I, Thou, It – THOU

This is the third in a series on frameworks. The introduction to I-Thou-It is here. The post on IT is here.

“Without a Thou, there is no I evolving. Without an It there is no context, no figure and no heat, but only an affair of mirrors confronting each other.” David Hawkins http://hawkinscenters.org/exhibitmu/i-thou-it

Me  Myself   I, You  You guys  ThouThe Syllabus  The Material  It

I wonder if Hawkins did some preliminary brainstorming to figure out just the right combination of words for his I-Thou-It concept. Did he think about the connotations of each word before putting them together? I would be very surprised if he didn’t.

One reason that I like “I, Thou, It” is because Hawkins chose to use the word “Thou.” Unless we’re singing hymns in church or watching a Shakespeare play, we don’t really come across “Thou” very often these days. For me it is a word that has some important connotations for teachers.

Thou = respect

“Thou” is a word that implies that you view the other person with dignity and respect. The teacher does not look down on any student, but respects each student for who he or she is. Every student is a human being with a unique combination of skills, abilities, and the potential to learn.

Thou = unconditional positive regard

“Thou” implies an attitude of accepting the students where they are on their language learning journeys and supporting them as they work to reach their goals. They are doing the best they can and if they need second or third or fourth chances, then that’s all right.

Thou = love

Is it too risky to use this word? Love in this sense is a verb. It’s when the teacher is always working for the good of the students in his class. It’s when he meets the students where they are at and helps them make connections between what they already know and what they need to learn. It’s when he works to create a secure environment where mistakes are not failures, but “portals of discovery”.*

Thou is a wonderful word that represents a much healthier way to think of the teacher – student relationship than one that seems all too common – Us vs. Them.


* “portals of discovery” is a cool way to think of mistakes. I discovered it in Peter Buffett’s book Life is What You Make It.

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