Yesterday was the first day of the annual Orff Training I teach and direct in Carmel Valley and quite a day that was. A fun opening to let the wild rumpus begin, great classes all day and a stirring two hours of an evening polyphonic singing session masterfully led by our visiting guest teacher Polo Vallejo.
After teaching my three classes, I sat around the pool reading the goals of my 24 students and was so moved by their passion, enthusiasm and ability to articulate what’s important. One teacher from Finland (Tea Ylikoski, to be exact) talked about her vision of an education “with the children, for the children and from the children” and there you have it. Lincoln’s Gettsyburg Address talked of a government of the people, by the people and for the people, another example of prepositional power. Might this be the new Manifesto for inspired education?
With the children means that the teacher is part of the circle of learning, investigating, exploring, growing, celebrating side by side with the children he or she is teaching. As the elder, we teachers have a special role, but at the end of the matter, we’re all on our way and are traveling together down the royal road of learning.
For the children means that we keep the little ones at the center of all class planning, school policies and decision making, considering what children deeply need, deserve and love. So much education is infected with adult notions that have little or nothing to do with the way children of different ages are actually put together. Children need to move, need to engage the world with their senses, need to imagine and create and explore and we stick them in rows and tell them to sit down, be still and shut-up—until such time as they raise their hand with the right answer. If we wrapped education around the way children actually are, schools could finally rise to their possibility and promise.
From the children means that even as we impart our wisdom and share our knowledge, we want to know what questions they have, what answers they have found, what surprising creations they’ve come up with, what interesting thoughts are in their minds. Not only are they different from us because they are children and we are adults, but they are having different childhoods than we had because they are growing up in different times. No teachers in my time had to convince me to go out to play or warn me about addiction to i-Pads or asked me to identify my sexuality at 13 years old. If we keep their concerns and questions at the center, invite them to constantly share and show their thoughts and ideas and dreams, we again can radically transform education without having to learn a single new piece of jargon.
With the children, for the children, by the children. I like it.
And so will the children.