The power of inspiration

‘Inspired teachers make inspired students” was the theme of a talk by human behaviour specialist Dr John Demartini, who addressed teachers and learners recently at St Stithian’s College during one of his regular visits to South Africa.

He is a respected author and motivator whose presentations move his audience because he draws on his difficult childhood experiences (he was dyslexic and written off by his grade one teacher) but went on to pioneer the trademarked Demartini Method, which challenges one-sided thinking and replaces it with a balanced perspective.

He said that, with motivation, people could be inspired to rise above their personal misery and hardship.

In an interview with the Teacher, Demartini, an American, said teachers who are inspired by what they do are likely to inspire their learners.
“Gratitude, love, enthusiasm and inspiration are the key elements that make a good teacher,” he said, and all children had an “inherent desire to learn”—“I have never met a child who did not like to learn.

“I think this is a critical premise from which a teacher can start.” The first thing a teacher should do at the beginning of an academic year was to find out what inspired each child in the classroom and get to know the children by their first names. “It is crucial to know what energises each learner and to tap into that energy. Ask yourself how the curriculum is going to help each one of the learners in the classroom to achieve their values or purpose in life.” The effort spent on this would save the teacher an enormous amount of time and possibly resources. “Identifying the learners’ values awakens the genius in them.”

If a teacher presented a lesson with authority and discipline learners would be inspired and enthusiastic. “If that doesn’t happen, learners lose interest, shut down, and the teacher gets frustrated and tries to enforce discipline and further alienates the learners.”

It was equally important for a teacher to know how his or her expectations would be met and how the curriculum could be used to achieve this. If a teacher did not see how his or her values were going to be fulfilled he or she would not be inspired to teach. Learners can tell if a teacher is uninspired and when that happens they simply disengage.

Demartini’s greatest wish would be to interact with student teachers before they started teaching to help them to communicate with learners. He is aware of the challenges the South African education system faced and was willing to share his expertise to help to resolve some of them. “I have been doing a variety of programmes in the country as a small contribution to addressing some of these challenges,” he said.

Rising to the challenge
John Demartini had to beat incredible odds to become the legend he is today. Fifty-seven years ago, his grade one teacher nearly ruined his life. Then aged seven and dyslexic, with a leg and hand deformity, he was told by his teacher that he would never be able to read, write or communicate, or amount to anything in life.

The teacher rubbed it in by “making him wear a dunce hat and sit in the back corner of the classroom”. This had an enormously negative impact on the mind of the young Demartini. At the age of 14, he completely lost interest in schooling and dropped out, taking up surfing as a hobby.

But when he was 17 years old, he met Paul Bragg, an American naturopath who “encouraged me to learn to read and gave me advice that was to form the foundation of my future vision and teachings”. Bragg had the ability to awaken in him a desire to be who he wanted to be and to conquer the mental, emotional and physical obstacles in his way. He “immersed” himself in books until he had learned to read and write.

He enrolled at the University of Houston and obtained a bachelor of science degree. He later registered with the Texas Chiropractic College.

He has dedicated his life to helping others. “If you have no challenges in life, you will probably stay playing small,” he says.

Thabo Mohlala

Thabo Mohlala

Thabo reports for the Teacher newspaper, a Mail & Guardian monthly publication. Apart from covering education stories, he also writes across other beats. He enjoys reading and is an avid soccer and athletics fanatic. Thabo harbours a dream of writing a book. Read more from Thabo Mohlala

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