Since school is out and I am taking a much needed break, I have begun to resume my independent research. Since I received a gift card to Barnes & Noble for Teacher Appreciation Week, I decided to purchase a book that has long been on my wish list: The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach – Advanced Reflections which is a collection of essays and reflections from several people involved the Reggio Emilia Approach to education. I haven’t even made it through the introductions (yes, that is plural) when I came across a quote by Howard Gardner that has made me think:
So much has been written about progressive methods in education, but so rarely are the ideals of progressive education actually realized. Perhaps one reason why is that one needs a team that is willing to work together for decades in the service of a set of energizing ideas; the team needs to evolve procedures for attaining an education of quality while still encouraging growth for all who participate. So much has been written about the powers of the young mind, and yet so rarely can they be seen in full action.
This quote has put into words a frustration of mine that, at one time, made me question my place in the field of early childhood education. This frustration has stemmed from an inability of teachers to work together for the common purpose of providing children with the best quality education. I admit, most teachers out there do work to provide children with an education, but this is where the growth and personal education come into play. Many teachers still use outdated methods that provide no intrinsic motivation or stimulation to children, have only a passing knowledge of current child development research, and make no effort to keep abreast of the latest research dealing with children and education. They expect other teachers to work with them using these methods that not only don’t work, but cause more problems than they are worth. And while they are expecting others to work with them using these methods, others are passing them by in their own personal education and knowledge, leading to friction and differing ideas when it comes to the best methods for educating children.
I haven’t done much personal research on this yet, but I have heard that many teachers and administrators have have taken bits and pieces of progressive education ideas and used them to suit their needs and have tried to fit them in the mold of education as it is today. The result has been a list of outcomes achieved by rote memorization of supposed facts revealed by textbooks and then tested by….tests. This method has resulted in quite a few generations of children who hate school, hate teachers, and ultimately have little or no knowledge of the world around them; they have been too busy reading textbooks to learn about how the world around them works. They end up with mounds of college debt that they have accrued pursuing a degree that they have been told that they need in order to work at the job that they acquired that they hate. This isn’t the way that progressive education is supposed to work. Children are supposed to learn about the world around them through acting with it and on it, and then use the skills that they have learned to pursue the knowledge that they need to do what they have discovered that they love. The job of the teacher is to guide them on this journey, not to provide textbooks and useless knowledge.