Watch the Flowers Grow
“We cannot know the consequences of suppressing a child spontaneity when he is just beginning to be active. We may even suffocate life itself. That humanity which is revealed in all its intellectual splendour during the sweet and tender age of childhood should be respected with a kind of religious veneration. It is like the sun which appears at dawn or a flower just beginning to bloom. Education cannot be effective unless it helps a child to open up himself to life.”
Gavin McCormack has been in the education industry for over 25 years.
During that time, he has taught in various countries, including the UK, Australia, USA, Singapore and Nepal. He was named Montessori Australia Ambassador 2022, The Educator’s Most Influential Educator 2022, Australian LinkedIn Top Voice 2019/20/22 and is a TEDx speaker and bestselling author. In fact, he has invested so much into the education space, he left his role as a School Principal to start Upschool.co, committed to developing “Purposeful Education for a Better Tomorrow”.
But do you want to know the secret sauce?
Here are 4 philosophical beliefs that turn into pedagogical practice.
Acknowledge that children are not empty vessels to fill with knowledge
Children are creatures of modelled behaviour. This is important for parents and teachers.
- The average child spends 140 hours/week in school but 540 hours/week at home.
- 70% of everything you will ever learn is learned by age 7
- In fact, before children turn 3 years old, they’re already forming 1 million neural connections every minute.
- Three-year-olds, on average, ask their parents about 100 questions a day, every day! However, by the time they are ten to 11 years of age they’ve pretty much stopped asking
Children come into our classrooms with ideas, experiences and innate understanding. Our job is to draw this out and build on it.
Prepare your environment
Everything in a Montessori classroom is a “yes” in terms of being a learning resources. iPads, books, other students, other adults in the building, a phonecall, an email — they are all ways to enhance learning.
- The UK Department for Education found that the average teacher spends 10.6 hours/week on planning and preparation.
- The average UK teacher is allotted 10% curriculum time for PPA (planning, preparation and assessment). If we follow the stats through, the implication is a long working week!
- Maria Montessori acknowledged six elements of a prepared environment: Freedom, Structure and Order, Beauty, Nature and Reality, Social Environment and Intellectual Environment.
Quick note: Don’t just head straight for independent learning. There are two key steps before this!
Teach the hell out of the topic
We all remember that teacher that loved their subject and made us love it too. Be that teacher.
“It is not enough for the teacher to love the child. She must first love and understand the universe. She must prepare herself, and truly work at it.”
- According to OECD research, in most countries and economies, students scored higher in reading when they perceived their teacher as more enthusiastic, especially when they said their teachers were interested in the subject.
- Several experiments have highlighted how enthusiastic teachers can instil greater intrinsic motivation, enjoyment amongst students and increase the time that students spend on learning tasks .
- Don’t try and become an expert on everything in a topic; instead, find 2 or 3 super-interesting elements and teach them with passion to ignite curiosity in the learners (check out Gavin’s example of marine biology in the podcast episode).
Slowly transition to independence
This is the top tip from Gavin.
- After doing the enthusiastic set-off task, ask the children what else they want to know. Give them creative freedom to explore this
- Ensure there is an output later that week where they will report back on what they have learned.
- Allow for noise and movement — research suggests that cognitive function improves with movement and exercise
- Observe their development — and not just cognitively but also emotionally, socially, empathically.
Do these 4 things, and you’ll be wildly successful.
Put the child at the forefront of their own learning, create a self-learning conducive environment and watch the flowers grow.
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