Teaching and learning are essentially about healing. Just as the right remedy leads to profound self-revelation, so should education be an awakening to the truth of one’s existence as an individual and as a human being.
I’ve been teaching a variety of topics to people from adolescence through old age, for over thirty-five years. People say that homeopathy is the hardest thing they’ve ever done – well, I might suggest that teaching homeopathy is even harder!
It’s not just that there’s so much information to impart, nor that we depend on reference works that are imperfect at best, nor that our students come from such diverse backgrounds. It’s that homeopathic education, to prepare practitioners fully, must be transformational.
Look at what it takes to be fully prepared for a career in homeopathy. The product of a good homeopathic education has to be skilled in a process that is at least vastly encompassing, if not mystical and esoteric. He or she has to be proficient with the whole homeopathic process, knowledgeable of a great deal of materia medica, and expert at researching in our reference works. He or she must have “people skills” that enable clients to open fully. He or she has to be thoroughly familiar not only with the principles of health and healing, but also with everything that can influence them today. The homeopath also has to have a broad cultural understanding and a deep knowledge of human nature, and the wisdom and self-awareness to apply them fairly and consistently. Other essentials include a mind comfortable with both synthesis and analysis, an openness to new paradigms, and a commitment to constant learning. Humility and a sense of humor help, too. How can we possibly teach all this?
We can’t, really. But schools can create an environment that encourages our adult learners to develop these aspects of themselves, that directs their attention, focuses their energy, and models where they are going. Of course we can impart the necessary information. More important, we can create the sacred space for the budding homeopath to unfold, just as in receiving a case we hold sacred space for the client.
At the Academy of Classical Homeopathy, we’ve developed many techniques and experiences to foster the qualities of a good homeopath. One example is in our clinic, where our students take live cases under supervision.
The first time we take a case is a very tender moment. We’re bound to feel nervous, knowing all that is involved, all the responsibility we’re shouldering, all the tasks we have to juggle at once. At such a time, we need to feel as comfortable as possible, to have a safety net so that we can venture out with at least a modicum of confidence and calm. A carefully designed pedagogical process in the clinic can provide this opportunity.
At the Academy, the first step in this process involves setting up the consulting room well before the client’s arrival. Students design the physical space in light of the client’s and the casetaker’s comfort. Each student determines what works for him or her in consulting rooms that are flexible enough to accommodate different tastes.
Second, we work in teams. Case taking is essentially three tasks: asking questions, taking notes, and observing closely. Each team includes students assigned to each of these tasks, and students rotate among the tasks until each student is comfortable with all of them. This frees students to focus on one task at a time, knowing that their classmates on the team are taking care of the others. In time, in consultation with the supervisor, students begin to combine two tasks and then all three.
Third, the whole team participates in the case analysis, with the supervisor’s close collaboration. Periodically we do “grand rounds” and each team reports on its case to the rest of the class. Students have to work together to resolve differences and to harness varying perspectives and insights for the good of the whole.
Fourth, students record their process meticulously and methodically. The school provides formats for summarizing interviews, analyzing cases from a variety of perspectives, creating treatment plans, assessing remedy responses, etc. This exercise encourages students to develop a keen self-awareness during every stage of their work.
Through the whole clinical process, students find themselves both supported and challenged. The close group interactions bring up personal issues that the developing homeopath benefits from addressing. Students are often surprised by what they learn about themselves from each of the case taking tasks they perform. The balance of “touchy-feely” self-examination and strict adherence to process provides both expansiveness and healthy limits.
To me the classroom has always been a place for creating community, helping people discover the untapped potential inside them, coming to appreciate who each of us really is and how we can participate faithfully in our own evolution and that of everyone and everything around us. Healers have to be open always to healing of every kind, and both the classroom and the consulting room can be venues of transformation.