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Empowering Education: The Application of Systemic Constellation at School

As a teacher, respecting a child is in fact, respecting the child’s biological family as well. This respect extends to respecting the destiny of the entire family, regardless of whether we believe that the family's destiny positively or negatively affects the child's development and learning. We are merely teachers. Children are intricately connected to their own destiny and family. Systemic constellations can reveal opportunities within challenging situations when a child successfully accepts their own destiny.

As I began to grasp these profound connections, it became increasingly clear that the work in the classroom was futile. The more I taught, the more powerless I felt. Do I, as a teacher, have the capacity to assist a child in acknowledging their destiny, regardless of whether they come from a poor family, have a complicated family background, have experienced abuse, have had their mother or both parents abandoned them, or have grown up not knowing who their father is? Can I make a child realize that their existence, despite being less fortunate, has equal value?

A Systemic Concept – Using Family Ties as a Learning Tool

One day in the early 1990s, I was called in as a substitute teacher for a sixth-grade class. I stood before 22 students. 'Each time I look at you,' I said, 'I see your parents right here in this classroom with you. I know we're not just 22 students; we are 22 families. That means everyone's mother and father are included, along with me, my child, and my child's father. In total, there are 66 people in this room!' The children, mostly 12 years old, burst into laughter.

But I assured them that I meant what I said, and they started to think about it. Some students said they didn't want their parents watching over them all the time, so they were happy to be at school, away from their parents. Other students didn't say anything, but they seemed quite content. I continued, telling them to imagine their parents standing behind them, supporting them, which would make them feel strong. After a while, we conducted an experiment. Following the regular math practice, I gave them a few math problems to solve: 'What is 1/5 of 40?' or 'What is 1/3 of 66?' and 'What is 3/4 of 100?' – standard math problems, nothing out of the ordinary. However, each time I presented a problem, I added a variation. I asked them to imagine their parents standing behind them while solving five math questions and then to imagine their parents not being behind them while solving another set of five questions. The answers were on the blackboard, and they could check them themselves.

I gave them another task: to observe the situations where they could solve math problems more quickly and accurately. Was it when they felt their parents' inner support or without it? Later on, the students became interested in this experiment and decided to examine further whether the support of their fathers or mothers was more effective. They enjoyed conducting this experiment, and many students discovered that arithmetic became easier for them. The reason was quite simple: their newly acquired perspective had helped them in solving the questions. Some students discovered that they received support from uncles, aunts, or grandparents. Certainly, all students hoped to solve mental sums quickly and accurately. However, something remarkable happened during our experiment. For instance, when they felt supported by a certain family member in their heart, some students saw significant improvements in their arithmetic abilities. The whole class liked this, and they found it very helpful. Therefore, we stopped asking the old question, 'Who can calculate the fastest?' Instead, we focused on systemic questions like 'Who supports me in my learning environment?' or 'Who is with me when I feel more likely to succeed?

For a few students, their parents make them fearful of failure. If this was the case, I would tell them to silently say in their hearts to their father or mother, with the help of... (someone), they can surely excel. One girl said that she does her best in her math calculations whenever she receives support from her grandmother. ‘My grandmother doesn't know math,’ the girl said, ‘but she makes me less nervous because she doesn't care whether I can do math or not.’ Throughout the school year, students kept requesting that we conduct this experiment.

During the experiment, we also observed that high-achieving students in the class came to understand that their peers who struggled academically could also succeed and improve. This was an important finding. Whenever we engaged in math problem-solving or essay writing exercises in class, I always asked students about the people who made them feel frustrated or confused – whether it was their parents or siblings. Sometimes, they would reply that they were already very busy and were unable to think about this anymore. They felt overwhelmed. I would silently place an empty chair beside them. I could see gratitude in their eyes, and I understood that this gesture was very helpful to them. It allowed them to calm down and focus on their homework.

Extracted from “When We Are Together” by Marianne Franke-Gricksch

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