As a teacher, what I'm about to say might sound a bit controversial, but the more I live and work with children—of all ages and learning styles—the more I understand how important it is not to actively teach. Or to depend upon a plan or curricula. Or to overly plan the day. Children need us to be present and simply listen.
I am guilty of trying to cram as much information into as little time as possible--to get it all in, quickly, efficiently, now! Yes, I love flashcards. I love songs that teach. A beautiful string of data entering the subconscious awareness of a child is beneficial, when done gently and quickly with small sponge-like learners still under three years of age. As long as the experience is pleasant and the child is not confined or forced, early mental and emotional intelligence is enhanced by flashcards, foreign languages, classical music and more.
But, as children grow, they begin to explore. They reach out. They are curious. They stop and study. They ask questions. They make connections. And if you stop and "let the little child lead the way," as Maria Montessori encouraged us to do, then you will soon find yourself in the midst of something electrical.
The sensitive, intuitive right brain can sense it. Information jumps in the form of an electrical current, from synapse to synapse, in split-second, lightning-quick speed. There's a charge to each impulse. It cannot be seen, but it can be felt if your left brain is not distracting you, feeding you the day's plan or the target goal of instruction. It's tangible. It's electrical. And it's there.
Research studies confirm that quiet is needed in order to learn. Our minds need time in contemplation and sleep and PLAY in order to organize data.
So, when teaching, there are times to engage and times to step back.
It is our job to see the learning process as sacred and holy. To protect it. To respect it. To flow with it. And let it be.
If I have done my job well, with flashcards, conversation and songs that have planted the seeds of what is known, then the rest of the time can be spent in play and discovery of a well-prepared environment. I can step back and let the children be... or, more accurately, become.
Yes, my ego will still sometimes step in and think: "Listen to me! I have something to teach." But I don't. I have something to learn.
With stillness and quiet observation, my own left brain will calm. Then, my right brain will slowly step forward and feel the electrical dance. It will create a spherical conscious awareness of the room that many teachers and mothers understand. It will help me sense what is happening emotionally, with the group and with each one. I may move toward the child that needs guidance. I may say what is needed in the moment. I sense and honor the electrical impulses around me. I am in the flow.
As I become older, and hopefully wiser, I have grown to a place where children intuitively know my heart. It is beaming out a message of acceptance and space. It says: "I am listening to you. I love you. I reflect back to you the beauty of who you are."
May we all continue to grow in this way.