Photo by: adwriter
In this article, I look at five ways in which I think we can learn and be inspired by children, and how, as a teacher, I encourage these qualities in the classroom.
1. Seeing things for the first time, again
There is great joy in observing a child seeing something for the first time. Their astonished, excited, bewildered reactions have the power to reawaken the child within us.
I am a blind teacher, and it is amazing how the children will often try to describe to me in detail what they are seeing, and with such enthusiasm. I frequently marvel at their amazingly inventive way of describing the world around them, and their inadvertently unique insights into the things that we take for granted. Children can help us to find new meaning in the everyday and commonplace and to see the world around us with fresh eyes and open minds.
Why why why
A common irritation parents have with their children is their unyielding habit of asking “why.” “Why is the sky blue?” “Why is water wet?” “Why can’t we see the wind?” “Why was daddy sleeping on the sofa last night mummy?” … As we grow older we stop asking “why” so much. This is partly because we are conditioned to accept authority, to live by certain guidelines and to accept certain things as they are.
Personally, I believe that it is good classroom practise for teachers to help pupils identify the causes of things, the reason why things happen. Understanding why something happens helps us to have a solid understanding of the subject. The student is more likely to remember something if they understand not only what happens, but the reason why it happens.
Asking why is a quality we shouldn’t neglect in adulthood. Life is so much more enjoyable and interesting when we take interest in what is happening and ask why it happens. Asking the question “why” gives us autonomy over our lives and external events, and stops us being mere slaves to circumstance. A “Why’s” man makes a Wise man, how’s that for a proverb? I made that up just now, all by myself. I shouldn’t brag. Or maybe I should. See my next point about this very subject.
As adults, we tend to water down our emotions. Being British, we are famed for our stiff upper lip and reserved attitude. We are reluctant to celebrate our achievements, and are guarded about being too vocal about our ambitions in dreams.
In the classroom, I encourage children to be emotive, to celebrate the victories, both big and small. They should be rewarded for demonstrating passion and effort.
4. Be a player.
Children love to play. Life is a playground. Creativity and self-expression is their raison d’etre. It is scientifically proven that we learn and retain information so much better when we are stimulated and having fun. Looking back at my school days,the main things I remember now, fifteen years on, are the things that I learnt when I was having fun. I therefore remember things taught in science by the teacher who did loads of practical experiments, but hardly remember anything I was taught in the classes taken by the boring science teacher who made us do worksheets all lesson.
As adults, we should not forsake play. We should try and make our days as fun-filled as possible. And when we want to learn something and retain it, we should think of stimulating and fun ways of learning.
5. Fail safe.
How quickly we become conditioned to fear and avoid failure. Yet failure is an important and inevitable part of life. We are not born with an inherent fear of failure. If a baby reaches out to try and grab something but is not yet strong or dextrous enough to achieve it, the child does not give it up as a bad job; they keep trying until they achieve their goal. When a child is trying to walk, they don’t fall over and say to themselves, “Oh well, I guess I’m just not the walking type.” We shouldn’t therefore lose that innate ability to keep trying and trying until we succeed; it is the recipe for our happiness and success. We can learn from a child’s fortitude. Children can help us to relearn the fact that failure is inevitable and valuable. It teaches us important lessons so that we can readjust our approach and try again.
As a teacher, I try and create an environment where it is safe to try, fail, and try again. This can be done by having a student rewards system based on effort as well as achievement. Systems that ignore students’ effort and determination are helping to teach pupils that failing is something to be avoided. They are then unlikely to bother trying, in order to avoid the ignominy of not achieving.
Feel free to share any additional thoughts you might have on this subject. Leave a comment below. Don’t be shy; share it with the class.
- License: Creative Commons image source
David Eagle is a freelance writer, who also works freelance on creative projects in primary and secondary education. He writes for Carrot Rewards.