Fatherhood is teaching me many things; things that are beneficial both at home and in the classroom. For example, when my son Michael (who is now 9 months ‘young’) was younger, I used to long for him to start crawling. I wanted him to start exploring things around him and be more mobile. After many months of struggle and hard work, he has finally started to crawl. This began just last week. But now that he crawls, I realize that there are many hazards that he is exposed to and I do not necessarily have the time to be with him ALL of the time to ensure his safety. Now that he has started crawling, I am tempted to tell him, “Michael, why don’t you slow down and try not to move around so much!!!???” But when I reflect on my thoughts, I realize the danger in restricting Michael from his new-found passion and joy – crawling.
Children like to explore and learn (very informally) from everything and everyone around them. We have no choice but to admit that this is the kind of learning that is most effective and natural to humans. However, as children grow, adults introduce many restrictions that eventually serve to discourage and de-motivate the tendency and longing (of the child) to explore and learn about things around them. The moment a child steps out of his/her home, more restrictions are imposed on him/her by the society, the school, the church, friends, etc. Soon, the child senses that there is no point in trying to feed his/her curious mind with food from his/her own learning experiences.
As a parent, I have decided that I will NOT restrict my son from obtaining a wealth of experiences from his surroundings. If I restrict him (especially during his childhood), where and when else will he get a chance to learn and grow from the experiences that he’s having now? I can’t control the society, the school, the church, his friends, etc., but I can control myself and allow him this great and important opportunity to interact freely with his surroundings to gain mastery over them. Michael will have to face many restrictions later on in his life. This can be both positive and negative. But until then, he will be allowed to be himself (a baby exploring and enjoying a ‘new’ world)!
In the classroom, caring teachers allow students to be themselves. Caring teachers are aware of the fact that too much of restrictions hamper learning significantly. When I was in the elementary school, my teachers dictated and imposed a variety of ‘acceptable behaviors’ as requirements to adhere. Basically, we were asked to sit quietly and do nothing apart from the things teachers told us to do. Sadly, most of the ‘acceptable behaviors’ were not acceptable to us, the students. They simply crushed us into dullness, injured our creativity, and shrunk our self-esteem. I bet all my classmates were silently crying and pleading for freedom to explore and learn for themselves. I did too. So many things remained a mystery to us because our teachers restricted us from exercising our natural inclination to search for knowledge through simple, yet concrete experiences in classroom.
Teachers wonder why students lack the zest to learn. But if they really examine their teaching approaches and reflect on their attitude toward teaching-learning processes in the classroom, they will realize that they are the number one cause for the inception and perpetuation of a dreadful phenomenon called ‘de-motivation in students’. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist and his complex action plans to solve this problem. All that teachers need to do is to let students be themselves.
Copyright June 2006 by Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan, www.affectiveteaching.com