I love animals. We can learn so much from them. Their different natures and skills sets give us examples scampering, argumentation, playing, singing, industry, laziness, cunning.
Years ago my favorite supervisor gave me the job of presenting inclusion and diversity in the classroom. So naturally, I thought teachers need to adapt to the different natures of their students. Now that’s like training dogs. Different breeds have different temperaments. There is the tiny anxious, aggressive chihuahua, the long distance running German shorthair pointers, the mischievous Jack Russell. The words come out “Your students are like different breeds of dogs…..”
My boss blanched. She called me over. You can’t tell the teachers their students are like dogs. You just can’t, even though the metaphor makes sense. Students are not dogs. Well, OK. I did a vanilla presentation where the students were not described as different breeds of dogs.
But the idea of animals representing student behavior never went away. As part of teaching my students about self-regulation, I introduced states of energy in nature as a tool for classroom management. The sloth represented dull, sleepy, disengaged behavior, a tiger symbolized being active and passionate, and the swan demonstrated focused attention. It was intuitive for the kids to “get” why each animal portrayed the corresponding behavior.
Last Friday, in a workshop for teachers at the National Education Association conference, I explained the concept of the Gunas. Then I passed out a kit with a description of nine different energy/awareness levels, photos of nine corresponding animals, and then asked the teachers to match each animal to a description. We had a ball, and the activity worked beautifully.
I am eager to find out how these teachers will use the ancient teaching of the gunas to manage their classrooms rise and fall of activity. So if your classroom feels like a zoo, check out these symbols and learn more about the Gunas.