Mastering the art of parenting and teaching.
Updated: Jul 5, 2019
While on holiday last year in Italy we visited Galleria dell' Accademia, the Accademia Gallery in Florence. An Italian girl guided us through the gallery and in her sing song accent described the artists and their stories, recalling names and dates as though they were family. There wasn’t much she didn’t know. And we met David. Yes, he was impressive but what struck me were the guide’s words,
“Michelangelo never claimed to create a masterpiece, instead he would reveal what was already there in the stone”.
What a beautiful metaphor for parenting and teaching…
Some parents succeed in creating masterpieces, moulding a child into what they believe he/she should be. Some parents can’t or don’t want to, because they believe in Michelangelo’s revealing philosophy.
When it comes to education, teachers are expected to create masterpieces... Students need to know this, then that, then this, by then. At the end of eleven years or so they will have earned a piece of paper to prove that they have or have not learned what schools interpret that the curriculum prescribes.
So how does teaching fit into this model? When you think about the classroom teachers you know, how much do they trust the innate wisdom and curiosity of the learner to know what they need to know and then to find ?
Imagine a dark warehouse. It is huge and seemingly endless.
The teacher leads the learners into this space.
She holds the torch and shines the light onto what she believes these children need to know. It's frustrating for most, only those in the front can see, there are those who believe that they should let others in and those who push their way to the front. There are those who have seen it all before and those who don't recognise any of it.
Remember, it is the teacher who has planned this and decided that it is important. After the teacher has shone the torch onto this space, she will test the learners to see if they remember what they saw. The testing is analysed and now she can create the “cans” or “can-nots”.
The “cans” are allowed to take a torch and the teacher will tell them where they can look, she will tell the expert “cans” where they can shine their torch and the “can’ts” can "work" with the teacher who will re-teach it so the learners can learn it again? Did she, or did she not, teach it the first time?
Yet, teaching and learning is really very simple...
You turn the lights on!
Teaching still “moulds the child into a system” rather than “revealing what’s already there”. Yet when we turn the lights on, we discover that...
Children are born with awe and wonder, with curiosity. Children search for new learning, then look for broader experiences, these experiences expand knowing. This new knowing inspires them to want to know even more. Turning the lights on sparks greater curiosity.
Children are born with wisdom. Learning relies on us to trust the direction that learning takes us and to trust that whatever happens along the way is more opportunity to learn. When you give a child the permission to go in their direction, they have a self belief as a learner. The direction might lean towards academia, social or otherwise but it is their direction. Turning the lights on inspires greater self awareness and wisdom.
Children are born with grown ups...the best way that grown ups can support learning is to learn alongside their young learners, children want to have someone to look up to. The Maori language has a word, “ako” it means learn and teach at the same time...I like that!
Therese is from a large family with three children of her own. Mr 26, Miss 24 and Master 15. As an educator with many years of experience, she has collected plenty of stories, she uses these and family tales to inform her teaching practice.