24 July 2011

Teachers: Can I Go to the Bathroom?

(I found this in my notes--towards the bottom of the list--next to the note Can I, May I)

I can appreciate the need to maintain order and control, especially when considering young, rambunctious people who, at times think that their sole purpose in life is to overthrow any resemblance of authority and to let chaos and anarchy reign. But beyond the cursory reasons to maintain, it may be more important to ensure that children are able to understand and play their role in the system than to maintain a tight level of control and dictatorial command.

Too often the rules, that to the adults who have been stuck in this and similar system for seemingly endless years seem self-evident, are not explain in a reasonable manner to the children. Instead they are simply told in a matter of fact tone of the way it is. At the young and curious state they are in, these same children are constantly seeking to understand the reason and logic that should pervade through the world they perceive but that seems so elusive. They want to know why things are they way they are, but too often those who know (especially those whose job it is to teach them) are too concerned with other--arguably less important--matters to thoroughly explain them.

It is the 'why' that so many children crave to know, because once they understand the 'why' they can begin building a framework to help them understand other components of the world without adult explanation. Failing to explain the reasoning behind seemingly arbitrary rules and instructions that must be important, is a kin to denying an opportunity for the child to gain precious insight into the inner workings of the the system they will be living in the rest of their lives.

Ironically, the adults then become frustrated that the child never seems to catch on to the concepts that are trying to be taught. This is like calling an animal stupid for getting hit when crossing the road. They are not necessarily hit because they lack intelligence, though they might be too stupid to know better, but this particular folly is the result of a lack of understanding: no one ever taught them the order of things. The defensive adult might argue that the patterns of traffic should be obvious. 'Should be obvious' to those who have the essential tools of knowledge needed to be able to decrypt the world. Without these critical tools the flow of traffic is just a jumbled mess of objects flying down the road.

What is needed is not to dismiss the reasoning of the rules under the cloak of arbitration by declaring "because I said so" (the cars do not flow in a particular pattern because someone said so); instead, time needs to be taken to help the child understand the logic (the cars flow because people decide to drive down the road, thus their pattern and speed cannot be accurately anticipated) so that they can start to identify similar reasoning in other settings (such as, some times of the day will have a busier flow because more people are coming home from work or headed to school). Though a system of active teaching to children will undoubtedly be more time consuming, children in such a system will learn later lessons quicker and more thoroughly. But then, that may lessen the control on teachers on children.

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