GETTING TEACHERS TO BECOME SENSITIVE

The following is an excerpt from a two-hour interview with Dr. Caleb Gattegno conducted by John and Susana Pint in New York City on July 4, 1985.

SUSANA PINT: We don't know how to get teachers to become sensitive to their task.

CALEB GATTEGNO: Say I take this as my problem. The first thing to work on for me is: what does it mean for me to be sensitive? In what way am I sensitive? If I knew what it means to be sensitive within myself, maybe I can work with others and having done this job, I can say. "There isn't a person who is not sensitive." But there isn't the dedication to the particular problem we are going to land in, for example: can we make them (teachers) improve the teaching of multiplication? (assuming that's the most important thing we do).

Now you can make people interested in the teaching of multiplication. Those who teach multiplication have to become aware that they did not look at the easy ways -- they only taught others as they were taught themselves. Now if you can make them dwell into this, you can say, "I used their sensitivity in order to find that the number of problems which come from fear, from lack of time, from laziness --all these things which are what they are -- and I'm not going to make them perfect before I go to heaven -- in heaven it'll be an easy job -- but if I am around here, I will go to each of them and I will say (to myself, not to them): what is their best interest? Do they prefer to be with their laziness than to be with the children? If that's the case, I can't do anything. But if there is a slight anxiety in them, that they are wasting their time, that the children are wasting their time, that they give so many lessons on the Tables and the children don't know multiplication. And if I can make them wonder for a minute and say to themselves, "how extraordinary, that something which so many children can learn, why is it that there are so many who don't? And let me see if I can do something about that."

Now, when they are in that state, they have been made sensitive, vulnerable to an opinion, to a view which they have to test before they adopt it, because it's their self-interest and as I discovered years and years ago, self-interest is the greatest lever for all people. If you don't work with the self-interest of people, you won't get anywhere.

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