Moments with Henry Maier
The workers at the group home can be counted on to be there and to help the children "cherish the meaning of their own activities." In their planning and actions, they pay attention to temperament, privacy and space. Watching them go through the day is like watching a dance. They are in sync with the children's rhythms for growing. They have read Developmental Group Care of Children and Youth.
It is 1981. Henry is speaking to an audience of about 100 educators, administrators and practitioners at the Conference Research Sequence in Child and Youth Care Education in Pittsburgh. "Interconnected," he says and introduces many of us to the ecology of human development.
A year or so later, he is waiting at a round table near the back of the huge dining hall at the Canadian Conference in Banff. His handshake is firm, his smile warm. He has on his usual turtleneck sweater and a sports coat. His sideburns are long. His accent, German, of course. He listens, then extends an invitation to review my manuscripts. In a few weeks they are returned with encouraging comments in the margins and accompanied by a small note card, which is signed "cheers."
At his workshop (in Montreal, I think, or perhaps Boston or Milwaukee), he has us introduce ourselves by what we do rather than by our title or place of work, then he shows us how to get a child to move from one place to another by placing a hand on the child's shoulder and tethering him/her along with presence and encouragement.
"Approach your class thinking about what you want the students to learn to do while they are with you rather than all the wonderful things you would like to say — we all have lots of wonderful things to say," he responds to the question, "What is the most important lesson you have learned about teaching?"
At an advisory board meeting for the Child and Youth Care Administrator in Ft. Lauderdale, he says, "Excuse me, I'd like to meddle a little bit," and challenges the group to look at an item on the agenda from another point of view. That evening some of the board members bring their children along to dinner. While the adults are absorbed in their conversation, he talks to the children. Before long he is playing with them and has pulled out one of the balloons he always keeps in his pocket.
In 1990, he comes to Milwaukee to teach. He insists that the administrators attend his workshop so they too can give the workers their permission to care. Afterwards he comes to my house to have dinner with Suzanne. We talk about conscientious objection and how he met his wife Jeanne, among other things. On the way to the hotel, he picks up a bratwurst for his son. A few weeks later, Suzanne receives a book in the mail: The Chalice and The Blade, Riane Eisler's reinterpretation of history from a woman's perspective.
He is reluctant to respond to interview questions about himself, but does so for the Journal of Child and Youth Care Work. Some of his words of advice for new workers:
" ... get involved with the youngsters and your fellow staff and find a diet: one rich in daily experience with the youngsters. Hold as your measuring stick: How engaged you and the children are with each other. How much energetic excitement have the children and you gained at being involved with each other in whatever you did?"
He is working on a project now with several of us to
define the core curriculum or knowledge base in child and youth care. Papers
have been circulating back and forth. As chair, he keeps pulling us back to
the substance of care.
In preparing my part, I have been rereading his work. It reminds me of what Longfellow called, "the simplicity on the other side of complexity." In child and youth care, no one seems better able to integrate theory into practice and evoke the response, "aha," than he.
The other day his paper on rhythmicity came out in the Journal of Child and Youth Care Work. I'm using it already in my class and am waiting for the next article.
Krueger, M. Commentary: Moment with Henry Maier. Journal of Child and Youth Care, Vol.8 No.2, pp. 135-136
Maier, H.W. (1992). Rhythmicity: A powerful force for experiencing unity and personal connections. Journal of Child and Youth Care Work, 8, 7-13.