Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

On Weaning and Learning and Independence

| 8 Comments

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Today’s roughly the anniversary of the day I weaned my child. I say roughly because I weaned her the night before Thanksgiving, knowing I would be on vacation Thanksgiving day but she would have daycare. Reprieve for me.

Weaning is such an important step in a child (and mother’s) learning, and is also such a great metaphor for independence isn’t it?

And weaning is such a great metaphor and it’s interesting that I weaned my daughter just after I had finished my PhD, where I was going through my own weaning process…

For example, ever since I weaned my daughter, she’s blossomed from someone who was particularly clingy to me to someone more capable of developing close relationships with other adults. It was almost like a switch had gone off, and she was more open to spending more time in physical proximity with people she had previously kept at arm’s length. I figure she thought, well if none of you got milk, then any of you will do. Except at bedtime. Still need mommy for that.

In parallel, it was weaning time for me as a scholar. I no longer needed nor sought the opinion of my PhD supervisor on what I wrote, or any of my close mentors at the time. It was gradual, but once it came, it was liberating. I thought of the almost “safety” of submitting one’s work for peer review, or for editing at a trade journal, and suddenly felt i did not need someone else to filter my work before I showed it to the world. I’m still happy writing for others, but I also like writing for myself, right here on this blog, which is not yet one year old. But I am also happy to write for others whose values I agree with, and who do their work with love, like Hybrid Pedagogy and the Teaching Social Justice blog.

Somehow, along the way, I’ve been weaned off a need for approval by my immediate peers. I am happy and confident to be the radical, dissenting voice who’s a little too open and connected. Because you know what, I’ve found a lot of cool and caring yet critical people in just the same place.

In some ways, my weaning involved independence; in some ways it involved hypersociality as a reaction to the previously solitary experience of doing a PhD.

I hope that in every class I teach, I can wean my students off the need to come back to me as an authority, or any authority. But to help them realize the world is large and full of potentially supportive others they can call on for different things at different times. But also that I am still available. You know, for cuddles at bedtime 🙂
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8 Comments

  1. Enjoyed this post Maha – I sometimes use Winnicotts theory of the “good enough” parent (in which parent doesn’t try to provide everything child needs but gradually builds their autonomy) as metaphor for teaching and especially personal tutoring.

    • Oh, yes, I loooove “good enough”! I am a perfectionist deep down inside but have learned looonog ago to let go and do “good enough”. Otherwise, i’d never publish a thing i wrote!

  2. Thing is our students (and children) need us *not* to be perfect, cos that diminishes their room to grow. It’s like when child is learning to walk or ride bike we have to stay close enough to catch if needed but not stifle independence. Same with students….

    • Oh exactly! With teaching, i actually intentionally go in slightly UNDERprepared (or a lot!) which I found helps them learn more… Thanks for this, Pauline!

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