ECE 25 Years Ago and Today
Presentation given by MahaJyoti Glassman
at the AMGK Global Conference in Asheville, July 2015
Ideal Conditions for Learning
25 years Ago
Young children were expected to sit quietly like adults and to act like adults, i.e., controlling all impulses. They were expected to conform to the desires of the teacher. The teacher’s voice was predominate in the classroom. The curriculum was instructed by the teacher and art was imitated from models. Most activities were facilitated in one large group.
Shrii P. R. Sarkar once said “Movement is the characteristic of life”. Contemporary ECE classrooms encourage students to be actively exploring, to be actively moving. They are ‘all over the place’. There may be 3-5 activities set out for the participation of the children in small groups. Talking between students is predominant and the teacher’s voice is heard occasionally. Children are acting like developmentally appropriate preschoolers, i.e., they make mistakes, might be too loud, might grab something, might have difficulties taking turns, etc. Teachers are not separate but actively engaged and constantly interacting with the children. An art project might consist of materials put on the table and children are allowed creative expression to make whatever they want. There are few large group activities.
25 Years Ago
Knowledge was measured by rote, by memorization, by what a child could repeat upon request. The curriculum was determined by what the teacher thinks the child should be learning which includes some lecture. The curriculum is teacher centered and teacher driven.
Shrii P. R. Sarkar has said the thirst for knowledge is awakened in children by centering the curriculum on the interests of the children. Dynamic curricula are focused on the needs and desires of the children. The ECE teacher sets the stage with materials that will provide experiences enabling children to formulate questions, hypothesis, and to conduct trial and error activities. “What are the children thinking?” Shrii P. R. Sarkar asks us. “Encourage thinking.” Children are teaching and helping other children. Curriculum can be child driven.
25 Years Ago
The teacher’s goal was ‘must-control-the-children’. When a student misbehaved, s/he was isolated or placed in solitary confinement, usually the Time Out Chair. The teacher may use sarcasm or threats to encourage student compliance. The teacher is a little emotionally and often physically distant. S/he is the primary facilitator of discipline and correction. Compliance was ‘the order of the day’, i.e., the entire class may be punished by not allowing them to go outside because a few ‘were not listening’.
The teacher strives to maintain a ‘positive climate’ in the classroom through positive guidance. S/he is constantly facilitating discussions, puppet shows, and other interactions emphasizing feelings as well as behavioral cause and effect situations. Comparisons are made about ‘warm fuzzy’ behavior versus ‘cold prickly behavior’. Activities that reinforce empathy, caring, and connection are integrated into the classroom every day all day long. Students are invited to participate as mediators and problem solvers. Teachers and students explain, demonstrate, model, and show why certain behaviors are preferred and WHY! Teachers and students are working together as Shrii P. R. Sarkar says, “solving problems together…”
25 Years Ago
Teachers might be a little reserved in their communications with the students. They may be a little ‘separate’ or superior. To make a point the teacher may use ‘the tone’ or ‘talk down to children’. Children may be directed or ordered to perform a task. If someone was hurt, the teacher would rescue and intervene. Again the classroom is teacher dominated, teacher directed, all activities and discussions are teacher initiated.
Teachers are actively engaged and speaking with the children wherever they are – on the floor, by the tables, in the sandbox. The teacher is physically close. Shrii P. R. Sarkar tells us: Teachers will not distance themselves from children. When the teacher establishes a close relationship with the child, misbehavior diminishes. Communication with the students is as if this child is your very best friend. The teacher asks questions, converses with the children, shares personal emotional experiences with sweetness and in the spirit as if talking to one’s own partner with mutual respect. Shrii P. R. Sarkar encourages us to: “Talk sweetly to the children. No ordering. No commanding.” “Encourage (the) feeling of mutual affection. Create a loving and congenial environment.” Teachers encourage children to help and mentor other children. School relationships are like family relationships.
The secret to ideal learning lies hidden in the Vedas:
- We are moving together
- We are singing together
- We are coming to know our minds together
- We are sharing like sages of the past
- Our hearts are as One,
- Our minds are as One,
- So that all may enjoy the universe,
- So that all may become One.
How do we build a high quality early childhood program?
Teachers need instructional support. Specialized techniques and strategies for meeting the needs of every child need to be shared to maximize learning. There are no challenging children. There are children with challenging desires (vritts). Neohumanist education addresses the physical, mental and spiritual spheres. It answers the clarion call.
Human life is not a single flower, it is like a bouquet or garden of flowers. It blooms with many varieties of flowers and this variety of blossoms adds to the collective beauty of the garden. Shrii P. R. Sarkar
Neohumanist education leaves no child behind. Shrii P. R. Sarkar mentions that teachers have the responsibility of building society, to “show the path to others with flaming torch in hand.”