One of the reasons for starting John Colet aside from teaching Grammar, Spelling, Times Tables, all of which had been jettisoned in the 60s and 70s was to give the children simple, easy techniques of self-awareness. But why? And what do we mean by self-awareness ?
Self-awareness has a shiny, positive, hooray sound; but it often entails a little effort to come out of self-unawareness. To help our understanding the wise refer to this as waking and sleeping. Shakespeare is characteristically apt.
In The Tempest Antonio, suggesting evil deeds to a reluctant Sebastian asks: Do you not hear me speak? And Sebastian replies:
I do, and surely it is a sleepy language, and thou speak st out of thy sleep &. This is a strange repose, to be asleep with eyes wide open standing, speaking, moving and yet so fast asleep.
I think all of us can identify with this state of waking sleep with eyes wide open, and yet so fast asleep. Where we feel guilt for an unchangeable past, or anxious about an imaginary future; and we therefore miss what is happening in the present moment.
So at school we encourage the children to be present; to see what is in front of them; to hear what is being said; to taste what they are eating. And why? Mainly because this is Reality. It is true, in the sense of being what is actually happening. And usually, good hearted children who are awake will then respond naturally to the need of the moment to comfort the unhappy, to tidy up, and to attend to their friends.