"The role of the teacher is to put the child upon the right road to his own perfection and encourage him to follow it, watching, suggesting, helping, but not imposing or interfering."
The trend to consider the “whole” child when teaching has been at the forefront of early childhood education for years and is definitely making a positive impact on how early childhood professionals teach children and meet their needs. As I mentioned in my last post, if we truly want to meet all the needs of children, we need to take this trend one step further and look at helping children to be more “connected” and to nurture that feeling of being a part of something bigger. In order to prepare children for the future, we need to incorporate a philosophy that lets them know that there is interrelatedness, and that everything is intimately connected with everything else.
When we talk about educating the whole child, we’re referring to the four developmental domains: physical, social/emotional, cognitive and communicative. We need to not only look at the body, emotions, and mind, but also include the transpersonal dimension as well. We need to somehow unite the ancient educational goal of self-knowledge with the modern-day goal of world knowledge. Integral Education begins with the inborn qualities of each child (curiosity, trust, self-expression and love) and introduces curriculum in the humanities, arts and sciences to help the children’s inborn qualities develop.
Children would be better served if teachers helped them look into themselves, taught them to listen to their inner voices, and helped them discover what they liked to play with or study. Accepting the child and helping him know what kind of person he is; his style, aptitudes and knowing what you can build on will go further in preparing him for life, while also helping him to function to the best of his abilities and to manifest his full potential.
This may seem a bit overwhelming but here are a few simple steps to get you started.
1. Focus on the process and not the product of an activity.
2. Notice when children have special interests and abilities and let them explore them more.
3. Ask open-ended questions that help children to think creatively or outside of the box.
4. Provide hands-on experiences, projects and field trips.
5. Make sure the environment is a rich source of intellectual and creative inspiration, with freedom of movement, and ample resources.
As early childhood professionals we need to address ways to develop this new trend of educating the whole child, to allow them to learn traditional academics in a way that respects their inner being so that they can develop a good sense of self, with inner strength and a deep sense of purpose, a relatedness to others, and an ability to problem solve. The goal then is for children to learn the more traditional academics within this kind of a classroom environment and to be responsible for their own happiness and emotions.
Please share any activity ideas or projects you have done with children that support this philosophy.