Laura and her cup of tea!
Laura Henry an early childhood expert from London is spending some time with our core team to strengthen our curriculum and assessment practices at Podar Jumbo Kids. Laura likes her tea and she likes her tea to be just right. For the first few times when she was served tea Laura politely sipped it but was not satisfied. She first gave instructions to the peon about how she wanted her tea to be made, ‘less milk please’, ‘more water please’, ‘no sugar please’. Laura’s tea was still not the way she wanted it. So Laura asked her way to the kitchen and then she demonstrated to the cook exactly how she wanted her tea to be made and soon Laura was sipping her cup of tea just as she liked it.
Laura’s cup of tea is very important, as this episode teaches us about the teaching-learning process, be it in adults or children. It starts with verbal cues and then physical cues. Whereas as teachers and parents we tend to do things for kids, we fail to give clear instructions, we never break it down into steps and then we do not demonstrate how it should be done, instead we go straight to doing it for them and thus never giving them the opportunity to be immersed in the task, the opportunity to experience the ‘aha’ moment and the opportunity to nurture their self esteem. No wonder then children do not like to learn from adults but would rather learn from friends and through play.
What Laura did is called ‘coaching’, so essential in the teaching-learning process. Coaching classes have become the bane of our existence today because the coaching they offer is not what true coaching is about. Coaching if not done correctly can become drill and training but coaching in the real sense of the word is about educating and demonstrating.
Maria Montessori talked about the 5 steps of learning, they start with children observing a demonstration, so ‘I see what and how you do and then I learn’. A good mentor, a good teacher and an involved parent understand the importance of this step. Skipping this step can lead to a host of stress related issues like children not understanding, teacher/parent having to repeat the instruction multiple times, getting angry, child getting frustrated and most importantly child feeling a sense of failure which can impact both brain development (as negative experiences can destroy brain connections) and emotional development as sense of worth is diminished leading to lack of confidence.
Coaching or demonstration in the Montessori Methodseeks to “free a child to learn through his own effort”. The guiding principles of the method are liberty for the child complemented by organization of the work by an adult. This then leads to the next step in the child’s learning process that of ‘participation’. The child now has the confidence and interest in trying out the activity, being actively engaged in the activity.
Coaching is not a one time activity. If Laura wants to perfect her cup of tea then she may go back to the kitchen and as the cook now makes the cup of tea may guide or instruct the cook by asking relevant questions or giving relevant pointers. Similarly as the child practises the new activity the teacher/parent can guide during the practise stage, which is the third stage of learning.
If these three stages are handled well by the teacher/parent then the most important stage will be that of the ‘eureka moment’, the ‘aha’ moment when the child experiences success coupled with a feeling of ‘I did it’. This stage is the most important stage of learning and how the first three stages are handled by the adult will define if every child experiences this stage. If the adult drones, shouts, gets frustrated during the first three stages then the child will not experience the ‘aha’ moment and will instead do the activity out of fear and stress. Stress as we are aware leads to diminshed brain activity leading to knowledge not getting converted to long term memory thus leading to this child forgetting how to do the activity and the adult having to teach, remind again and again.
If Laura had shouted at the cook or criticised his efforts then the cook would not like to make tea for Laura again. But the cook experienced the ‘aha’ moment and Laura is happy with her tea. The cook is ‘performing’ the task well, and ‘performance’ is the last step of learning and is infact the goal.
Now when Laura visits us again the cook will not have to be taught how Laura likes her tea, because the cook learned to make the tea by being coached and is now performing to perfection. So have a cup of tea today. Don’t know how to make it? Find a coach, find a mentor and experience your ‘aha’ moment!