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Over the course of time mankind has become increasingly obsessed with the cognitive and
practical side of knowledge that we have almost completely forgotten about other parts of our
personalities, parts of ourselves. We are slowly overlooking the fact that the best possible way of
being is living to our complete capacity. The book “A Way of Being,” by the American
psychologist Carl Rogers, deals with the issues of being a “whole person”. Whether it concerns
therapy or education, it points out the importance of acknowledging the affective side of human
interaction. Disregarding our emotions only prevents us from reaching our full potential. A proper
way of being a whole person involves accepting and utilizing all aspects of ourselves. There are
many similarities between a way of being in life and a way of being in the classroom. Issues in
many aspects of life can be dealt with in similar ways. Carl Rogers states several conditions that
have to be met in order for the full growth of the whole person to occur and for whole person
learning to take place.
In his book, the author states that the first prerequisit could be termed genuineness, realness
or congruence. The more someone is himself or herself when relating to another person, without
hiding his or her true self behind a mask, the better the probability that this interaction will become
a fertile ground for personal change and growth in a constructive manner. This means openly
being the feelings and attitudes that are inside you at the moment. Rogers names the term
“transparent” as being the one that encapsulates the essence of this condition. Making yourself
transparent to others helps them see right through what you truly are in the relationship. Needless
to say, this is not an easy task to perform. But if we truly consider the issue, we realize that we
have to be in complete touch with our feelings in order to grow as persons and for our relations
with others to grow as well.
The same goes for facilitators of learning. It is essential that the facilitator has an attitude of
realness and genuineness. Just like in other aspects of life, entering a relationship with the learners
as a real person, without presenting a facade, leads to a much greater chance of success. This, as
Rogers says, means that the feelings that the facilitators are experiencing are available to their
awareness, and that they are able to live these feelings and to communicate them if appropriate. It
requires the teachers to come into direct contact with the learners on a personal basis. It means the
facilitators are being present to the students. Therefore, there is a close correspondence between
what is being experienced at the gut level, what is present in awareness, and what is expressed
between people.
The second stance important for creating a climate for personal growth is, according to
Rogers, hard to name. Thus, he uses several expressions. He terms this attitude as prizing the other
person or a learner and their feelings and opinions. It is also an acceptance of this other as a
separate person, and a respect for others as worthy in their own right. Furthermore, it is a belief
that this other person is somehow fundamentally trustworthy. No matter how you call it, it all
represents a feature Rogers called unconditional positive regard. When someone has a positive,
acceptant attitude toward whatever another person is at that moment, positive change is more
likely to occur. If one supports the other to be whatever immediate feeling he or she is
experiencing – confusion, resentment, fear, anger, courage, love, or pride such caring is non-
possessive and it prizes the other person in a total rather than a conditional way.
This attitude also stands out in those who are successful in facilitating learning. Whether it
is dubbed prizing, acceptance, or any other term, it shows up in a numerous observable ways.
According to Carl Rogers, the facilitator who possesses a significant degree of this mindset can
completely accept the fear and hesitation of the students as they tackle new problems as well as
accepting the pupils’ satisfaction in accomplishment. Such teachers can understand the students’
lethargy at times, their desires to explore other aspects of knowledge, as well as their disciplined
efforts to achieve major goals. Rogers names some of the emotions from a broad spectrum of
personal feelings that both disturb and promote learning – rivalry with a sibling, hatred of
authority, concern about personal adequacy, to name a few. Just as prizing others as imperfect
human beings with many feelings is a starting point for true interpersonal growth, so does treating
students in this manner provide much potential. Through prizing or acceptance we express our
confidence and trust in the capacity of the human organism.
Rogers names emphatic understanding as the third facilitative feature of the relationship.
This means that the one senses accurately the feelings and personal meanings that the other is
experiencing and communicates this understanding to them. A skilled psychotherapist, for
example, can get inside the private world of the other so much that he or her can clarify not only
the meanings of which the other is aware but even those just below the level of awareness. This
kind of insightful, active listening is extremely rare in our lives. Rogers claims that we might think
that we listen, but hardly ever do we listen with real comprehension and genuine empathy.
Nonetheless, he maintains that listening of this kind is one of the most potent forces of change that
he knows. This empathic understanding establishes a climate for self-initiated, experiential
learning. When the teacher is able to understand each student’s reactions from the inside, and is
aware of how the process of education and learning seems to the student, the probability that
significant learning will take place increases considerably. The author further explains that this
kind of understanding is sharply different from the usual evaluative understanding, which boils
down to understanding what is wrong with the other. When there is a sensitive empathy, the
learners can achieve full growth and start learning because they feel like they have finally
encountered someone who understands how it feels to be in their place.
One thing on which I most definitely agree with Rogers is that this attitude of standing in
the students’ shoes and viewing the world through their eyes is almost unheard of in the
classroom. And he concluded that some thirty years ago. The school authorities (at least in our
country) still keep ignoring the potential we have for full development and learning as whole
persons, much to our own damage. Hopefully this will change soon. Because, when the teacher
responds in a way that makes the students feel understood – not judged or evaluated – or when we
go through life willing to embrace our complete set of emotions and accept others as whole
individuals, this has a tremendous impact.


• Rogers, Carl. (1980). A Way of Being. Boston: Houghton Mifflin