same trying to impose a specific value through using books that only propose a convenient value (that’s ideological) than trying to help the student to acquire a new habit that allows his or her whole personal formation to grow more coherently (that’s integractive).
Another way my integractive vision influences my teaching style is that I have learned to respect my student’s own vision and helping them to realize how to be more coherent with the vision they choose to build, whatever it is. This is more applicable to middle school students than to elementary school students, because elementary school students are usually still “learning to see”, so you need to present them all the views possible in order to make them are able to understand different point of view and create their own visions. That can be done in many ways during the class, especially through modeling examples that are pertinent to each student’s personal formation. How do I know that the examples I model are pertinent to the students’ personal formation? At the beginning of our first class together I gave them a homework: an interest inventory in which I asked many questions about them. I gave it as a homework so they can take as much time as they need to think the answers and write them according to the information they choose to share with me. For example: there are students that have medical conditions that they choose to not share with me, although I have known them from other legitimate sources. Whatever information that they choose not to share with me, I don’t take it count or assume as known in our conversations and classwork. This interest inventory is key to me to know what examples are more pertinent to each students’ personal formation, although talking with them and playing with them also works to know it too. I have them in a binder with sheet protectors and consult it as many times as I need, because I don’t have the memory to memorize all their answers, but I need to keep them present constantly.
Other way my integractive vision influences my teaching style is through trying to create communion (unconditional personal giftedness), to create family (unconditional personal acceptance) and to create community (unconditional personal empathy) in the classroom, so there is the “creative growing space” needed to learn how to become the best person they can be while learning English as second language. I do not explain them explicitly this (I do not want them to learn that they must do things the same way I do them, I usually seek the way to let them choose how to do things, although the instructions do state clearly what they should do), I simply do whatever is necessary to achieve the needed “creative personal growth” environmental conditions. I consider that the learning environment is part of the curriculum, so creating a space where learning and personal growth is possible as its best is something that I really try to care. For me it’s a proven fact that students learn more and better when they see that the teacher care their personal growth and respect them as persons in the first place. The school culture has a lot to do about this too. This is not something that a teacher can do by her own initiative alone, the school learning principles (I prefer to consider them “growing principles”) must allow this too. This has been the case in the Elementary School where I had been doing my teaching practicum.
I took me a long time and some life experience to learn that reality is not accurately assessed with an ideological vision but with an integractive vision, a vision founded in the personal formation’s processes, in how the person becomes who he is and who he is called to be, and in the unconditional dignity of every person. It also took me some time and experience to realize that reality can’t be manipulated at the own will, sooner or later it reveals itself. All this influences not only my teaching style but my whole understanding of personal formation. Contemplating reality through an integractive vision definitely helps me to grow not only as the best person I can become, but as the person God calls me to be.
Let’s keep growing!