Dr Christine Durham, a teacher, author and survivor of brain injury, has always listened with more than a passing interest to the ardent comments from parents on talk back radio. Impassioned debates about religious instruction and teaching ethics in schools highlight parents' awareness of the power of words and ideas to influence what their children believe.
Christine's approach, as detailed in her book Chasing Ideas is to empower adults to empower their children to learn to use everyday happenings to think about and discuss ethical issues such as good and bad, rights, punishment, blame and truth and so on. Her -handy approach' helps parents (and teachers) give children the skills, tools and practice needed to make up their own minds and provides a way to open up discussions about ideas with them. By using every day events to engage their curiosity parents and teachers can help children use their eyes, ears, hearts and funny bones to make sense of big important ethical issues, learn about consequences and build and boost their self esteem, confidence, and resilience.
-By being more observant, children can understand and grasp concepts and resolve difficulties and conflicts more easily,' she says, adding that -through thinking for themselves, children learn to cope and indeed thrive. Resilience, courage, curiosity, adaptability, problem solving, positive thinking, optimism - call it what you will, it comes from one thing only - how we think.'
And Christine should know. Her life was turned upside down after she sustained a serious brain injury in a horrific car accident - she says that she has had the privilege of being a child twice - and that it was lessons she learnt as a child from her father, to never give up, and to find new ways to cope, that sustained her when tackling challenges in the aftermath of the accident. Christine was determined to return to teaching and employed her experience of brain injury to inspire her students to think creatively. Her pioneering approach as presented in her groundbreaking book, Chasing Ideas, gained her an international reputation as a professional learning presenter.
-In the aftermath of the accident, I didn't feel like a proper mother, wife or even a proper human being,' she says, -but I was determined to find a way to recover and tell the story of brain injury as it was, so that no-one else should ever feel as frightened, lost and cut off from the world as I did. I had to learn to walk and talk again. I realized that the most important thing we have is our ideas.'
Christine has written three books and contributed to a number of educational books on thinking since her accident, including Chasing Ideas: Enhancing your child's confidence and curiosity, the second edition of which is available now from Finch Publishing. Chasing Ideas is based around her concept of 'Handy Thinking", which she initiated in the classroom during her recovery process.
-To chase ideas with children, you need something to talk about: a story or an object, a news report, anything. Once you have something to discuss, you need tools to help you open up all the issues connected with it. The five Handy Thinking tools can be easily remembered using the fingers of your hand,' says Christine.
Thumb: -Pigeonhole it'. This tool helps you sort, organize and group problems ideas and objects.
Index finger: -Find the facts'. Brainstorm together to find all the facts.
Middle finger: -Find the feelings'. Identify all the feelings associated with the problem, idea or object, from all perspectives. This requires an insightful, creative approach very different to the analytical approach required to find the facts.
Ring finger: -Good, bad and curious'. This is reflective, critical and questioning thinking.
Little finger: -What if'. This is a great question to ask to challenge assumptions and to think about consequences.
-Using this approach will not only help you to help your children become great thinkers, but will also let their imaginations fly. You'll have a lot of fun together too,' Christine says.
In 1992 Dr Christine Durham suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident. After learning how to talk, walk and think again, Christine returned to teaching with new insights into how children learn and engage with ideas. Christine runs workshops and gives talks in Australia and overseas. At age 67 Christine completed a PhD and in 2014 she was named the Victorian Senior Australian of the Year in the annual Australia Day Awards. She lives in Melbourne with her husband
Chasing Ideas: Enhancing Your Child's Confidence and Curiosity
Author: Dr Christine Durham