Friday, October 31, 2014


“Bad behavior is often a symptom of bad teaching.” This popped out of my mouth in a recent workshop and of course, teachers have enough on their plate and don’t need to be blamed for children’s rudeness. And yet. When the activities are engaging and hit children where they live and give them what they need, bad behavior mysteriously evaporates.

Like in our ritual Halloween event with 100 elementary children. We rehearsed without a single moment of unnecessary threats or praise because the children knew how cool this ceremony is when well-executed— and thus, were motivated beyond the norm.

After the event, the kids went out to the yard to partake of the Middle School booths and there was an alum parent who I’ve known for almost 30 years out snapping pictures, as she does year after year. I told her how impressed I was with her dedication and she replied, “It’s selfish. It’s just that I’m a better person when I’m part of this collective joy.”

And so my acronym for the education children need and deserve:

Humanistic. Pay attention to the best of human possibility and care enough to fight for it. And remember to also be Humoristic. Take it seriously and have fun.

Arts. How much of human depravity comes from the inability to express genuine feelings? Not having the tools to speak in multiple languages— tones, shapes, colors, words, gestures. Or the opportunity or invitation to speak. Arts matter.

Play. It’s indeed the work of children and without a sense of playfulness, all is dull and deadly and drill-like and everyone stops caring.

Pedagogy. Teaching is 90% intuition and vision, but at least 10% is science and art, both of which demand attention to details. A well-crafted pedagogy goes far.

Yes! To the adventure of learning, of living, of loving, to children’s extravagance and unbridled joy and suddenly sullen moods, the whole crazy catastrophe from short to tall.

Put it all together and what do you get? Happy children, happy teachers, happy parents, happy culture. It’s that simple.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to say “Yes!” to Halloween and go play in the streets in my artful costume after reflecting on humanistic pedagogy. Happy Halloween!!

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