The importance of differentiation

How can some individuals emerge from seemingly impoverished backgrounds to lead satisfying and successful lives? There seem to be four contributing reasons.

  1. First, these individuals may be among the very small percentage of children who are far above the mean on the characteristics (psychological and physical) that can contribute to developing in healthy, autonomous ways. It is in their genes, so to speak
  2. Second, these individuals may have found someone – such as an outstanding teacher or someone else practicing encounter with them - to give them the support that they needed
  3. Third, they may have influenced the cold and controlling adults in their lives to be a little less cold and a little less controlling with them than with others
  4. And, fourth, they may have developed expectations that led them to interpret various situations as more autonomy supportive than they actually were

Social environments - whether oppressive or nourishing - have an enormous impact on children's development. Yet, each of the four processes outlined above begins with the individual rather than the environment, and each helps to explain how people can succeed despite their background, or do even worse when these processes work in the opposite direction.

Recognising that other people can affect how we treat them, highlights a very important challenge for teachers. The challenge is to be autonomy supportive even with individuals who want us to control them. It is the more passive, compliant - or defiant - individuals who are most in need of support in developing their autonomy - but it is hardest for us to give it to them.

It is the practice of encounter that allows the teacher to provide the needed support to every child because the more the teacher practices encounter the more the teacher herself gains in her own development. So why wouldn’t she practice with every child?

We practice encounter because it is good for us, at the same time it is exactly right for those we engage with.

John Corrigan is an expert in helping individuals to bring their whole of mind to their daily life and increase their effectiveness and the effectiveness of those around them. This expertise scales from the individual to the team to the organisation. At the core of this work is the practice of encounter.

John Corrigan