Psychoanalysis, Transference, Education

Psychoanalysis, Transference, Education

I wrote my college thesis about intrinsic motivation in the learning process, analyzing my data under a psychoanalytical lens. I chose one of my professors from the “Psychoanalysis and Education” class to assess my paper and, although she wrote positive comments, she was quite assertive in respect to my lack of reference to the transference between student and teacher – according to her, Psychoanalysis’ great contribution to understanding the educational process. At the time, I did not quite grasp what she meant, and I did not quite get the importance of transference in Education. 12 years later, a lightbulb went on at the end of my 5th week of classes in first grade.


For the first time since I began teaching, I was assigned to teach first grade. A first grade with many  behavioral, social, and emotional challenges; a proportion boy:girl of 16:9, and at least 10 illiterate students. I spent my first month of class in shock, convinced it would not be possible to ‘tame’ those kids so that they would behave like first graders instead of preschoolers.

Helplessness, reflection, planning

After considering giving up, reflecting and adjusting my plans, I finally started establishing personal connections through the stories my students have been writing (each one their own way) and the books they have been reading (each one within their own limits). The result came in the shape of pictures full of flowers and hearts I started to be given, in the hugs and smiles I am being gifted with.

Along with these manifestations, students posture towards learning is also shifting: children who once hesitated to produce stories because they could not write, or who did not sit still during reading time because they could not read, began to show excitement in their productions and in their books. looking hard for ways to write their words and read their books. These ways, although unconventional – or maybe because of it – have been generating amazing learning.

Oh! Now I get it!

Driving home after another intense day in first grade, it suddenly occurred to me that by dedicating a few minutes a day to the individual needs of my students, I filled their little hearts with hope and self-trust. In my gaze, in transference, these children were able to uncast themselves and begin developing once again. Today, I finally understood what my professor tried to tell me in 2001.

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