What educates a child most? As a parent or a teacher, wouldn’t it be nice to know what children learn by most?
Of course there is no magic formula. We know there are at least seven major learning modalities. But the truth is every single child is unique. And therein lives the dilemma. How do we provide individual tutorial within a mass education system? Most administrators and teachers say it is impossible. But is it? It depends on ‘where’ in yourself you are teaching from.
A child’s path in life is certainly not set when they are in elementary school. Nevertheless, parents and teachers contribute to the direction of a young human life in countless ways – much of which is accidental, unconscious and inadvertent. It’s true! Children learn by the attitudes, values and behaviors of the adults in their lives as a primary influence. For example, if a child is being ‘taught’ to write the letters of the alphabet and the teacher is frustrated and impatient, then the child’s primary learning experience that moment, that hour, that day…is frustration and impatience . By the same token, the teacher may be doing the alphabet while quietly wondering about the origin and beauty of the letters. This will have quite a different result. We contribute to the learning pathways in young people’s lives in many subtle ways we may not be aware of.
Think of your own stories growing up. What were the most positive education influences? Can you identify them? What did you ‘learn by’ most?
I am particularly grateful for a teacher who helped me to find a pathway of learning as a young boy who considered school to be an unnecessary interruption to real life.
The one thing I remember from first grade was that my teacher noticed I liked to make up stories. And rather than allowing me to drift off daydreaming or to interrupt my class by telling one of my yarns, she found a clever way to harness this raw creative energy. Every day she would put blank sheets of paper (without lines) on my desk and encourage me to write and illustrate my stories. I remember with full clarity how I absolutely loved doing this! It was just the kind of freedom I needed. As a result, I learned to write, to spell, my vocabulary grew by leaps and bounds, I learned to express in writing and pictures… On top of that, a little boy’s hyper-active imagination was given a creative, constructive and instructive outlet.
Because of the presence of mind of my first grade teacher, a whole avenue of learning and expression was opened up to me. That pathway has continued productively to this day! It was an attentive teacher who found it for me, a teacher pathfinder.