Languages of Love in the Digital Age
“Love has no culture, boundaries, race and religion. It is pure and beautiful like early morning sunrise falling in lake.”
Bearing in mind concepts of love, diversity, and mutual respect, you may get a useful message from this short animation created by my seven year old son.
As for St.Valentine’s Day…
Some people say it with flowers
…..but online language teachers have the power to help international students express their feelings in words. Today I want to explore the windows of opportunity that open up once you set foot in a virtual classroom with students from all over the world. I also want to discuss stepping beyond practical, conventional visions of online learning.
St. VALENTINE’S DAY
St. valentine’s day is a Christian celebration. It’s a day when we are supposed to celebrate love. In many ways this celebration has been whittled down to westernized, capitalistic notions of romantic love, buying flowers, and, perhaps, smothering real feelings beneath the tranquilisers of credit cards, wine and corny music.
Crash commercialism, elitist coupledom, and the ensuing repercussions it has on the lonely ‘have-nots’ in society, can make this a superficial, hollow experience for many people. Valentine’s Day in Christian society is a cleverly masked vote for conformity. You MUST be in a relationship to be considered ‘normal’. Also, in this digital age, Valentine’s Day may impose a westernized world view on the world as we flood facebook and other social networks with OUR notions of ‘love’ which, we must admit, are often flawed to the core.
My romantic nature is appealing to our higher calling as human beings, and hoping to develop a psychological framework within which we can BE more loving and spread global love through the subjects we teach.
I have a feeling that for many of us who have been working online for two years or more, and who have been dealing with mixed nationalites, a kind of metamorphosis has already taken place. When you have many windows in your world, you learn to appreciate human nature all the more in its various quirks and intricacies. As much as we extolled national pride and nationhood in the previous century; embracing global culture, in my experience, has become a more beautiful thing in the modern age. In the past, the more discerning amongst us opened up new horizons via books and travel. Sadly it was usually only the elite who could afford this, and they did not always use their wisdom for the benefit of all.
Just as online learning opens up new frontiers, it also enables the evolution of our notions of love. Romantic love is a wonderful thing. That is why it should not be pigeon-holed by narrow definitions, or be seen to exclude the flowering of broader ideologies.
Those with the greatest potential to influence the masses have always been writers, preachers or teachers. Today we can teach the world from the comfort of our homes. We can reach out to the world. Social and emotional learning can make a difference on a global scale.
SPREAD THE LOVE
Social/emotional learning philosophies are raising awareness in educational circles around the world. Most of this new awareness is being invested in primary schools, which is a wonderful thing. However, as online teachers, we can also encourage our adult students to express themselves in emotionally intelligent ways, and help them to feel a part of something greater than themselves. It’s time to transcend traditional learning frameworks which pander to intellect instead of intelligence. We can make a difference by understanding social/emotional intelligence.
Daniel Goleman’s book social intelligence teaches us about mirror neurons and social contagion. Neural WiFi make emotions contagious. As teachers, we therefore, have a grave responsibility for setting moods and promoting positive influence in our online classes.The social brain is hard-wired to feel empathy – ‘a pre-requisite to understanding someone else’s inner world’.
‘Mirror neurons ( as one scientist put it) are what give you the richness of empathy, the fundamental mechanism that makes seeing someone hurt really hurt you.’ I believe that, thanks to mirror neurons and social contagion, online relations and global communicative devices can serve as amplifiers of the human condition. Mirror neurons can incite hatred or they can spread peace.
Here are some ideas for online teachers to ‘mirror positive neurons’ and create emotionally intelligent virtual classrooms.
1) Always elicit and never preach. We have got to understand our students and help them to understand each other.
This lesson invites students to create their own understandings of love through metaphor.
2) Creative activities such as story-telling, poetry writing, multi-media project work, global news issues, and ‘chat show’ scenarios put the spotlight on our students – they express and we listen.
3) Model and teach the principle of deep listening.
What are our students REALLY saying and are they really listening?
5) The arts, music and cultural awareness training can be incorporatd into all language programmes to train the minds and hearts of our global students.