"There is no difference between living and learning... it is impossible and misleading and harmful to think of them as being separate." - John Holt
We have noticed a growing trend to implement ‘teaching programmes’ in an attempt to teach our young ‘pre/before school’ children academic as well as social/emotional skills. Much can be said about how and when to teach children reading/math/writing skills, a topic for another time. What concerns us is the trend to ‘teach’ children social skills and values by way of ‘giving lessons’.
Their minds are gaining, their hearts are draining.
It is not difficult to find themed lessons on the internet to teach children care, kindness, peace, tolerance. Lessons that come complete with resources; colouring in pages, stories, songs, stickers, posters and a whole lot of bells and whistles. Instructions often include sitting children down, at mat time, or at teacher-led table top activities where they are told to listen and to follow instructions. Some even have a complete step by step ‘manual’ as if we are cooking up a dish and only need to follow a recipe with set ingredients.
This ignores the fact that children, at this young age, learn most and foremost by experience and download.
The most effective lessons we can provide to the children in our care is ourselves. HOW and WHO we are with ourselves, our children, our parents, our colleagues, our management.
No mindfulness room is going to bring happiness if outside the room we ignore being kind, being caring, being loving. No peace table is going to bring peace if away from the table we squabble with our colleagues and disrespect our selves, others and our environments.
If we want our children to learn we need to make sure they don’t just ‘hear it’, we have to make sure they ‘feel it’. That means we have to include our message in our daily practice and immerse them in an environment of lived values, not sprinkle them with isolated lessons and hope something sticks.
Happiness is not a ‘doing’, it’s not a skill that can be taught.
Picture this. This week’s focus is kindness. We put posters up the wall, books on the shelf, songs in the cd player. We are ‘doing kindness’.
The issue with the ‘doing kindness’ approach is that the real learning is not in the ‘doing’. The real learning is in the ‘being’.
We know children download us. We know that the person who doesn’t receive love or sees love in their family as a child, will struggle later. Care, kindness, love, these are all abstract concepts that children learn through experiences, observations and downloads. Not through stories, songs and posters up a wall.
Children learn most effectively through the lens of the heart. This is why we need to embed our ‘teachings’ in our daily practices and make them second nature to us. We can't teach our children to be happy, to love, to be kind. We can only take ownership of our own happiness, our own kindness, our own love. When we embed kindness, happiness, love into our daily practice we are no longer ‘doing kindness’... we ARE kindness.
The all important ingredients of life can not be taught, they can only be caught. And the only way they can be caught is if they are embedded in our own daily practices. The curriculum of life does not need ‘lessons’!
You can read more about the Curriculum of Life here.
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