An Interview with Mary Wright: Teaching to the Heart From the Heart

Mar 13, 2012 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1) Mary, what is wrong with the current approach to education?

To answer this question as it is worded would be counter-intuitive for me because I believe that we have to focus on what do we want, rather than what we don’t want. A great deal of time is spent debating what is wrong in education, however, NLP teaches us that the most effective approach is to know what we do want and make the necessary changes to get it. We now have plenty of excellent information about learning – what works and what doesn’t – we just have to apply this knowledge. Admittedly, this is easier in principle than in practice.

2) All this testing and assessment- what does it do to the relationship between teachers and pupils?

Summative testing and assessment mean pressure to perform according to a set criteria that is, by nature, standardised. The fear of not producing the required results creates stress for both pupils and teachers. If you’ve ever been around someone who is stressed (which most of us have) then you will know that it has an adverse effect on your relationship. Formative assessment, however, is extremely useful and necessary. When we learn something there comes a point when we feel ready, even eager, to be tested. The results show us how much we have learned, whether we can apply this learning, and what steps we have to take to improve. But we all learn at different speeds, therefore we all become ready to be tested at different times. This truth favours an approach that is based on the individual.

3) Often students respond quite well to praise, encouragement and teachers providing approval . But I am not sure colleges of education teach these skills. Should they?

There is an abundance of evidence proving that positive reinforcement is effective and this is certainly my personal experience. I don’t know much about colleges of education in the USA, however, in the UK teachers are certainly taught about and encouraged to use positive praise and reward systems, and I’ve seen and used many variations. Reward systems can be very effective, providing the teacher is backing them up in all communications with pupils (one negative criticism can undo the positive effects of a reward system). I think the way teachers communicate with pupils – their words, body language, the emotion behind their words – is possibly the most important factor in creating a positive learning environment.

4) What is your book or story all about?

Initially, to readers of the first book, Magikal Mindwell will appear to be a relatively short but fun and magical story about a boy who achieves success in the face of adversity. But, to me, it is so much more than that because of the messages imbedded in it – plus I know the rest of the story… including how it ends. Charlie is destined for great things, and, in order to achieve them, he has much to learn. In many ways the story is about Charlie’s enlightenment. He is on the path to becoming the Master of his own Universe. Magikal Mindwell: The Beginning is literally just the beginning of Charlie’s story – an introduction. It is the very start of something much, much bigger, and I feel really excited about sharing the rest of the story with readers. It’s like that feeling you get when you’re making a present for someone and you can’t wait to give it to them.

5) Mary, you and I know about intellectual differences or I.Q. differences. How can teachers help with these differences between kids?

I.Q is a measure of one type of intelligence. A child could score low on an I.Q. test but show an natural flare for dance. Who is to say which is better! And, as author Daniel Goleman states, emotional intelligence appears to be more important than I.Q. in achieving success in life. The truth is we are all unique. We each have different skills, gifts and talents. The key is to give children the encouragement and confidence to achieve their potential in life, whatever skills, gifts and talents they possess, whether these are intellectual, artistic, practical etc.

6) I daresay that motivating kids to want to learn is one of those long lost arts- how can we bring back this lost art?

Everything in education is becoming increasingly standardised, and this seems to include who becomes and remains a teacher, especially in primary education. You have to be a particular type of person to operate within that system. Unfortunately, those who don’t fit the mold soon leave the profession. Yet the teachers we remember forever – those who had the greatest impact on our lives – are often those who broke the mold. In all honesty, I don’t profess to have the solution, but learning to accept and celebrate our differences would be a step in the right direction.

7) We all have different emotional needs- how do these need impact learning?

For a person to be teachable, they have to be willing to learn, and willing to accept change – this is a fundamental principle in Magikal Mindwell. When we are going through a difficult time emotionally, our ability to learn is impaired. I’m sure we’ve all experienced occasions when something has happened in our lives e.g. a relationship break-up, a bereavement, or even an argument, and we find it almost impossible to concentrate on anything.

We do our best, but at those times our emotional needs are more important than our educational needs, and undoubtedly teachers and pupils would benefit from learning more about emotional intelligence so that they are better equipped to help both themselves and each other.

As Jon Kabat-Zinn said ‘You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf’. This is the reason Magikal Mindwell has a surfboard. Learning to surf is a metaphor for becoming emotionally intelligent, and my goal in the next book is to pass on everything I have learned about this subject to benefit the reader.

8) Why do some kids need more mentoring, coaching than others? How can teachers best provide this?

When children start school, they are each starting from different positions. Some children are full of self-belief and confidence, and are able to keep themselves motivated. But many don’t have these skills and will require more attention/mentoring to develop them. The first step is to find out what is holding a pupil back, what is in their way.

In Magikal Mindwell: The Beginning this is represented to Charlie as a wall created by negative beliefs. Once you know what the obstacle is, you can find a way around it. In my experience (personal and professional), low self-esteem is a common hurdle, and it is something that we have plenty of helpful strategies for overcoming. Simply cheering somebody on can have an enormous effect, and, once a child begins to believe in themselves, they often make accelerated progress.

9) What have I neglected to ask?

At the moment my mind is completely wrapped up in the second Magikal Mindwell book… What is it called? Magikal Mindwell: Saving Agent Skyfly, in which Charlie learns to become emotional intelligent.

There will be 8 Magikal Mindwell books in total, each with a different learning emphasis. It will probably take me more than a decade to complete them, but this is a story I feel compelled to share for so many reasons.

10) Where can interested others get a copy of your book? Or story?

Magikal Mindwell: The Beginning is available on the Balboa Press website http://bookstore.balboapress.com/Products/SKU-000434790/Magikal-Mindwell.aspx and on Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Magikal-Mindwell-M-J-W/dp/1452536996/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1326081578&sr=8-1 and Amazon.co.uk http://www.amazon.co.uk/Magikal-Mindwell-The-Beginning-M-J-W/dp/1452536996/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1331508789&sr=8-1

You can also find Magikal Mindwell on Twitter @MagikalMindwell, Facebook, and Daisy Brooke has created some great animated videos for the Magikal Mindwell Youtube page.

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