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THE BRIGHT TRUTH

When we observe the young child carefully we can see that he or she is inclined naturally to love and to be happy – not only to explore with eyes, ears, and hands and mouth but to do so with uninhibited joy. The authentic child has by nature this inner wisdom (or instinct) to live the wondrous life of a being a brand new person and to do so superabundantly. We the elders must be very careful not to hinder this élan vital -- not to distract the child from listening to this quiet voice of his mind/heart/soul – not to confuse the child by suggesting that he or she take up matters that are not of interest at that particular moment of development. John Dewey, the great American philosopher and educator, instructed us that unless the learning task we give the child is as interesting to him as is play, it is pernicious. He did not say that a learning task had to be play, but that it should give evidence by the displaying the same concentration, enthusiasm, and personal joy that one can observe in a child when he is at play.

On the other side of the ocean, Dr. Maria Montessori recognized the vital importance of emotional involvement in the act of learning. She noted that a child being taught how to do a particular academic skill pales in comparison to helping a child learn how to learn as a personal trait of living. When a child wills to learn something new, he or she learns it with one’s inner life force and learns it for life.

Many Montessori schools refer to the adults presenting the learning opportunities to the children as “guides” rather than as “teachers” -- for Montessori educators do not directly teach children but actually lead or direct them to the learning materials available within the well prepared learning environment. Indeed, Dr. Montessori called her first teachers “directresses.” Personally, I have realized during my own forty-five years of observing children as an educator that the key to developing a life long learner is found not only in just who is guiding your child to learn, but in what is guiding your child to make the right decisions within the learning environment of school or home – or within life itself. It is critical that the one who is directing the child knows just what is directing the child from within, for the life developing from within must have the priority – it is a sacred wisdom.

Although it might seem strange to us who have been schooled in the old ways of recitation classes, but the truth is: parroting bits of knowledge without personally valuing them is shallow and not worthy of the dignity of the human child. What should be guiding the child in a learning environment – be it home or school – is the bright truth of a child’s personal intentionality – life’s instinctive will to grow to one’s fullest potential. Our role in this sacred development of the child into a person of learning and creativity is to not get in the way by trying to convey some bit of our knowledge. The child will acquire all the knowledge needed by means of his or her own personal willing to learn life’s truths experientially within a learning environment prepared by us his guides – her gardeners –his educators.
Paul Clement Czaja, Ph. D.
czaja36@yahoo.com











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